new romantic meaning not romantic

sara_ludy_transom

Knowing that Sara Ludy has been included in Eyebeam's upcoming The New Romantics exhibition, let's take a look at her website. This work is romantic in the sense that Mies Van Der Rohe, Lionel Feininger, Gerhard Richter, and David Cronenberg are romantic, which is to say, it's not romantic at all. If anything, the work turns a clinical and classical eye on clich├ęs of romanticism: open, airy spaces, model communities in the exurbs, travels through psychedelic inner worlds. The persistent vibe is one of authorial distance and analysis: even the found internet junk, such as 3D advertising from the retail and real estate sectors, has a calm, measured feel. This could be construed as "new romantic" only if the term "new" means "anti-" or "not."

A couple of examples. Ludy describes Pan GIFs as "a series of animated gifs displayed as tiled backgrounds. Each gif is composed of two photographs that alternate with a linear transition, creating a repetition which both embraces and attempts to break the mundanity of everyday landscapes and architectures." By means of a simple, sweeping left-to-right pan one photo gradually eclipses a second, different-angle view of the same subject (a forest, a wall with cast shadow, a plant in a planter). While the scan is occurring a clear reading of both images breaks down. Because the GIF is "tiled" the scanning movement repeats across the entire screen, providing a view rather like an insect's compound eye. This causes a single predominant color or texture momentarily to colonize the screen. The lurch into a de-familiarizing zone of pure form is a classical technique, even though the underlying images may be romantic ones of gardens and hillsides. But even the disrupted tropes aren't that romantic: they seem to have been chosen for a vibe of sterile alienation.

Or consider the 2011 video Transom: "a space portrait of Market Station in Leesburg, VA," where "historic buildings were uprooted and relocated to form [a] commercial complex in the 1980s." Instead of the usual tear-downs of historic structures to make way for a new office/retail complex, the Leesburg project rehabbed some old buildings and moved them to the complex, so that "a railroad freight station, a log house, two barns and two gristmills" (per Wikipedia) can now lead a zombie existence as the site of "high-tech and legal offices, retail shops, and restaurants." Ludy's virtual walk-through of the vintage architecture strips out its real-world textures, reducing it to the cold, angled planes of 3D modeling. Like the Pan GIFs, a series of slow wipes prevents our getting any real sense of the physical presence of these "old time" buildings. The drone-y background sounds make this feel like a tour of Chamber of Commerce hell. Visually seductive, severe, cerebral, the work comments on a romantic ideal of a vanishing America rather than embodying it.