Melanie Schiff (American, b. 1977)

For her video Perfect Square, Melanie Schiff is filmed from below as she swims purposely through water, attempting to swim in the shape of a perfect square. In this quiet, poetic work, Schiff’s silhouette activates a painterly field of green water, a gleaming sun, and clouds. The imprecise shape of Schiff’s route contrasts sharply with the definite border of the camera’s frame, calling attention to the discrepancy between the human desire for precision and symmetry and the loosely defined parameters of nature.

Consisting mostly of photography, Schiff’s body of work captures fleeting moments of congruency between nature and man-made objects, which often include the artist as she interacts with light or water. Her 2006 photographs Spit and Rainbow depict Schiff as she spits a mouthful of water toward the camera, creating unexpected moments of beauty when the water captures the light, glitters, and reflects a rainbow. Based in Chicago, Schiff’s artistic practice is informed by art of the 1960s and ‘70s, in particular the work of such artists as Carolee Schneemann, who was one of Schiff’s undergraduate professors.

Artwork in the Exhibition

Melanie Schiff, American, b. 1977, Perfect Square, 2006, single channel video on DVD (color, no sound) 15:17 loop, Courtesy of the artist and Kavi Gupta Gallery Chicago/Berlin.