2015 Fundraiser Artist Profile: Robert Burnier

Robert Burnier has kindly agreed to donated work to our 2015 auction.

In September of 2014 Caroline Picard conducted an interview with Robert. Here a couple excerpts from, “The Matter of Invisible Energy:”

Clearly Burnier is having a moment. It is exciting to witness. With a background in computer science and painting, his sculptural works interrogate material and philosophical concerns. In one ongoing series, he begins with a flat piece of aluminum, folding it methodically until further folds are no longer possible. The resulting elegantly crumpled objects are covered with a layer of matte paint, and thereafter appear like crumpled balls of thick paper; they evoke the residue of vibrant energies — sitting like cast aside experiments whose original purpose is not longer accessible. Burnier’s work reintroduces the process of thinking as a final object in and of itself.

CP: I’m reminded of a Levi Bryant quote you shared with me: “As always, the battles that swirl around epistemology are ultimately questions of ethics and politics. As Bacon noted, knowledge is power. And knowledge is not simply power in the sense that it allows us to control or master the world around us, but rather knowledge is also power in the sense that it determines who is authorized to speak, who is authorized to govern, and is the power to determine what place persons and other entities should, by right, occupy within the social order.”

RB: I look at that quote as being an accurate statement about the inevitable outcome of some epistemology, whatever the intent. Bryant’s The Democracy of Objects regards a so-called “flat ontology.” It gives me a sense of release to imagine a world of radically absent hierarchy being just the way it is. It’s clear that histories of race, gender and social status can be looked at through a lens like that. I’ve also written and said before that in art anything is fair game if it’s done thoughtfully enough. So I try to be inclusive in terms of approach. Critical theory and reflection have taught us a great deal. But sometimes it also feels like we were painted into a corner or exiled to an island of denials. Bryant et. al. make a concerted study of this. Not that denials aren’t part of a process to figure things out. But eventually, don’t you run out of islands to escape to?

20140915151348-Burnier_Aferon_Kvar_B_webRobert Burnier; Courtesy of the artist and Andrew Rafacz Gallery

CP: I imagine you thinking about islands in your studio while folding aluminum, or cutting the corners off a wooden box…

RB: When I’m actually working on things, this is all sort of in the background. One thing I’m looking for above all else is to just partake in the huge openness of things while not forgetting I’m among them and so are my ideas. I want to see and respond to a surprise and have that be recorded for someone else to see. It’s like seeing it matters more than knowing it. That is, something that’s not only a remix of culture but is an occurrence to be regarded.

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Imperceptibly and Slowly Opening : Installation View

Produced by the Green Lantern Press and on view at Sector 2337 from Oct 09 – Nov 21, 2015

& featuring artists Sebastian Alvarez, Srijon Chowdhury, Katy Cowan, Zoe Crosher, Lindsey French, Essi Kausalainen, Deanna Ledezma, Wilfredo Prieto, Steve Ruiz, John Steck Jr., Linda Tegg, and Andrew Yang; a night of performances by Katherine Behar and Joshua Kent (curated by Every house has a door); and The Lichen Museum, an Institution in Residence, by A. Laurie Palmer. Read more information about this exhibition here.


“Imperceptibly and Slowly Opening,” Street view, Sector 2337, 2015. Photo by Clare Britt.


Sri Chowdhury, “Affected Painting,” site specific installation, 2015. Wood, linen, oil paint, concrete, plants, light gels, shadows, ceramics, dimensions variable. Photo by Clare Britt.


Sri Chowdhury, “Affected Painting,” (detail) site specific installation, 2015. Wood, linen, oil paint, concrete, plants, light gels, shadows, ceramics, dimensions variable. Photo by Clare Britt.


“Imperceptibly and Slowly Opening,” Installation view, Left: Essi Kausalainen, (top to bottom) “ABC,” 6’46”; Orchard, 9’04”; “Pine & Palm, “11’ 36”, 2013. “Transverberate,” 2015. Right: Sri Chowdhury, “Affected Painting,” site specific installation, 2015. Wood, linen, oil paint, concrete, plants, light gels, shadows, ceramics, dimensions variable, Sector 2337, 2015. Photo by Clare Britt.

Linda Tegg, “Terrain (Prairie Grass)” (2015), Whole Foods Bulk Bin Seeds (Small Red Chilli Beans, Extra Large Fava Beans, Black Beans (Turtle Beans), Pinto Beans, Mung Beans, Flageolet Beans, Pigeon Beans, Black Garbanzo Beans, Wild Rice, Soy Beans, Baby Lima Beans, Fava Beans, Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans), Dark Red Kidney Beans, Navy Beans, Steuben Yellow Eye Beans, Scarlett Runner Beans, Cannellini Beans (White Kidney Beans), Adzuki Beans, Great Northern Beans, 32 Bean & 8-Vegetable Soup/Chili, Countrywild Brown Rice Blend, Olde World Pilaf, Lundberg’s Wild Blend, Mayacoba Beans (Canary Beans), Jacob’s Cattle Trout Beans, Christmas Lima Beans, Tiger Eye Beans, European Soldier Beans, Petite Golden Lentils, French Green Lentils, Brown Lentils, Petite Crimson Lentils, Black Lentils, Ivory White Lentils, Red Lentils, Large Green Lentils, Giant Peruvian Lima Beans, Black-eyed Peas, Raw Pumpkin Seeds (Pepitas), Yellow Popcorn, Heirloom Popcorn Kernels, Black Barley, Kamut Berries, Buckwheat Groats, Kasha, Freekeh, Barley (Pearled), Hard Red Winter Wheat Berries, Wheat Berries (Soft White Pastry), Spelt Berries, Rye Berries), dry wall, lights, growing media, plastic, dimensions variable.


Zoe Crosher, “LA Like: Escaped Exotics,” 2015. Unique bronze casts, include Brachychiton no. 1, Lepidozamia peroffskyana seeds nos. 1-4, Encephalartos whitelockii seeds nos. 1-3, and Chamaedorea no.2 is on loan from Yasmine Mohseni; Dimensions variable.


Katy Cowan, “Side Happens,” 2015. Diptych, Sun-sensitive paint on cotton, grass stains, poplar frame, 35.75” x 21.75” x 2.5” (individually). Photo by Clare Britt.


Lindsey French, “some alteration of the one who feels,” urushiol extract, glass containers, 1/2 oz.


“Imperceptibly and Slowly Opening,” Installation view, Left: Steve Ruiz, Money Tree, 2014. Watercolor and ink on paper. Right: Steve Ruiz, “Blanchard Cicadas,” Sector 2337, 2012. Ink on paper. Photo by Clare Britt.


Andrew Yang, “New Economies of Anachronistic Fruit,” 2015. Site specific installation with gumball machine, seed pods, seeds, Kentucky Coffeetree. Dimensions variable. Photo by Clare Britt.


“Imperceptibly and Slowly Opening,” Installation view, Left to right: John Steck Jr, “Willow in the Rain,” and “Wild Branches in the Wild Shire,” 2012. Disappearing photographs on gelatin silver paper. Sector 2337, 2015. Photo by Clare Britt.


A. Laurie Palmer, “The Lichen Museum,” (Institution in Residence), Installation view, Sector 2337, 2015. Photo by Clare Britt.


“Imperceptibly and Slowly Opening,” Installation view, Sector 2337, 2015. Left: Sebastian Alvarez, “A Pseudo Enthnobotanical Chronology of Psychoactives,” (detail) 2015. Laminated Photographs; 12 pieces, varied dimensions. Right: Wilfredo Prieto, “Walk,” 2012. Wheelbarrow and plant, dimensions variable. Private collection, Madrid (Spain). Photo by Clare Britt.


“Imperceptibly and Slowly Opening,” Installation view, Sector 2337, 2015. Photo by Clare Britt.


Sebastian Alvarez, “A Pseudo Enthnobotanical Chronology of Psychoactives,” (detail) 2015. Laminated Photographs; 12 pieces, varied dimensions.


“Imperceptibly and Slowly Opening,” Installation view, Sector 2337, 2015. Photo by Clare Britt.


Lindsey French, phytovision: cinema for plants, Invasion of The Body Snatchers and Day of the Triffids, LEDs, and custom software, 1:13:57, and 1:34:00.



Layers of Dialogue: Designer-in-Residence Koen Slothouber

Organized with Sonnenzimmer

Last May, London-based designer Koen Slothouber came to Chicago for a Design Residency with Sonnenzimmer and The Green Lantern Press / Sector 2337. During that time, Slothouber tackled a number of GLP/Sector projects that are just starting to surface including a new issue of Sector’s inhouse newspaper, a poster for an upcoming Green Lantern Press exhibition, and design for a debut comic coming out from Radiator Comics (by yours truly). In the following interview I talk to Koen about his working process.

Caroline Picard: How did you end up working with Sonnenzimmer?

Koen Slothouber: I met Nick [Butcher] and Nadine [Nakanishi] in London, in September of last year [2014]. I was working at the London Art Book Fair, where they had a stand. Over the course of the two days we talked a few times and realized we had similar interests in print, design and music. Besides their unique style, I was really interested in the way Sonnenzimmer set up as a design studio where they often screen print their own work as well. So I contacted them a week later to let them know I would be really interested to work with/for them for a while if they ever could use some help. They then set up a great Design Residency program with Sector2337, which was more than I could have asked for.

CP: You worked on four projects while you were here. Can you talk a bit about what those projects entailed? Did each one require a different type of strategic thinking?

KS: The first project I worked on was the comic The Chronicles of Fortune (Radiator Comics). I feel that this was the most challenging project, but probably also the most rewarding. In order to design the cover and chapter heads I had to really immerse myself into the style of the comic, but also adapt my own style of working to that of Sonnenzimmer. I think that that project set the tone for the rest of the six weeks, and set us up for a great collaboration on the imperceptibly and slowly opening poster. The Sector newspaper project felt most natural to me. A lot of my work involves some form publication design, and together with printmaking this is where my passion lies.

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CP: For the imperceptibly and slowly opening poster, you worked collaboratively and intuitively with Sonnenzimmer. What was that process like? What were the steps and how did they come about?

KS: One of my wishes when coming to work with Sonnenzimmer was that we could do a screen printing project; I really love the intricate screen printed work they do. The great thing about the poster collaboration was that I got to see up close how Nick and Nadine work through the design process — how an early concept grows and starts to lead it’s own life through critical iteration, and forms a beautiful end result that you might not have expected to see from the start. That was also the starting point for our concept. Because imperceptibly and slowly opening is about plant life creeping up on us, we decided to improvise each layer of the poster and print it straight after designing it. That way there was no way of going back, and it would feel like the poster was slowly creeping up on us as well, towards a finished outcome. For me the experimentation we did was also a really important element to get to grips with the screen printing process.

CP: What did the process entail?

KS: For the first two layers of the poster we collected some plants and first under and then over-exposed them on two screens. The under exposure created a general silhouette, while the over exposed screen shows a lot more details because of the way the plant’s cell structures in the veins and leaves lets through light. For the third layer/screen we gave away all the control we had; we had the idea to let “the elements” make the artwork. We ended up tying a bag of ink to a tree branch. The bag had several small holes in the bottom and would leak ink onto a large sheet of white paper on the ground whenever the wind moved the branch and bag.



IMG_2442 IMG_2458

CP: How did you translate that layer back onto the poster?

KS: We simply exposed the paper with drops onto a screen and added the word imperceptibly right across the centre of the image in large faded letters. Then Nadine had the great (and maybe slightly wacky) idea to print this layer in a colour that is very close to the colour of the paper. By doing that it really moves to the background in most places on the poster, only the leaf in the bottom left corner is clearly effected. In hindsight it reminds me a bit of acid rain drops, eating away at the geometric shapes in the leaf.

CP: That’s awesome.


KS: My favorite experiment was what we did with the sixth layer, for which we decided to print with bleach. First we had to make the stencil by hand with screen filler, because the normal emulsion would deteriorate quickly. We sprayed bleach onto the open parts of the screen and then printed a varnish layer to push the bleach through the screen and onto the paper. The bleach would then slowly (in about a minute or so), change the paper’s color, and we ended up with the beautiful spotted diagonal lines in the hexagon. Because we sprayed the bleach by hand, and over time the bleach started to mix in with the varnish, each print looks unique.


CP: Isn’t there also an indentation in the poster? 

KS: For the eight layer we decided to do a blind emboss rather than print, to enhance the feeling of things growing between all the layers, something we also tried to show by overprinting a big dark mask in the fifth layer.

CP: It’s funny, I’ve spent a lot of time with the posters you all made, but never parsed all those layers.

KS: What I really like about the poster is that there are a lot of details to be discovered when you see it up close, whilst it serves a purpose from afar. I also like how the natural and geometric (man-made) elements are juxtaposed and start to have a conversation. I think that fits the exhibition well.


CP: What was it like coming to work in Chicago? 

KS: Chicago has completely won me over. In all honesty I never really thought about Chicago that much, it was just another city to me, and I really just came here for the work experience. But as soon as I arrived I fell in love. The people are so friendly and welcoming. The city’s pace feels quite relaxed and even though everyone I’ve met seems to work a lot, they are not stressed. I also love that the city is so creative (everyone seems to be artistic or play at least one musical instrument) and buzzing. There is constantly something going on, whether it is a street festival, a live music performance in the botanical gardens, or a Critical Mass/Naked bike ride. And all the small independent galleries like Sector2337, Comfort Station, Elastic Arts, are so inspiring.

Besides that I have to mention that having a bike really helped me out. The freedom I felt being able to bike everywhere in close to no time at all was simply amazing and the best way to see the city!

You can purchase the imperceptibly & slowly opening poster here.




Inhouse Newspaper Sector No 2 Now Available

Designed by Designer-in-Residence Koen Slothouber

Designed by Sonnenzimmer/Sector 2337 Design Resident Koen Slothouber during his Design Residency last May, this publication features writing and artwork by Joel Craig, Alexandria Eregbu, Magalie Guérin, Jessi Haley, Roberto Harrison, Leon Andrew Hensley, Ernest Hogan, Kuras and MacKenzie, Esau McGhee, Caroline Picard, Josh Rios and Anthony Romero, Amina Ross, Ellen Rothenberg, and Stephen Williams.

Last year we spent a lot of time talking to Sonnenzimmer about how to create newspaper that captured the first ten years of Green Lantern’s history. We came up with this newspaper — what many of you have likely seen if you came by the space last year or bought a book from our online store. After living with that publication for so long, we decided to continue with same concept, incorporating the work of multiple authors and artists while announcing our own upcoming events, and reflecting on specific Sector events. The result is this second edition, available for free at the gallery. As is customary, we also include a complimentary copy with any online book purchases.

Some highlights in this issue include “A calaca in a spacesuit: Confessions of a sci-fi chicano artist” by Ernest Hogan! A Homeric Hymn by Stephen Williams! A poem by Roberto Harrison! Fiction by Jessi Haley! An excerpt from Magalie Guérin’s studio journal (soon to be published in its entirety by The Green Lantern Press)! Another poem by Joel Craig, typeset by the poet himself! A curatorial essay by the extraordinary Alexandria Eregbu on the subject of her upcoming Sector show, Tertiary Dimensions! And much much more….