LIFE IN DREAMS

Sondra Perry: fusing the physical with the digital

We explore the innovative work of the Dream Commission winner, who has gained critical acclaim for arresting visual displays that harness digital technology to explore themes including identity, memory, and longing.

 

At 35, Perry is one of the most innovative artists in the field of immersive, moving-image works. The winner of the Dream Commission — the flagship initiative from Muse, the Rolls-Royce Art Programme — she received her BFA from Alfred University in 2012 and MFA from Columbia University in 2015, training first as a ceramicist. Although now predominantly working in video and computer-based media, her background in the tactile arts surfaces throughout her practice, which often contrasts the old and the new, the physical and the digital, to symbolic effect.

Sondra Perry, Lineage for a Phantom Zone, 2020, Courtesy the artist and Muse, The Rolls-Royce Art Programme.

From galleries to Times Square billboards

Perry received her first European solo show in 2018, ‘Typhoon Coming On’, at Serpentine, London, for which she created an immersive environment with a newly-conceived soundscape to accompany her animation. Earlier in 2021, the artist made waves with her large-scale installation ‘Flesh Wall’, a rippling animation referencing her own skin projected onto Times Square’s billboards. Throughout Perry’s oeuvre, arresting visual display is matched by powerful critical reflection, often incorporating themes of identity and personal history. She is also a champion of accessibility, making her work available to study in classrooms as well as free to view online.

Sondra Perry, Graft and Ash for a Three Monitor Workstation, 2016. Courtesy the artist, The Kitchen, NYC and Bridget Donahue, NYC. Photo by Jason Mandella.

Sondra Perry, Graft and Ash for a Three Monitor Workstation, 2016. Courtesy the artist, The Kitchen, NYC and Bridget Donahue, NYC. Photo by Jason Mandella.

Creating an intimate ‘dream space’

As winner of the Dream Commission, Perry will create an artwork inspired by the theme of ‘dreams’, to be displayed at the Fondation Beyeler in early 2022 and later at Serpentine, London. Her vision, she has explained, is to expand upon the themes of history, consciousness, and memory that were explored in her winning entry, Lineage for a Phantom Zone – using LED panels to create an immersive ‘dream space’ that stimulates the experience of floating.

Sondra Perry, Lineage for a Phantom Zone, 2020, Courtesy the artist and Muse, The Rolls-Royce Art Programme.

Sondra Perry, Lineage for a Phantom Zone, 2020, Courtesy the artist and Muse, The Rolls-Royce Art Programme.

Having been deeply affected by the separation from friends and family during the pandemic, Perry intends these dream-like conditions to interweave notions of touch and distance, the physical and the ephemeral, all the while paying tribute to the digital sphere which fostered a new kind of sociality by creating a touchless intimate space. Once again, Perry will address wider social contexts through a personal lens; family photographs as well as new footage filmed in New Jersey, where the artist is based, will also inform the work.

Sondra Perry, you out here look n like you don't belong to nobody: heavy metal and reflective (detail), 2019. Courtesy the artist, The Shed, NYC, and Bridget Donahue, NYC.

Sondra Perry, you out here look n like you don't belong to nobody: heavy metal and reflective (detail), 2019. Courtesy the artist, The Shed, NYC, and Bridget Donahue, NYC.

Having been deeply affected by the separation from friends and family during the pandemic, Perry intends these dream-like conditions to interweave notions of touch and distance, the physical and the ephemeral.

In a time of shifting historical narratives and rapid digitalisation, there is a vital need for works like Perry’s which foreground the potential for new technologies to tell old stories anew. She fully represents the ambitions of the Dream Commission to promote artists working in ground-breaking ways to develop the moving image as a medium that envisions alternative spaces, states of mind and realities which take us beyond the everyday.

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