Looking at how technology is enhancing pre-existing artistic practises.
Elspeth Walker | Ed Francesca Gransden | 10 July 2020
Colette Bernard, a sculptor and performance artist from Louisiana, USA, is one of many artists now using new media to realise artistic ideas. Her work, which predominantly explores themes of humour, pop-culture and sexuality, lends itself well to the blend of physical and digital. She states that her ‘art reflects her queer and southern identity, while also playing with reality versus reality on the internet’.
New media refers to art created using new technologies in the digital era and is often not considered on par with ‘traditional’ artforms. However, the combination of various mediums, merging the digital and traditional practices of art, is on the rise, and especially being expressed in sculptural work. Bernard has studied in various mediums of sculpture throughout her career from woodwork to metalwork, and her work is now reflecting the is now the potential that new media formats can have in the modern age.
Bernard’s latest performance sculpture ‘Not So Sweethearts’ explores physicality, irony and love through digital means. The piece consists of a manufactured climbing wall with each step a parody of the childhood favourite love heart sweets. In this endurance performance, Bernard navigates her way across the art structure. The piece draws contrasts between the original love hearts sweets turned climbing rocks, and the reality of the text printed on them: XOXO, Sweet Nothing, Convenient Co-dependent, Venus, Unmatched. All of which calls attention to the struggle and realities of relationships versus the ‘sweet’ pop-culture image of romance, alongside how many results in people ‘clinging on’ and not heading anywhere. The rocks reflect the reasons we hold on and equally the reasons to let go; exposing the instability of relationships.
However, despite being used as a physical structure to perform across, Bernard’s work uses new media artforms in pieces such as ‘Not So Sweethearts’ by using a 3D printer. The use of 3D printers allows artists to develop their sketches, transfer them into digital software and print them in the form of sculptures. This process allows many artists to evaluate and edit their designs before creating the final physical form. Bernard’s rock wall, she used 3D printing to create each of the moulds to in the final cast resin heart rocks. Here, the digital practice allows her to create clean-cut and easily replicable objects which are then used in her immersive performances.
This is further seen in her work, ‘The Burden, also combines new media forms with performance. Here, Bernard recreated her own birth control container using digital software and a laser cutter. This artwork ties into her reoccurring themes of exploring sexuality – especially within an American context, as she took to the streets of New York City carrying this ‘burden’ with her. By using technology and transferring the design onto hardboard, Bernard was able to enlarge and create a sculptural object obviously recognisable as female birth control. The movement of this often taboo and hidden part of female life is then placed at the forefront as she carries it on her travels, again exploring different realities: the personal versus the public.
Through the use of new media technologies, Bernard, in both Not So Sweethearts and The Burden is able to recreate popularised and familiar images, exposing a personal and political truth by re-contextualising objects in her performance art. The blending of technologies and processes has enhanced her ability to start a conversation and express her artistic ideas. Colette Bernard’s art and practise highlights how new media can be used in combination with other artistic mediums to create work that pushes boundaries in new and exciting ways.
- The Pratt Institute Presidential Merit Scholarship, where she studies
- Outdoor Mural for Children’s Museum of Acadiana. Funded by a grant from the Lafayette Downtown Development Authority, 2020
- Damaged Art Exhibition: A student loan restoration project, featuring The Burden sculpture on display. 98 Orchard Galley LES Manhattan, NYC, 2019