Lynne Berman, Tour of Misfortune Watercolor and ink on pape, 68” x 51” 2007
Dispatch for Bodies in Space Explores by Dr. G.…
While neuroscientists work to understand the value of spatial memory in learning and academic achievement, artists have long been busy navigating and recording perceptions and memories of space. In fact it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that spatial perception and spatial memory may be one of the single most preoccupations of late modern and contemporary art as diverse as Cezanne’s “Still Life with Apples” and Stanley Saitowitz’s “Holocaust Memorial” in Boston.
From painting to monuments, spatial perception and spatial memory play out in the most exquisite and quite possibly, the most conflicted renderings of social spaces, especially those designed to magnetize the collective memory of events painful and still lingering in national and global consciousness. The intrepid and wildly adventurous artist Lynne Berman has been dogged in her practice of spatial tracking of some our most notorious and glorified social spaces — war sites. In contrast to a neuroscientist setting up an experiment that could be remounted by any cohort around the world, Berman uses self-generated rules and cues for recording what she thinks, sees and feels. Drawing is the technology at hand.
As the L. A. based artist herself states,
My art takes the form of abstract and language-based drawings that stem from my experience within social spaces such as war sites (including Holocaust locations and Vietnam war sites), film locations, cruise ships, and playgrounds for adults and children. I begin by going to a place and once there, “track”, or visually record, the pathways and specific movements of a subject, such as a tourist, tour guide, or visitor as they move through the place. Initially, this work developed from an impulse to create drawings based on the activity of walking. I began to introduce social spaces where I could introduce such subjects as the history of war, how it is represented and how it is perceived through time as it becomes distanced from actual events.
Lynne Berman, Tour of Tours: SeeKrakow-Auschwitz. June 27, 2007, Watercolor and ink on paper, 51” x 70” 2008
As I track, I create notations that are diagrammatic representations of movements through a space, visually similar to calligraphic marks. Back in the studio, the accumulated marks are transcribed onto paper with watercolor and ink by using a process of layering and repetition to weave a densely formed visual structure. Here, my recollections come into play as I rely only on my notebooks of peculiar marks and my own mind to reconstruct the place and actions. My choices of color are often informed by my memory of the landscape, or city, in a very subjective way and the structures that I build with the marks from my notebooks are imagistic metaphors rather than maps. Additionally, I make text-based drawings mined from the dialogue of the activity that are that are companion pieces to the spatial drawings, a kind of audio backdrop. I consider my process to be very rudimentary, particularly in a time where a technological device could accomplish this task more efficiently. As an artist however, efficiency is not my aim.
Lynne Berman, Now We Can See… SeeKrakow-Auschwitz. June 27, 2007, Watercolor and ink on paper, “22 x 30” 2008
A fascination with space (as it its considered in visual art) has always been at the core of my artwork. For one, the act of making the drawing for me is an independent process where I am struggle to build a space that the viewer can enter. I want one’s body to experience a physical relationship to the drawings as their eyes move throughout the surface. When I make my work, I often have my drawings on the floor and I crawl around on them so I literally enter the site of the drawing. I see my drawings as abstractions that refer to an external rather than purely internal event. The resulting images are not functional and legible diagrams or maps, but rather are elliptical and subjective translations of my experience.
Lynne Berman, Dov Plays One, Watercolor and ink on paper, 45” x 51” 2011
Learn more about Lynne Berman’s art research here.