Kari Altmann’s Core Samples at Extra Extra Gallery

by Dennis D’Alesandro

Core Samples, a one-person show featuring internet and new media artist Kari Altmann at Extra Extra Gallery, attempts to uncover the common denominators that exist between people, the exterior environment, and all of the images, products, and information that populate our existence. (The show can be seen at Extra Extra until the end of the month.)

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Kari Altmann’s show at Extra Extra. Still from large video projection from Core Samples

All of Altmann’s works in the show — videos, photography and sculpture — include a reference to the premise that core samples are extracted by boring a hole into a mass. By employing this metaphor, Altmann declares her idea that the internet, television, in fact all media new or old, comprises the meat of a great digital and ephemeral mass that takes up actual space in nature. The physical character of this media mass is not solid and redundant like a rock, but more fleeting and amorphous like a cloud. And because this is a mostly visual mass to be probed, the drill bit is not one of hardened steel but rather that of a piercing “eye”.

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Kari Altmann, Still from large projection, from Core Samples

The artist operates as though all of the media bombarding the airwaves is structured into a fabric similar to that of deep space and the mysterious properties of dark matter, where scientists imagine that space warps and folds over itself, making it possible to pass through portals and re-emerge somewhere else. By directing her drill/eye into this complex knot of media, it’s as though she is teleporting through alternate universes of space-curving, time-destroying layers of visual strata. The resulting effect acts to confirm the philosophical notion that all of time coexists with itself simultaneously, and that if you follow the correct thread through time you can freely jump from one moment to a completely different one.


The show is comprised of two large video projections that are beamed onto adjacent walls. It is the same video but cued up to play on an opposite schedule. The room is neither dark or bright, it has a sort of dim interior daylight quality. On the other two walls are mounted a few portable video screens, some photography-based works and also a few small sculptures. There’s sparse audio accompaniment that plays over some hidden speakers. Sometimes the audio seems to link up with one of the videos, other times it might just be minimal and reverb-y. The show mostly comes off as cold and corporately clean, and the distant-sounding audio loop gives the same impression as the echo-y loudspeakers in an uncrowded mid-day train station.

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Kari Altmann, Still from Core Samples

The large format video projections are most notable in conveying Altmann’s eye for poignant visuals. They are layered with her conceptual urge to bring disparate imageries together. As the scenes play out and randomly change at their own pace to the next video clip, the ever-seeing circular eye becomes the only thing bringing the disparate clips together. Sometimes the edges of this piercing eye lay dormant and quite benign, at other times Altmann’s use of special effects creates undulating waves of energy that drool and swirl from the central eye. This is her way, perhaps, of referencing the observer effect in physics: that the act of observation itself skews the nature of the scene observed. Her use of the stationary round authority and even the well chosen color schemes and vintage-seeming camera effects bring to mind Kubrick’s all-knowing Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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Kari Altmann, photograph, Image from Core Samples

The exhibit is a strangely voyeuristic but detached experience. Although you are allowed to see images of so many disparate events, youʼve never felt farther away from them. Like Hal — programmed and essential to the mission yet mad at never actually experiencing life sensually as a living breathing human being—you, the viewer, are forever relegated to the spectator status.


On three small video screens, Altmann has created a series of short videos where one main spherical mass digitally morphs into another thing. Although the objects shape-shift into completely different objects, they retain the same general shape and color, again stressing the conceptual and formal thread that connects so many disparately existing entities.

Kari Altman, Secure Slab 3
Kari Altman, Secure Slab 3

Core Samples transplants Altmann’s wifi-centric video artworks from their natural home on the internet and into the confines of a more traditional, brick and mortar gallery-space presentation. Here she seems to experiment with different deliveries, not quite sure how best to convey her trippy, web-based morphing and mellifluous works into static art gallery time.