Sara Stern

I approach my projects as an expanded form of ventriloquism. I make architecture, characters, historical objects, and photographs speak and perform. I work across video installation, film, sculpture, photography, and performance, frequently incorporating humor, models, illusions, and elements of classic continuity filmmaking. Many of my projects address the seams between digital and physical space – between the world and the computer screen; between shooting on location and shooting
against an image of a location. I often employ moving image as a means of inserting animacy into still objects. I turn large, seemingly impenetrable structures into puppets. For “Night Talk” (2017), I transformed Columbia University’s controversial new arts building on West 125th
Street into a building-creature with two eyes on the top floor, and a word-emitting mouth on the floor below. Each evening for the duration of a month-long exhibition, “Lenny” (short for Lenfest, the donor’s and building’s name) spoke (through text), smiled, licked his lips, cried, and revealed his inner thoughts to passersby. Lenny’s was a voice with no sound, fitting for a building so well insulated you cannot hear the 1 train rattling by from within its walls. Lenny was produced on the inside, but was only visible from the outside. In anthropomorphizing
the building, I also imprisoned it – Lenny’s mullions became bars in front of his face. Lenny was deeply insecure about his community’s mixed feelings about his presence on 125th street in a rapidly changing part of West Harlem.
I often work site-responsively to spaces I choose for their charge, aesthetic references, material
infrastructure, and/or historical context. My video “Satan plays his favorite trick” treats the atrium of Trump Tower New York as a subject, setting an experimental horror of colliding digital and physical worlds against the pink marble, gold mirrors, and cascading fountain of the privately owned public atrium. I began working on the project after recognizing a similarity between the marble in Trump
Tower (Breccia Pernice) and the marble Hitler used in many of his buildings (Saalburger Marmor). I continually re-cast the nature of the space throughout the piece, combining documentary-style footage filmed in Trump Tower with stock animated digital characters and my own voiceovers.
My work weaves storyboarding, scripting, documentary, fiction, and experimental filmmaking techniques into moving image installations that unfold associatively. I make anachronistic moves, using paper to portray digital space (as in My Back Your Front), or installing HD video in aged architectural
elements (Rehearsal for Crawl Space Expiration). I return again and again to the moving image for its particular ability to jump between different registers of scale and perspective. I’m invested in a practice of sculptural and performative videomaking that remaps an embodied relationship to space, history, and time.