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Art

My work examines the contradictions of contemporary society, where the rise of technology offers the promise of ease, luxury, and connection, yet it often complicates our lives, wastes resources, and alienates us from each other.  I also think a lot about currency.  Not merely in the sense of “money,” but also in the larger sense of exchange and acceptance.  What do we as people value today?  And how do we assign those values? 

My work centers on the human experience.  Even when discussing topics such as global warming or the extinction of animal species, the questions are framed by how humans perceive these catastrophes, and whether we can be made to sufficiently care.  I’d like to believe that we can.

My videos often subvert visual tropes found in contemporary culture such as commercials, documentaries, and narrative films with unconventional performances and props such as money, food, and ice.  Time-lapse is another way to induce “performances” from inanimate objects. 

Ideas for my work might generate from any source: as a topic on this morning’s news, or images from a dream, possibly even something I witnessed long ago that I can’t quite shake and so I return to it, again and again, like the irritant that becomes the oyster’s pearl.  But for the idea to sustain me long enough to become a fully developed work, it needs to feel vital, urgent, and open to participation and interpretation by the viewer.  I don’t like closed systems and predetermined outcomes. 

Though I sometimes work in sculpture and performance, I primarily create in video, because I like its quirky contrasts.  It provides immediacy, yet demands planning.  The media is often perceived by the public as more “real,” but it can be manipulated like any other.  Video touches on virtually every other discipline, including sculpture, painting, typography, performance, music, and of course, photography.  A video starts with me alone, thinking, dreaming and organizing, and then it inevitably requires collaboration with performers, assistants, camera operators, etc. before suddenly it’s just me again, sitting alone in an editing room.

© Copyright K. Frech

THE INTERNET KNOWS ME SO WELL

2019, HD video, color, silent, 03:16 minutes

We imagine ourselves to be unique, but artificial intelligence (AI) disagrees. Does that say more about us, or AI? “The Internet Knows Me So Well” examines how these algorithms prioritize what they see – and what they value – when scrubbing the web for information, and how they manufacture connections where none really exist.

I used three commercially available artificial intelligence programs designed to locate strangers with physical features that are similar to me. It took only seconds to find more than 30 matches from public sources around the world. There were photos from corporate reports, sales brochures, actor’s publicity photos, criminal mugshots, news articles, and an image of treatment from a medical journal. These came mainly from North America and Europe, but the Middle East, South America, and Australia were also represented. From these “matches,” I chose 24 where the photo was of higher resolution, and the face was facing forward, similar to my own. From there, I substituted features such as eyes, nose, mouth, jawline, and hairline for my own, starting with the closest matches and working my way out. Except for my original photo, which was used to locate my “twins,” all of the faces depicted are composites. At no point in this video is any one of my “twins” fully visible. Thus, a nearly endless array of doppelgangers emerges, close in appearance to me, and yet distinct even from their original sources.

© Copyright K. Frech. All rights reserved.

FOUNDATION AND EMPIRE

HD Video (Excerpt)

2018, HD Video, color, two-channel mono sound, 03:00 minutes

Global warming is serious business – and I mean business. Last year, the big five oil companies made a combined $93 million in profit, while coal companies earned roughly $78 million. Meanwhile as the world warms, storm seasons will become longer and the storms more violent; shorelines will erode; energy demand will skyrocket for air conditioning and refrigeration; and more frequent droughts will put stress on dwindling clean water supplies. Money is reshaping our world. For Americans also, it's projected to cost roughly $275 million a year by 2025.

“Foundation and Empire” suspends $1,000, in the form of 10 x $100 bills, in a block of ice and records a time lapse of it melting. The cotton and linen paper of the currency traps heat more efficiently than the surrounding ice or air, causing the money to have a direct, observable impact on its frozen surroundings, just as the impacts of climate change are most notable in the arctic. The more that the cash becomes exposed and warms, the more it warps the ice, until the entire structure becomes unsustainable. The sum of $1,000 was chosen as the smallest “large sum” of money that most people can envision, making it easier to extrapolate into the vast sums listed above.

© copyright K. Frech. All rights reserved.

THE MINIMUM

HD Video (Excerpt)

2018, HD Video, color, 60:00 minutes

A common perception among middle and upper class Americans is that low-income workers are both lazy and slow. In reality, minimum wage work is often highly stressful and active to the point of exhaustion. Think of warehouse workers, unskilled factory laborers, farmhands, delivery people and janitors. The work is typically repetitious and mentally unchallenging, yet demanding of constant, conscious attention. It is not unusual for companies to establish strict productivity quotas that regulate even a worker’s water and bathroom breaks.

In “The Minimum,” this type of work is gamified. A worker must earn his minimum wage (still unchanged nationally at $7.25 an hour) by collecting 725 pennies thrown at him in an anonymous conference room, by an anonymous person, and successfully bank them in a small glass bowl within 60 minutes.

© copyright K. Frech. All rights reserved.

TWO DEGREES

HD Video (Excerpt)

2018, HD Video, color, silent
Animal: 02:43 minutes
Vegetal: 01:49 minutes
Liquid / Ice: 01:55 minutes
Combined loop: 06:27 minutes

Everyone talks about global warming, yet it’s difficult to see directly and harder to grasp. We hear the average world temperature will rise by two degrees Celsius over the next decade, but what is the real impact? Two degrees doesn’t sound like much, yet the consequences will be harsh.

The “Two Degrees” series contains three time-lapse HD videos of sumptuous food: animal flesh, vegetation, and iced drinks and ice cream, representing the areas of greatest climate impact. At first they resemble in-store sales displays, but with the application of an additional two degrees Celsius of heat applied from film lights, the food decays gradually, so that the casual viewer might initially miss what is happening. Filmed over six hours, the time-lapse makes the degradation and devastation palpable to the viewer.

© copyright K. Frech. All rights reserved.

NAILS ON A BLACKBOARD

HD Video (Excerpt)

2018, HD Video, color, stereo sound, 55:00 minutes

In “Nails on a Blackboard,” the hand of an unseen performer repeatedly writes and then erases the word “NAILS” on a blackboard for 55 minutes, the length of a class in my high school. Is this educational, or is it punishment?

Traditionally, blackboards wielded dual roles: first as the transmission of information, and secondly as an instrument of punishment. Sometimes the punishment is accidental, in the form of a scrape of a fingernail on the board, and sometimes the punishment is systemic: the rote repetition of a phrase, written endlessly by a transgressive pupil. Equally, sometimes the ideas that a student learns are not the ones intended by the instructor.

“Nails on a Blackboard” explores these dualities, asking the viewer to question what, if anything, will be gained at the risk of possible discomfort by engaging with the work. Finally, the work plays with a fundamental principle of physics: that matter (information) cannot be created or destroyed. This becomes clearer as the pristine board takes on more abstract patterns of the erased chalk, until eventually remnants of the word NAILS remain imbued into its surface.

© copyright K. Frech. All rights reserved.