For most Philadelphians, a 24-minute morning commute on the SEPTA Regional Rail is just that: a duration of time, a liminal space between home and work, a necessary (albeit sometimes frustrating) means to an end. But for Moore graduate student Sara Kleinert, this commute inspires a multitude of curiosities, artworks and questions. She asks, “How do you activate a space?”
Kleinert’s artist statement from 2019’s MFA in Progress exhibition begins, “I am an analyzer by nature: how do fragments morph together to form a whole?” Her body of work as an MFA candidate at Moore focuses largely on the collection and arrangement of fragments, both material and immaterial. The desk in her studio is peppered with seemingly disparate objects: a spool of copper wire she found while walking past a construction site; bits of broken umbrellas collected in the wake of a heavy storm; a small cardboard cylinder from someone’s dry-cleaning. She records the ambient noise of public transportation hubs as raw material for her musique concrète-style sound projects. She converses with strangers on the train, delighting in the intersection between the public and the private, whilst a strange contraption sits perched on her lap: a mark-making device.
In Kleinert’s Travel Recordings series, squares of white paper are scribbled with black Sharpie marks, reminiscent of seismograph readings or shaky scatter plots—the artistic results of carrying homemade mark-making devices on her daily commute.
This is how Kleinert collects her data: the information of a particular space during a particular duration of time.
“Are these drawings, are they recordings, are they trackings?” she muses. “I think a lot of people think of data as some sort of numeric or statistical information, and I think of data as splices and fragments of moments that all culminate into an experience, or a memory of a space. I’m collecting data through stories, through conversations, through these objects that I’m holding that make these lines. I’m collecting the movement, the motion and the understanding of bodies in a space.”
While Kleinert was already familiar with riding public transportation to Philadelphia from her home in Eddystone, it was the transition to Moore’s MFA program that sparked her practice of mark-making.
“I knew it would be a necessity for me to take the train to come to Moore,” she says, “but acknowledging that I spend so much time in that space, it felt like such a missed opportunity to not investigate that, and really make that what my work is focused on.”
FROM TRASH TO TREASURE
After she tracks, collects and records various fragments, Kleinert begins the process of morphing. For one project, she fuses found acrylic sheets with a laser cutter in Moore’s Fabrication Lab—where she currently holds a 3D technician assistantship—adds copper wire and a battery pack, and voilá! A tiny, functional robot. She places the bot on her studio desk, flips a switch, and it whirs to life, vibrating along the surface—traversing through space. It reminds me of a planetary rover dragging itself across the moon.
“Everything is about duality and duration for me,” she explains. “I’m really interested in mechanics, what it means to push forward as a human.”
Not only does Kleinert find excitement in the fitting-together of these found objects, but she also enjoys observing others’ reactions to her devices. She recalls how, at the end of the spring 2019 semester, she placed her bot on a table coated with purple-blue powder. A crowd of onlookers moved closer, intrigued. Then she activated her bot, and the resulting violet dust-cloud and commotion caused the group to step back nervously.
“Everybody’s looking at this, but I’m looking at them!” she laughs.
SOUND & FUTURE
Recently, Kleinert has been experimenting with her recordings of raw sound; “Sound is a huge part of the way that I form my art practice and the way that I understand space.” She describes recording various noise fragments in public spaces, then layering them on top of one another, creating a new language of the space.
“It’s either this overwhelming experience of noise, or fragments of datasets together,” she explains. “This rhythmic pattern of people talking, buzzing lights, the tile floor… all these different elements that build upon one another to make a space, or an experience in that space.”
Kleinert will graduate from Moore in May. She hopes to continue work similar to that of her 3D technician assistantship—and to join an artist collective.
“Working in a community, working with other artists, continuing my practice with the intersection of the public and the private… that feels really great to me.”
See Kleinert’s work at the MFA/MA Thesis exhibition March 28–April 18, 2020, in The Galleries at Moore.