New York

Natalie Bieser

The most striking aspect of Natalie Bieser’s wall pieces is the decidedly musical rhythms they set up. Bieser attaches thin strips of wood to the wall which act as sustained, emphatic notes against the falling and rising thread strung between them. Because of variations both in the length and the hanging position of the thread, different speeds suggest themselves. One feels compelled to articulate the implicit score through gesture, as if one can only really “know” the perceptual information through one’s own body movement. The fragility of Bieser’s medium, its lack of any substantial mass, predicates an intangibility which heightens one’s desire for a physical knowledge.

However, there is another element in Bieser’s work—the beads fixed on the thread which, at first glance, seem merely decorative, irrelevant details. These tiny beads, though, are essential to the structure. While one begins by accepting the fall of the thread as a simple consequence of gravity, on reflection one realizes that, left to its own devices, the thread wouldn’t hang as it does. It is then one becomes aware of the functional role of the beads, which by their weight control the natural fall of the thread. Yet even this cognitive awareness of the beads’ importance doesn’t enable one to actually perceive them as the determining factors. The flowing line of the thread is too emphatic; visually one accepts its hanging position as a fait accompli. Itis only through reasoning that one comprehends the function of the beads. Bieser underlines the complex relation between seeing and knowing. Raw sensation isn’t sufficient for an understanding of her pieces—one is impelled to consciously interpret the visual data both through body gesture and mental reflection. The major problem with Bieser’s work is that it may be seen as merely decorative due to the prettiness of the materials—the delicacy of the thread, the glitter of the beads, the subtle tonal gradations of the graphite on the wood. Although I think that the dynamic rhythm of the thread subverts such a reading, the danger of an ingratiating elegance is all too present.

––Susan Heinemann