Interdisciplinary artist Christine Cassano stacked over 500 translucent porcelain forms resembling human vertebrae atop a horizontal mirror in 2022, collaborating with intermedia artist Shomit Barua to create Degrees of Granularity at form & concept in Santa Fe, New Mexico. As viewers neared the installation, they heard motion-reactive audio created by the subtle impacts of their movements on these forms meant to disintegrate over time, much like the human body ultimately returns to the earth.
Cassano has been creating the forms by hand, imprinting each one with her own fingerprints, since 2012, when shaping the material became a way to process a hip replacement surgery. “It was my way of working through what had happened inside my body,” Cassano told Hyperallergic. “When I make them I feel connected to consciousness; my hands don’t have to be told what to do, they just know.”
She calls these small forms noēma, explaining that the term means “mental object” or “content of a thought.” The forms run throughout her current body of work, including paintings and drawings she calls “mental equations.”
Recently, Cassano has been making bronze noēma for an installation that will hang suspended inside an atrium at form & concept during its upcoming Arrivals exhibition, as well as large-scale paintings created by dipping the forms in paint, then setting them atop surfaces where they oscillate and make marks in response to vibrations.
“My work centers dynamic systems,” she explained.
She’s worked with various materials over time — from fragments of saguaro cactus ribs to woven strands of her own long hair. As her perspective has shifted, her art practice has evolved.
Cassano recalls exploring the body and technology as a younger artist, taking what she calls a “micro-perspective.” Later, she began looking at aerial perspectives, thinking about cities as circuits, for example. More recently she’s turned outward. “Now I’m looking at cosmology, thinking about quantum physics and the way everything is connected by energy and vibrations.”
Her work is heavily influenced by a perceptual phenomenon experienced by just 1 to 4% of the population. “I have synesthesia, which is a blending of the senses,” said Cassano. “It can make things very complicated, but it’s also a conduit to creativity.”
Cassano describes hearing sound as an intensely visible experience that occurs within her mind’s eye. “For me, sound produces intricate, geometric, morphogenic, three-dimensional forms that move through mental space and move in real time,” she said. “The frequency, resonance, pitch, and tempo all immediately affect the shape and movement of the form.” She doesn’t directly transfer the forms into specific works, but says they impact her creative process.
Sound and vibration have been at the forefront of Cassano’s art practice for about three years. Whether using sound equipment to make the vibrations that transform her noema into painting tools, or assembling hanging installations of noēma that create “infinite arrangements of pitches, tones, and resonance” when touched, she’s essentially working to make sound visible.
“My brain is a hyperconnected thing,” said Cassano. “A lot of what I’m really doing here is making my perceptions visible to others through sounds, objects, and environments.”