Stephanie Simek works with a wide array of materials, making works in two dimensions, three dimensions, time, and sound. Projects have included a room-sized crystal radio, a spacesuit indicator badge, and an observatory tower in Corinth, Vermont. Simek has made exhibitions and had residencies at Signal Culture, Museum of Contemporary Craft, Melanie Flood Projects, PDX Contemporary, Littman Gallery at Portland State University, Feldman Gallery at Pacific Northwest College of Art, and Fairbanks Gallery at Oregon State University. She has lived in the Pacific Northwest since 2007.
- Rebecca Cummins, Chair (Photo/Media)
- Ellen Garvens (Photo/Media)
- Aaron Flint Jamison (Photo/Media)
Read the interview of Stephanie Simek by Naz Cuguoğlu.
A Journey in the Loophole: Stephanie Simek’s Practice
It is like going in a dark tunnel of loops. Imagine it. It feels like there is no beginning or end. You can sense the curves on your elbows on abrupt turns. But you can also go slow, caress the cold texture of the tube on your palms, touch the moss on the humid corners, make / believe making decisions at crossroads — enjoy the ride.
Welcome to Stephanie Simek’s universe. You can enter this parallel world, through the portable hole of a way-too-familiar Bugs Bunny animation of your childhood, lingering between dream and reality. This loophole will lead you to a meditative vision of unknown hands, making holes in a speaker to create dirty sounds. It will be performed by a guitarist named Link Wray and his band, the Wraymen. And that will be it, or at least you will believe so at that moment.
But that is the thing with the invisible loops: They will haunt you at night in your dreams, building tension, invisible tentacles, and unexpected threads, as Haraway suggests. (1)
You will eventually understand that you do not have to understand it all. It is not easy-to-digest information, just like life. On the contrary, you get more as you invest more, like a researcher lost deep down in her books, you will start building kin between organic and non-organic, materials and systems, reality and virtual space.
A website where pages loop back to one another, with no seemingly particular order. A meander with all its curves. No straight line, not here. It is a tipping point between deposition and erosion, archeology and speculative fiction. Materials are turning into systems. Systems are decomposing into their material-bases.
Follow the curiosity of a newborn, look closer, dive deeper, listen, and observe. Build ultrasonic sensors, crystal radios with bare hands. Remember where they come from, reconnect with the world around you, be present.
Track the river, step-by-step, day-by-day with eyes wide open. Stay with the uncomfortable sensation of fragmentation and poetics of relation. It is in this space of unknown that a painting of five Cisterian monks working in a field might turn into walnut chairs in front of your eyes. You might hear Simek say they are the tipping points in history. The ones who isolated themselves, survived the Black Death, and preserved the knowledge.
You will suddenly realize it is all like watching a scene, any scene from Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal (1957). So, play chess with Death once you have time, take a deep breath of ocean into your lungs, ask questions, and yes, answer them, follow your intuition, and build spider webs of knowledge.
Cause at the end of the day, it is all subjective and human-made story-telling, history is.
It is not much different than building databases via tags, as Simek does. It is about how knowledge gets organized. Who decides on the leading labels and the relations between them? What / who is left out?
Language and words are what, if not symbols?
So, pay attention to the exceptions, the ones that seem like a failure at first sight. Workarounds, latent potential, structural anomalies, they will lead your way.
(1) Donna Haraway, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2016).
– Naz Cuguoğlu
- Master of Fine Arts, University of Washington, 2020
- Bachelor of Fine Arts, Visual Art (photo concentration), Rutgers University