Gregory P. Garvey: Suprematist Composition V

  • ©, Gregory P. Garvey



    Suprematist Composition V



    Interactive digital video


    9.75" x 9.75" x 5"


Artist Statement:

    Suprematist Composition V explores the space between stillness, expectation, surprise, and confirmation. Through the glass window of a porthole, the viewer sees digital video of a black cross in dramatic perspective, undulating slowly and silently. Opening the window of the porthole triggers the display of a swimmer in motion. Closing the porthole window triggers the redisplay of the “Suprema­tist Cross.”

    This work is part of a continuing series that re-investigates or reme­diates the early 20th century reductionist impulse as seen in Russian Suprematist art. Exploring the possibilities enabled by technologies of interaction, Suprematist Composition V not only “refashions” a prior media form, but also turns it on its head by including prohibited subject matter.

    For Kazimir Malevich, “the supremacy of pure sensation” was the guiding principle and was best expressed by “non-objective” ab­stract geometric forms (square, circle, cross). Malevich wrote in 1916: “We will not see a pure painting before the habit to see in canvases depictions of nature, Virgins or shameless Venuses is abandoned … ”

    However, pure sensation gives way to expectation inspired by the moving image and furthered by interactivity. Although the visual syn­tax of narrative film is avoided, a story is told as the viewer constructs a new experience, lasting as long as he or she wishes. Functional brain imaging reveals that as we gaze at either male or female semi-clad bodies, localized areas of the brain light up in response to this “pure sensation,” leading to a cascade of associations, memories, and emotions and physiological responses.

    Noting the affinity between the work of Malevich and Kandinsky’s Weisses Kreuz (White Cross) of 1922, Lucy Flint observes: “The cross is an evocative, symbolic form.” Today its evocative power remains beyond “pure sensation.”

Technical Information:

    In this interactive digital video installation, a magnet reed switch mounted on the porthole window frame is connected to the USB port of the computer. When closed, it sends a mouse-down event, and when opened, it sends a mouse-up event. The script handler written in Macromedia Director Lingo responds to a mouse-up event by randomly selecting one of 10 digital video sequences. When the script receives a mouse-down event, it returns to the “Suprematist Cross” digital video loop sequence.

Other Information:


    Lucy Flint, “Vasily Kandinsky, White Cross (Weisses Kreuz),” Guggenheim Collection, medium_work_md_Painting_71_73.html
    Kazimir Malevich, “From Cubism and Futurism to Supremation … New Realism of Painting,” 1916.