Long interested in the politics of industry and craft production and its relationship to globalization and capitalism, San Francisco artist Stephanie Syjuco’s project “Empire/Other” furthers her explorations into the seemingly opposing sites of the handmade and the virtual, in order to ask how society can come to terms with the friction of history within the contemporary world. The project utilizes 3-D modeling and scanning technologies, digital animation, and ceramics processes to produce a multi-media body of work that intersects craft traditions with the politics of trade routes and forced cultural overlays.
Initiated at FLACC Workplace, “Empire/Other” began with the example of the colonial legacy of the Belgian Congo. The first project tests were done by 3-D scanning Belgian Art Nouveau objects from Het Stadmus Museum collection in Hasselt and Belgian Congo pottery from the MAS Museum collection in Antwerp, dating from the same period of the early 20th Century. The original ceramic objects were produced at parallel times but present very different styles and profiles, their silhouettes a direct result of their specific craftsmanship and cultural specificity. Interested in the hidden histories embedded in these charged objects, Syjuco has used 3-D software modeling algorithms to digitally force the culturally different virtual forms together, creating fractured objects that refuse to resolve into recognizable objects. Looking like icebergs, shards, or crystalline growths sprouting from organic shapes, this literal clash will be 3-D printed in solid form and eventually produced in ceramic materials, physicalizing these conflicts back into objects and presenting to the viewer mediated “evidence” of psychologically unresolvable histories.
“Empire/Other” is a long-term project that will extend to other museum holdings throughout the world, knitting together shared histories across disparate collections and expanding into other colonial powers (British, French, Spanish, American).