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Genevieve Walker: Best Art of 2011

December 5, 2011

The best art wasn’t found in galleries this year. It was found online.

By Genevieve Walker

Compressed 02 from Kim Pimmel on Vimeo.

I have been lazy enough to see a fraction of the art showing in New York City this year—which is to say, actually a lot. Amid grotesque oil paintings of highly realistic still-lifes, delicate fabric paintings, and annoyingly trite photos, there was one series in particular (and one artist) whose work stuck out as a find. And I found it in the appropriately democratic venue of today’s art scene—online.

I discovered Kim Pimmel’s short art film Compressed 02 in a post on Tumblr. One of the advantages of an art gallery (or museum) for an artist is the reverential white of the walls, the hushed voices of the patrons; even those little Styrofoam name plates tacked with Stickum near the piece, help frame a viewer’s experience, giving even the ugliest pile of crap an aura of thought and meaning. So coming across great art on Tumblr was an odd experience. Kind of like finding, by accident, an engrossing novel on the musty library shelves and reading it, loving it, long before I knew I was supposed to have read and loved it. Bloviating aside, I liked Pimmel’s work a lot. I liked the way I ran across something done with incredible skill in a Tumblr feed—where I usually see gifs of cats doing dumb things, pretty pictures of clothes I can’t afford, and LIFE magazine photos excavated from the archives. Tumblr is a kind of gallery of its own, I guess.

Kim Pimmel’s Compressed 02 shows certain fluids up close and in time-lapse, engaged in what has been made to look like micro-dramas; sci-fi battles set to electronic beats. On the Cargo Collective website Pimmel—an inventor, designer, and filmmaker—writes that for Compressed 02 he “combined everyday soap bubbles with exotic ferrofluid liquid… Black ferrofluid and dye race through bubble structures, drawn through by the invisible forces of capillary action and magnetism.” The resulting two-minute film has what seems like a highway of ink rushing to make the borders of each bubble in a bubble-bath part of a cobweb in relief. The time-lapse enhances the anthropomorphic movements of the ferrofluid; the sequence reminded me of the later parts in Chronos (1985) when time-lapse clips of cities at night showed the lights and traffic blinkering in a tempo particular to human movement. Compressed 02 is beautiful but also entertaining, a trick of (good) art that makes the unfamiliar seem familiar, if not strange and therefore oddly captivating.

In an interview with the Atlantic, Pimmel explains some of his process and his custom-built tools. I also highly recommend Pimmel’s Light Drive video, where a record player and “light painting techniques” turn into a kind of Tron-scape.

Watch Chronos in full below:

Chronos (1985) from Malandro on Vimeo.

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Genevieve Walker is is an editorial intern at Guernica and a graduate student at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at N.Y.U. You can follow her on Twitter @pickled.

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