Friday, April 1, 2011


“Kiss derives from the Sanskrit word cusati, which means ‘he sucks.’ It is a derivative of primitive mother-child behavior where mothers premasticated food and then “kissed” their infants to feed them.”

When you enter into the installation space, Siena’s installation seems to be about dualities: light and dark, reflection and shadow, and the synthetic versus organic. These straws do not make harsh angles, yet the installation seems mechanical. Maybe, it’s a consequence of the straws’ accordion-fold junctures. At first it seems like it’s these connections that allow for flexibility, and the installations ability to build out in any direction. However, it's these connections that allow for the flexibility of an individual straw that becomes restrictive when part of a larger group, working as a larger system.

The installation bridges together both the labyrinths of Sienna’s past drawings and her Kiss mapping project. In the Kiss project she created ways to map out the histories and relations of our own kisses. In the past, Siena has played with generational image-making, remaking, and reworking similar patterns. This installation is a powerful use of repetition, both materially and conceptually. She de-romanticizes the word and action of “kiss”, by giving us the etymoloygy of the word. Kiss, as understood through the scientific, anthropological lens.

But, what kind of line is this, and how does this mark-making tie into the etymology of kiss? The line, like I said earlier, feels mechanical. When I see people in the space, it reminds me of something else. It reminds me of the angry, scribble cloud above a cartoon character: this is Charlie Brown, frustrated

But why grey scale, and why keep the fields of white and grey separated? Why not entangled continuing the transformation? Is it supposed to be light and shadow, the image and it’s reflection, the original and its simulacrum?

In the past, Sienna has often referenced the idea of chaos and it’s definition of nothingness. She’s addressed the question, visually, of what it means to have organized chaos, organized nothingness.

The installation is created by a mass of straws. They have been painted white and grey. The original surface of the straw is no longer visible. In fact, it almost looks metallic, a transformation from plastic to metal. Also, the straw has lost its original function. It’s an impractical invention. In that way, the installation is fantastical, a super-crazy, extended straw!

It teeters between the scientific and the fantastical. It's reminiscent of the Terry Gilliam film, Brazil. Where these systems, through their exaggeration, become improbable, absurd, and nonsensical. A once rational, everyday object, has become transformed. Through repetition and alteration, it has become a system, a system that no longer can complete its original function. We can see this where the straws connects. In some places, they have dented from pressure. The installation calls attention to the idea of a human interaction, an extremely intimate one, replaced by a machine.

One of the most exciting parts of the installation is where, like with Jenn Rich’s final piece from last semester, the work seamlessly becomes part of the environment, the gallery wall. The straws leading into the wall are cut at an angle, creating the illusion that they continue on the other side. That maybe there’s an enormous, beautiful mass that exists out of sight, but only hinted at from our side of the wall.

The installation is enjoyable both from a distance and also invites intimacy. It begs us to come closer, to investigate, and see how it’s constructed. Sienna’s installation teases us. Can we decipher where it begins, and ends? Or if that even matters.

My one concern, is that since this installation draws you in, and invites curiosity, that an extreme attention to craft will be important. Does she want us to note the fallibility of its construction? Does she want to hint at the original straws colors? Is it supposed to be uniform and seamless? Although Sienna Baldi's installation is beautiful, it does leave a question of whether the separation of the white and grey creates the tension she's looking for, or if it leaves it feeling unfinished.

Artists to think about:

Art 21 : episode - Structures : Matthew Ritchie

submitted by: Becca Moore

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