Tom Pnini, Two Figures in a Field, installation view at Lesley Heller Gallery, 2020.
SIGNALS FROM THE STUDIO… ARTIST TOM PNINI
ON NEW ENTRY POINTS TO UNDERSTANDING
We are pleased to share Signals from the Studio…Artist Tom Pnini on New Entry Points to Understanding. In this new segment of Artis’ audio series, we speak with New York-based artist Tom Pnini about tough decisions that artists make in the creative process, as well as the deep connections that exist between his professional work as an artist and art educator. We invite you to listen!
In his video works, Tom Pnini creates controlled environments where multi-layered stories, illusions, and other visual phenomena take place. Tom uses theatrical and cinematic motifs in his videos, which often appear to be filmed in one take with minimal camera movement. His work Volcano Demo (2008) documents a performance where a paper-mâché sculpture of a volcano, installed on top of a building in Tel Aviv, is in a constant state of eruption, evoking tensions of day to day life. In The Light Fantastic Toe (2015), a work about a family during the American Civil War, viewers watch a scene unfold through a split screen that resembles a stereoscopic lens, where a deception is revealed: the video is not, in fact, a stereoscopic image. Rather, it is filmed using two identical film sets and twin actors. In Paperweight (2016), a late-career writer sits down at his typewriter to write, and shredded paper begins to fall on him from above. Over time, the writer and his workspace are completely submerged in the paper shreds—a manifestation of the internal conflicts that artists experience during the creative process. Telling stories that are both believable and fantastical, Tom tests the boundaries of cinematic media in his works.
In this interview, Tom speaks openly and honestly about a recent shift in his practice away from video making in his solo show Two Figures in a Field, which opened at Lesley Heller Gallery in New York in January 2020. An experiential installation, Two Figures in a Field is a tribute to sea travel that includes immersive sculptures and a vinyl album of sound works, which we invite you to listen to. Tom discusses this project in relationship to his practice as an art educator. He talks about opening an art studio for children, where his teachings are rooted in the inquiry and play-based educational philosophy of Reggio Emilia (for readings about this teaching method, scroll to the end of this email). Reflecting on this experience, Tom describes how teaching has made him a better listener, opened up new pathways of thinking, and has challenged barriers that he identifies in who can meaningfully engage with contemporary art.
Selection of readings, recommended by Tom Pnini, that influence his art practice:
A Romantic Measure by Jörg Heiser (published in Romantic Conceptualism, Kerber, 2008)
Intoxication, Carefully by Collier Schorr (published in Romantic Conceptualism, Kerber, 2008)
Readings about the educational philosophy of Reggio Emilia:
Working in the Reggio Way, A beginner’s guide for American Teachers by Julianne Wurm (Redleaf Press, 2005)
In the Spirit of the Studio: Learning from the Atelier of Reggio Emilia edited by Lella Gandini, Lynn Hill, Louise Boyd Cadwell, and Charles S. Schwall (Teachers College Press, 2015)