Digital Dystopia Meets Media Madness on Danial Nord’s Cloud 9

  • 10/05/2018
  • Reporters Desk

By Leslie Belt, Contributing Writer

In the interest of transparency, I must confess. Like many children of my generation, I was hopelessly in love with The Visible Man. I won’t deny a nervous fascination with that vague lump. But it was the sheer schematic orderliness of him that I found most dreamy.

Stepping through the curtain into Danial Nord’s newest sculptural media installation, Cloud 9 you are thrust into a face-to-face encounter with life-sized, translucent humanoid figures, suspended in the dark, their bodies activated by pulsating feeds of online video and social media emanating from clutched smartphones. Strange and yet strangely familiar, each of these  luminous beings embodies a news-based persona dominating the contemporary zeitgeist  — Businessman, Gunman, Mother, Alien, Illegal, Angel. Networked together, but detached from one another, these radiant, data-fueled zombies create a haunting portrait of 21st century hyperculture and social disintegration.

Nord, a San Pedro-based interdisciplinary artist, left the east coast and a successful career in the entertainment industry behind long ago, but not so the technological prowess and media mindfulness he extracted from the experience. Both are on brilliant display in Cloud 9, which Nord conceptualized and built expressly for Torrance Art Museum’s Gallery Two space.

For starters, Nord invented the custom electronics system he has used to transform social and mass media video into the malleable and life giving illumination that pulsates in his figures’ innards. A process that begins with Nord algorithmically selecting videos for each character which are then  converted into pulsing light-signals via computer-driven LEDs. In effect, upcycling public material and current events into individualized interior motivation.

“I’m interested in what video can do that’s not representation and not narrative,” Nord explains, before going on to make the connection between message and medium.

“Since 2010 I’ve been working on a system to build structures and forms that radiate the light and energy of mass media, without direct narrative or the use of traditional monitors and projectors.”

To create the eerie, translucent sculptural bodies that inhabit Cloud 9, Nord once again relied on artistic processes that are uniquely his own. Working on his hands and knees on South Bay beaches, Nord innovated a method of fire-casting clear polycarbonate sheets onto hand-built sand molds, like coarse vacuforms. Resulting in the light transmitting, highly detailed and textured body parts that make up each of nine distinct figures found in the installation. Nord favors sand citing its simplicity, affordability and earthy qualities. But is quick to note that silica (purified to silicon) is also the foundation of his computer-driven technologies.

Cloud 9 is a complex fusion of custom electronics and experimental processes. Coastal flotsam and jetsam and sticks and stones are integrated in surprising ways with sophisticated plastics and advanced electronics. The resulting dialogue between these high and low-tech elements and techniques resonates, like a beating heart, throughout the entire installation.

Cloud 9 is on view at Torrance Art Museum through Nov. 10. On Oct. 13, at 3 p.m., Torrance Art Museum will host an intimate walk-through of Cloud 9 with the artist, Danial Nord, who will be discussing this work and its history, as well as his overall practice. This event is free to the public

Danial Nord is an interdisciplinary artist who reinterprets the familiar language and trappings of mass communication. Nord’s provocative installations draw from his accomplishments as an award winning designer-animator in the entertainment industry, as an internationally based fashion designer, and as a scenic and prop artist for film, television and theater. His agile manipulation of color, light, form, moving image, and sound catches viewers in a cycle of seduction and confrontation.

Nord’s recent projects include commissioned installations for the Beall Center for Art and Technology at University of California Irvine, and the UC Santa Barbara Public Arts Research Lab in conjunction with the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission. His large-scale media-driven sculptures were featured in  State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now  at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and in the 2013 California-Pacific Triennial at the Orange County Museum of Art. He lives and works in San Pedro.

Time: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.  Exhibit runs through Nov. 10

Cost: Free

Details: (310) 618-6388; torranceartmuseum@torranceca.gov

Venue: Torrance Art Museum, 3320 Civic Center Dr., Torrance

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