Slovenian born visual artist and filmmaker Nataša Prosenc Stearns earned her BA at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana. She moved to Los Angeles on a Fulbright Grant for her MFA at California Institute of the Arts. Before moving to the US, she worked for the Slovenian television and its CNN branch. Her films Souvenir, (released by Cinema Epoch), The Trial of Socrates, (collaboration of 23 international filmmakers), Hotel Diary and others explore innovative strategies in storytelling and visual expression. Her body of work ranges from single and multi-channel videos, video installations, short and feature films, video objects and print media. She is known for creative use of non-gallery spaces and large multi-channel installations.
Nataša's work has been featured at the Venice Biennale, in Douloun Museum of Art in Shanghai, ARCO Fair in Madrid, Kunstlerwerkstatt in Munich, Spazio Erasmus Brera in Milan, Lancaster Museum of Art, Tel Aviv Museum of Art and in festivals such as SXSW, Films de femmes Paris, Melbourne Film Festival, AVIFF Cannes, Brooklyn Film Festival, Pandemonium London, Chicago Independent Film Festival, Pacific Film Archives Berkeley, RedCat at Disney Music Hall in Los Angeles and others. She is a recipient of the Durffee and Soros Grants. Most recently she completed a new body of work for an original opera CODE L.
Nataša lives in Venice California and in Ljubljana Slovenia.
HOW DOES SHE BREATHE?
By Holly Willis
To enter the space of a video installation by Nataša Prosenc Stearns is to reawaken the sentient self, the body and perception as it meets the world prior to all thought and theory. While this experience may not be unique to Nataša’s work, her insistence on finding the ground of connection that unites people with the organic world almost is. Indeed, she is a bit of an anomaly in the international contemporary video art scene. Whereas the focus of much recent work tends to be conceptual and highly aware of its specificity and place of enunciation, or – increasingly – narrative in nature, Nataša pursues transcendent themes that extend well beyond the moment of her artwork’s existence. “I’m trying to find a universal source, whether through the body or nature,” she has said, and it is here, in the variable spaces between the physical body and the world that her work resides.
Nataša Prosenc Stearn’s work often addresses the body, and as such, helps us regain a fundamental connection to what philosopher Edmund Husserl calls the “Lebenswelt,” or life-world. He used the term to refer to the world as we experience it before we subject it to analysis. While there is a tendency to divide mind and body, especially in an increasingly technologized world, and as such, for many of us to feel progressively more alienated from our physical selves, Prosenc’s installations often make us profoundly aware of the boundaries of the body while also hinting at its potential limitlessness...
Excerpt from exhibition catalogue Crossing
SPLITTING OPEN THE PAVING STONES
By Maja Manojlovic
"We must believe in the body, but as in the germ of life, the seed which splits open the paving stones, which has been preserved and lives on in the holy shroud or the mummy's bandages, and which bears witness to life, in this world as it is." – Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2: The Time- Image, p. 173.
...These viscerally evocative spaces generated by Nataša Prosenc Stearns' installations are precisely what imbues her body of work with an expansive force that can only be likened to the force of life as such. Refusing to freeze her artistic expression in a "readable" metaphorical framework lending itself to a textual interpretive approach, the artist irreverently transgresses such "rational" common sense boundaries to express a world brimming with creative potentialities. It is therefore not surprising that the installation itself transcends this conventional interpretation and instead develops the experientially based notion of transition and the transitory nature of a life in ceaseless flux.
Transition is organic to the artist's own life, as she has been crossing the Atlantic Ocean to go from her home in Slovenia to her other home in United States (and back) for the last ten years. It is therefore only natural that she has incorporated this notion into her creative process and developed it into one of her signature conceptual platforms. Transitioning, transgressing and transforming conventional referential networks of signification and experience infuse Prosenc's installations with a profoundly creative element of expansiveness. This sense of expansion is largely due to the way her imagery and its placement deconstructs and reconfigures our intimate experience of embodied existence in the world.
For example, her installations The Pillar and The Well defamiliarize our culturally acquired sense of a clearly defined unitary self, experienced through skin-tight boundaries of the body. The Pillar intertwines limbs and various bodily parts of several bodies and thus expands the potentialities for different kinds of alliances between living beings, as well as for a re-imagined construction of the self. The concept of a single self thus opens up and multiplies into experiential assemblages of many micro-creative life forms, continuously reshaping their fluid boundaries. Conversely, The Well displaces a palpitating heart muscle outside of an individual body, generating an experience of interconnectedness of humanity through our singularity, here represented by a heart that simultaneously belongs to anyone and no one in particular. At such points, Prosenc's art transgresses the boundaries of her assigned aesthetic space and creates new concepts, pregnant with potentialities.
Besides breaking through the skin of the individual and morphing the idea of the collective, the artist further expands our intimate horizons of the life-world as we know it by spiraling even further "into" the body, all the way to its cellular structures. She explores the body as a "germ of life" in its intrinsic interconnectedness with the natural world, specifically with the elements of water, fire, earth, and air. In Sphere, to only name one example, a naked woman swims about in what seems like a large, water-filled globe. The swimmer is comfortably merged with the element of water, simultaneously prompting the viewers to breathe for her. The organic rhythm of breathing thus physically connects the swimmer's body to the body of the viewer. She now experiences her own embodiment in an expanded sense, with an awareness of the inter-relational nature of life forms at their elemental level of materiality. By revealing such raw and unprocessed potentiality of the body palpitating with life, the art of Nataša Prosenc Stearns radically expands and deepens our notion of embodied experience. She dares to let the force of the body as a “germ of life” split open the confines of its utilitarian role in service of consumerism, unleashes its transformative kineticism, and allows it to creatively “bare witness to life in the world as it is.” She gives us a gift of a world where art becomes the art of life.
Excerpt from exhibition catalogue Sounds and Visions