Shotgun Review


By Shotgun Reviews May 17, 2012

Baby boomers feared that the MTV generation of the early 1980s was composed of vapid, hyperactive, and cynical adolescents whose need for rapid-fire visual stimuli and distraction allowed them to take in and process a plethora of small pieces of information while denying them the ability to stay on any one topic long enough to ever know it more than superficially.

Although the current subjects of this discussion are a new generation of youths and the Internet and social media now occupy the spotlight of blame, much conversation still revolves around the amount of information available versus the amount of time one has to do anything meaningful with it.

One member of the MTV generation, the artist Kate Nartker, has a video piece, Ten (2012), in the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art’s 4x4 exhibition that appropriates many of the assumptions about her generation in order to produce a work that is rich not just on an aesthetic level but also on a conceptual one.

Nartker’s current practice involves pulling film stills from VHS home movies of her family and her childhood. She then translates these images into textiles by weaving them on a jacquard loom. Each woven frame is then photographed and assembled into a stop-motion video piece.

The end product of much of Nartker’s work resembles a choppy version of the original source material, with pieces of thread standing in for pixels, but Ten focuses on the creation and destruction of a portrait of the artist at age ten. The viewer sees the portrait literally woven and unwoven, as abstract pieces of thread are transformed into a representational, photo-like image and then unraveled back to threads.


Kate Nartker. Ten, 2011; animated woven cloth; dimensions variable. Courtesy of the Artist and the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, CA.

At only twenty seconds long, Ten is composed of quick, MTV-style edits between each frame. Each image is barely on the screen long enough for viewers to realize what they are looking at before the loop continues to works by the other three artists. All of the works in the exhibition are serially projected onto a single screen. The other three pieces average just over six and a half minutes in running time, making Ten seem like the brief MTV ads interspersed between the channel’s programs and commercials in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Nartker’s process not only exposes a literal part of the method used in her current practice but also asks viewers to consider how little information we need to create and assign meaning. Ten shows us that sometimes a fleeting glimpse or brief recollection of a memory holds more meaning than the glut of information available to us with a simple swipe of the finger.


4x4 is on view at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art through June 14, 2012.


Michael Rothfeld is an interdisciplinary artist and writer living in San Francisco by way of New York.  He is currently pursuing his MFA in Fine Art and MA in Visual and Critical Studies at the California College of the Arts.

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