Kumao, Heidi

Permanent URI for this collection

Digital access to this material is pending artist's approval. Materials may be viewed onsite at the Goldsen Archive, Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Kroch Library, Cornell University.

I use art as a tool to explore personal responses to power structures in the nuclear family, mainstream media, the workplace, and traditional gender roles. I examine the psychological underpinnings of these seemingly ordinary situations and institutional contexts. Formally, I use machines, animated objects, and projected imagery because they offer me a visually compelling way to investigate what is unseen: defense mechanisms, sex drives, thinking patterns, self-control, dreams, and impulses. Each piece harnesses a variety of technologies in order to startle the viewer with unpredictable behaviors or an unsettling display of images. By challenging the viewers' expectations of an object, I heighten their awareness of ordinary social interactions to reveal the underlying emotional and poetic capacities. At its core, my work is driven by the desire to create a psychological experience for viewers that causes them to rethink commonplace events such as childhood play, family dynamics, television news, and even the wearing of clothes.


Recent Submissions

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    2008 Rockefeller New Media Foundation Proposal
    Kumao, Heidi (2009-06-08T18:26:28Z)
    As a recipient of a Rockefeller New Media Fellowship, I will research and develop a series of "Performative Portraits." These sculptural portraits, contained in bell jars or other containers as physical specimens and small machines, will be brought to life through video projection and kinetics. Historic and contemporary figures that have developed a creative mental space to survive physical confinement will inspire this new work. I will research the creative refuges of people such as Terry Anderson, a hostage held in Iran for ten years, and Janet Frame, a writer who was committed to mental institutions, and others. Unlike a traditional portrait that emphasizes visible, physical characteristics and is instantly recognizable, each of these portraits will reveal the unseen characteristics and history of the person. A lesser known trait, physical malady, or psychological state will become apparent through the synthesis of projected video imagery, objects, and mechanical gestures. In each case, it is the performance and behavior of the object that defines the person. Thus, each portrait coalesces slowly from its seemingly disparate parts, like the plot of a film or novel.