Nina Katchadourian

Seat Assignment

Improvising with materials close at hand, Seat Assignment consists of photographs, video, and digital images all made while in flight using only a camera phone. The project began spontaneously on a flight in March 2010 and is ongoing. At present, over 2500 photographs and video, made on more than 40 different flights, constitute the raw material of my project.

While in the lavatory on a domestic flight in March 2010, I spontaneously put a tissue paper toilet cover seat cover over my head and took a picture in the mirror. The image evoked 15th-century Flemish portraiture. I decided to add more images made in this mode and a few months ago I decided to take advantage of a long-haul flight from San Francisco to Auckland, guessing that there were likely to be long periods of time when no one was using the lavatory on the 14-hour flight. I made several forays to the bathroom from my aisle seat, and by the time we landed I had a large group of new photographs entitled Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style. I was wearing a thin black scarf that I sometimes hung up on the wall behind me to create the deep black ground that is typical of these portraits. There is no special illumination in use other than the lavatory’s own lights and all the images are shot hand-held with the camera phone.

From the outset, I’ve been aware that what motivates Seat Assignment is the challenge of trying to make under circumstances that seemingly lack any richness or potential. Much of my work stems from the mundane and the everyday, and from my optimism that there is always more of interest around us than we think. What can I make under such constraints? Is there really always more than meets the eye? What kind of immensity can be born of necessity, within this framework? But the longer I work on Seat Assignment, the more I realize it’s also a response to the pairing of anxiety and wonderment that underpin the very experience of flying: one part of the mind swept away in the time travel fantasy of the situation (I can become 15th-century Flemish in a 21st-century lavatory as I teleport from coast to coast!), the other part thinking, as I take my seat, “These could be the 200 people that I’m going to die together with.” In that sense, this project is also born of necessity: making is a necessary response that keeps at bay too many thoughts of the immensity of what is beyond the plane, beyond the seat I sit in, and beyond myself.

 

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Nina Katchadourian

Nina Katchadourian Nina Katchadourian was born in Stanford, California and grew up spending every summer on a small island in the Finnish archipelago, where she still spends part of each year. Her work exists in a wide variety of media including photography, sculpture, video and sound. Her work has been exhibited domestically and internationally at places such as PS1/MoMA, the Serpentine Gallery, New Langton Arts, Artists Space, SculptureCenter, and the Palais de Tokyo. In January 2006 the Turku Art Museum in Turku, Finland featured a solo show of works made in Finland, and in June 2006 the Tang Museum in Saratoga Springs exhibited a 10-year survey of her work and published an accompanying monograph entitled "All Forms of Attraction." The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego presented a solo show of recent video installation works in July 2008. In February 2010 she was the artist in residence at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery in Dunedin, New Zealand, where she had a solo show entitled "Seat Assignment." She is currently at work on a permanent public piece, commissioned by the GSA, for a border crossing station between the US and Canada. Katchadourian is represented by Catharine Clark gallery in San Francisco.