Claudia Hart


3D animation, 7-minute loop, 4K
07:00 min
Edition of 3 + AP

PROCESSING HISTORY by Claudia Hart uses the temporal reality of the human body, where cells are born, grow, die, and then are replaced in a cycle renewed every seven years. This biological time clock has been used to frame a historical clock to reflect on change and the passage of time.

To do this, PROCESSING HISTORY traces the history of Chicago Modernism by tracking its decorative arts, as subdued Victorian poster art slowly morphs into the punchy graphics of the Roaring Twenties. Period graphics and architectural decorations are used to create animated patterns covering a simulated classical frieze: colossal Caryatids, monumental columns taking female form. Though still found on the facades of Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry and the entry portal of the Field Museum, these figures were constructed for World Columbian Exhibition buildings, inspired by the Erechtheion, which was built to house the cult of Athena on the Acropolis.

For PROCESSING HISTORY, Hart researched the period between the great fire of Chicago in 1871 and the arrival of Maholy-Nagy there in 1937, when he set up his Bauhaus-inspired school. She collected imagery from vintage Chicago museum posters of music, fashion, and design—from stained glass to architectural decorations. These images were culled from the Internet and from the historical archives of the Chicago History Museum and the Art Institute, where Hart photographed their collections, as well as those of the Driehaus Museum, the Chicago Cultural Center, and other canonical buildings of turn-of-the-century Chicago.

Hart’s photographs were then submitted to digital aging, first by processing them with a dot-screen filter imitating the process of printing and then by pixelating them using the graphic strategy of a computer, each in an exaggerated way. The artist then placed her animated patterns on a timeline by decade, creating unique animated, graphical patterns for each of seven years.

PROCESSING HISTORY subverts the normally linear line of history, replacing it with something irregular to express time as elastic and informed by the terms of both present and future. Using a 3D model of the Erechtheion Caryatids found on the Internet, Hart ran a seven-decade period forward on one caryatid and backwards on the other, both figures standing in an architectural setting covered with algorithmic patterns that "begin" in the middle and then feed back fluidly, to end a moment before they began. An animated virtual sun illuminates the scene, moving backward from dusk to dawn. The animated Caryatids shift and breathe subtly. Sunrise. Sunset.

Production was funded by the Terra Foundation, Chicago.