Some of the most interesting digital works out there today deal with opposing tensions. Mind you, it doesn’t necessarily mean that these are dualistic tensions – divisions between the private and the public, the real and the imaginary, the mental and the physical, for example, all turn out to contain more dimensions than we initially thought. In Sabrina Ratte’s work, she uses her expert manipulation of the video form the create ambiguous environments and realities, essentially savouring an existence within these tensions rather than trying to forcefully veer towards a clear answer.
The Paris-based artist, originally hailing from Montreal, works with video, installations, sculpture and performance in her practice, focusing on the manipulation of images that constantly looks for new ideas. “I like to think of my practice as some kind of shape-shifting rhizomatic process,” Sabrina tells It’s Nice That. This concept of the rhizome, developed by philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, takes an organic, non-hierarchical form as a model for culture and power, allowing for ambiguity in interpretation and representation, a rather deep influence in contemporary digital art. Deleuze’s influence on Sabrina is made explicit in her recent project Aliquid, a term that she took from his book A Logic of Sense. “I like the vagueness of the word, which inspires the idea that reality is so vast that we can only apprehend it based on our limited experience as humans. It is a survival instinct to create sense and meaning when facing the unknown,” Sabrina explains.
In the single-channel video work, electronic signals are manipulated to create layers and layers of digital flesh, which then lands on a translucent architectural form and snakes around the reflective surface. Accompanied by a soundtrack by long-time collaborator Roger Tellier-Craig, the flesh pulses and shifts with the sounds and eventually disintegrates into small particles. “I have been quite inspired by HP Lovecraft for some time now, more precisely by the idea of undefinable forms of life emerging from other aeons reappearing in the world of humans,” she says. Sabrina created the textures using a video synthesiser before transforming them in Cinema 4D. “I like the idea of analogue technology becoming digital flesh, electricity that materialises into living matter," she says.
Sabrina often invokes architectural forms even in her fluid digital works. This not only functions as a theme, but also as an aesthetic decision. “It was a way for me to shape this unpredictable electronic light exploding in the screen: I felt the need to organise and contain this raw energy inside formal compositions, to finally break the composition back to chaos,” Sabrina describes. “I started to be fascinated by architecture and the relation between psychological projection into a physical space and its representation.”
Although she studied film production, she sees these experimental videos as something that was more natural for her. “I discovered many great pioneers of video art and computer art, which became my teachers. Woody and Steina Vasulka or Lillian Schwartz, for example, had a huge impact on me,” she says. “Video has been like a portal towards other forms of interests.”
“Ideally, I would like to see what we call digital art being more integrated into exhibitions with other mediums; a curation around a theme or concept rather than focusing on the technology involved,” Sabrina explains. Her architectural, ambiguous and atmospheric work is being shown at a couple of upcoming exhibitions in Tel Aviv, Montreal, and Paris, as well as a Tokyo exhibition that will also feature fellow video artist Yoshi Sodeoka.