Artist: Sophie Kahn
Title: Head of a Young Woman, I
Medium: Bronze (from rapid prototype in wax and 3d laser scan)
I first encountered 3D laser scanners at RMIT University, Melbourne, where a team ofarchitects were using it to reverse-engineer an unfinished building from the architect’s originalmaquettes. However, I began using the scanner after-hours to create a series of self-portraits. The precisely engineered device was never intended to image the body, and when faced with breath and movement, it breaks down and generates fragmentary results. Like many artists, I’ve found it difficult to access such expensive and hard-to-find technologies, so Ibegan exploring means to creating a more sustainable practice. I’ve made video with a DIY scanner made from a $40 laser level and a webcam, digital paper sculpture from free Japanese origami software and crystal sculptures using laser engraving technology more commonly used for corporate awards and golf trophies. I continue to use imaging technology in a perverse way, making a subtle and poetic critique of its claims to objectivity and veracity. While truly DIY high-resolution rapid prototyping is a long ways off, the Internet has made it possible for me to collaborate with file-engineering and rapid-prototyping service bureaus internationally and to create pieces like the one in this exhibition.
With regard to my work, it addresses the erotics of death in the still image. It owes its Victorian-futurist aesthetic to the interaction of new and old media–ie: the digital and the analogue. My sculptural and imaging practice is a hybrid one, combining new advances in 3D scanning and stereolithography with the comparatively antiquated technology of bronze casting. My practice has evolved (from my original training in photography) into a three-dimensional, post-photographic exploration of the application of architectural imaging tools to the body and landscape.
With regard to “Head of a Woman, I,” the closed eyes and deathly frozen attitude of the scanned bodies also resemble death masks and other forms of memorial portraiture. The forms of this face twist and turn in space; the woman’s eyes are closed as though asleep. It is this concern with memorial representations – an imperfect archive of the traces left by the body or by objects as they move through time and space – that is the thread combining the historical and contemporary technologies used for the making of this work.
Sophie Kahn was born in London in 1980, and grew up in Melbourne, Australia. Sophie trained as a
photographer and studied in the UK, completing a BA (Hons) in Fine Art and History of Art at Goldsmiths
College, University of London, in 2001. Sophie returned to Melbourne after graduation, studying Spatial
Information Architecture at RMIT, where she expanded her practice to include animation, 3d imaging and
Sophie has presented individual and group exhibitions at artist-run, public and commercial spaces in
Melbourne, Australia (Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces, West Space, 24Seven, Linden, Monash
Gallery of Art, Spacement Gallery), Sydney (Performance Space, Stills Gallery, and the Art Gallery
of New South Wales), Seoul (Loop Alternative Art Space), Tokyo (Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery,
DesignFesta, Tokyo Big Sight), Osaka (Arts Aporia), Singapore (Graphite at NTEU) Paris (Musee des
Sciences de L’Homme), Washington DC (The Kennedy Center, the Smithsonian Institution), London
(Britart.com space) and New York City (Space 414 and the Armory Show). Screenings and festivals
include the Japan Media Arts Festival, EMPAC Dance Movies, DANSCAMDANCE, and the International
Video Dance Festival of Burgundy.
Sophie has lectured and tutored in Photomedia, taught photography and new media at Eyebeam, the
International Centre of Photography and in a number of community settings, including to young woman
transitioning out of incarceration. She has also been employed by the Royal Children’s Hospital in
Melbourne, where she conducted research into 3d medical imaging. Her work has been shortlisted for a
number of prizes and awards, supported by the Australia Council for the Arts, the Australian Network for
Art and Technology, and the City of Melbourne, and is held in private collections in Australia, Britain and
the United States.
Sophie currently lives and works in Brooklyn, and teaches in the Digital Arts Department at Pratt Institute.