Nydia in Dust
Nydia in Dust is a video installation presented at Objects As Texts: Reading Nydia, a symposium at the University of Michigan Museum of Art on 18 January 2011. Before the video was presented, I read the following statement:
As an artist, I explore the shifting relationships between human perceptions of sound, image and time. As a scholar and museum-goer, I am fascinated by how audiences perceive the resonance and aura generated by museum objects. This piece synthesizes these interests by projecting sounds and images onto Randolph Rogers' 19th century sculpture "Nydia, the Blind Flower Girl of Pompeii" based on the character of the same name in Edward Bulwer-Lytton's now-unfashionable historical novel The Last Days of Pompeii. The video piece acts as a layer of atmospheric digital dust, drawing attention to the sculpture’s role as a blank, blind, and silent canvas onto which we as museum visitors project our own experiences – or to the sculpture’s identity as an intertext, a nexus where stories and histories converge.
The destruction of Pompeii left an entire city locked in a frozen moment, a monument to the fragility of human existence. The profound story of Pompeii’s place in history has inspired many fictions. Nydia is a character in one such fictional retelling of Pompeii's story, and likewise her own tale was told and retold in different media. Rogers' sculpture is one version, a fictional frozen moment of eternal listening.
To create my own abstracted version of Nydia’s story, I've sampled sonic and visual material from numerous sources: two film retellings of Bulwer-Lytton's original novel – one from 1913 and another from 1984; a song about Pompeii by the post-punk band Siouxsie and the Banshees; contemporary photography by performance artist Eleanor Antin; and a recent episode of the science fiction time travel television series Doctor Who.
As a result of this process of collection and manipulation, the mediated histories of Nydia and Pompeii are transformed into a glowing, virtual aura.
Video documentation by Evan Dougherty and John Kannenberg, edited by John Kannenberg.