Sara Black

Multidisciplinary artist, US

Sara Black’s artwork uses conscious processes of building or horticulture as a time-based method; diseased wood, ecosystem-specific trees/plants, inherited building materials or other exhausted objects as material; and creates works that expose the complex ways in which things and people are suspended in worlds together. Her work interrogates the fallacy of individualism to imagine entangled and survivable futures. Sara is currently collaborating with Chicago-based artist Amber Ginsburg, political theorist Sam Frost, and digital artist Marc Downie on a large-scale project titled Untidy Objects. She is also a member of Deep Time Chicago and Project Fielding. Sara received her MFA from the University of Chicago in 2006 and is currently Associate Professor of Sculpture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally in a variety of spaces including Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, The Smart Museum of Art, Gallery 400, Hyde Park Art Center, ThreewallsSOLO; Portland’s Museum of Contemporary Craft; New York’s Park Avenue Armory, and Eyebeam; Boston’s Tuft University Gallery; Minneapolis’ Soap Factory, the Wormfarm Institute and the Thailand Biennial. She is a recent fellow with the Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry at the University of Chicago and current fellow with the Neubauer Collegium. 

Untidy Objects is an emerging living sculpture on the south side of Chicago comprising seven biome types in a half acre field. The aim of the project is to foreground the porosity and co-constitution of living systems so as to articulate a form of politics that includes all this life within its purview. However, it is hard to visualize how such untidy objects might be recognized as political subjects. Consequently, we are experimenting with integrating technology into the biomes. This experimental technology immerses participants in a textual and physically dynamic situation where they can have a sensorial, exploratory experience of the forms of interdependence that constitute this lively sculpture. This grant would give us the funds and resources to release the experience of the untidy object from its site-specific context. We propose a virtual reality installation that will exploit this emerging medium’s capacity to intertwine participants within dynamic, ambiguous and diagrammatic networks. By co-registering sculptural objects in the installation and virtual spaces, we will give audiences an embodied, multi-sensorial experience of otherwise invisible processes that underpin life. This effort, then, goes beyond attempts at merely depicting natural objects or representing nature immersively; we seek to use virtual reality to enable audiences to experience our co-constitution–with the idea that such experiences will draw out the ways in which our mutual interdependence predicates responsibilities and obligations that are currently not captured within human-centered legal frameworks.