Sara Magenheimer

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What is my work about?

My practice spans sculpture, collage, installation, video, sound, and performance. I engage the way language performs as physical material; vibrating the air as sound, moving on a screen as text or on a page as graphic image. I highlight the slippage between the cognitive content language carries (as a vessel) and its form (the shape and weight of the vessel itself). I enact how material performs as language; I arrange elements and manipulate objects in space syntactically and semantically inviting my sculptures and installations to be read like expanded sentences.

Whether working with text, an actor, a set, or a song, I treat symbolic elements as independent objects. My aim is to disrupt the coherence of narrative experience, opening up spaces of humor, absurdity and poetry while destabilizing relationships between supposedly fixed forms.


Artist Statement

My work attends to visual signs in a way that addresses the materiality of their manifestation, decoupling language and meaning, and pushing at the dynamic relationships between thought and material. I arrange objects, manipulate materials, collage sound, and direct scenes that rupture narrative and logical cohesion. Disrupting what are often thought of as closed, fixed systems creates an opportunity for new meanings to emerge; not just a normative thing and its opposite, the point and the counterpoint, but a third, fourth or fifth category. My work throws off the imagined equilibrium of signs and signifiers, acknowledging that other relationships are always already present beneath the surface.

When working in video, a medium with a strong relationship to narrative, I like to lie to the viewer. I construct an elaborate fiction using elements that appear true, and in converse, craft fictive scenarios from snippets of “real life.” I draw inspiration from a wide variety of sources; transient bits of conversation, misspellings on Twitter, a Facebook link headline out of context, and a snippet of a 70’s pop song all found their way into the script for a new video. A current influence is linguistic strategies employed in Hip Hop music. While my work does not overtly reference Hip Hop aesthetics, I borrow from its toolkit, utilizing tactics such as odd juxtapositions, intentional mispronunciations or spellings, quotation, and repetition. These methods highlight absurdity and cognitive dissonance of living within a society that ostensibly speaks your language, but forces you to articulate yourself using tools that come already embedded with alienating power structures. A recent video work, “Seven Signs that Mean Silence,” is based on a script I wrote that employs modes of “voice” from found texts, spoken through a text-­‐to-­‐speech website, using intentionally “broken” language, and even total nonsense at times to re-­‐infuse language with new meaning and a sense of play. Historically, such absurdist detournement has been employed by the Situationists, in punk, Dada and many other artistic contexts. I see my work in conversation with these precedents.

Much of my interest in visual language is rooted in a tradition of semiotics. Through playful reconfiguration of meanings in time and space, my work posits an ongoing creative relationship to one’s experience reading the world. In my work, words are always the shape of the letters that comprise them, the sound of their articulation, as well as what they mean. Sound is always a vibration of molecules, as well as a catalyst for emotion when organized into a melody. In both my video and sculptural works I imagine each work as a sentence of these multifaceted signs, exploding out the constituent parts into grammar and punctuation. A recent series of sculptures, “The Extras,” engages with ideas of legibility of material and signification. Abstract mounds of haphazardly glazed clay hold up signs with clear photographic images. The signs they hold refer to themselves and convey a cultural awareness, their titles (“Distracted Woman, Church Scene” for instance) imply a connection with the outside world and to an unknown narrative.

We often think of the processes associated with found material as those of detached intellect and of selection and arrangement, while emotion and imagination are associated with self-­‐generated materials such as expressive painting or gestural sculpture. My process combines these methods and uses them both strategically and intuitively, disavowing the binary of the mind and the body. Placed In conversation with each other, these modes reflect the semiotic potential for reading the world in endless combinations that lies at the heart of contemporary subjecthood.




2013 MFA Bard College, Film/Video

2004 BFA The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

BA Women’s Studies/Film and Literary Theory, Tufts University

2002 Temple University, Tyler School of Art, Rome, Italy



Recess Art SoHo Session Residency, NY, NY (spring 2015)


Blouin Art Info Modern Painters Top 25 Artists to Watch

Lighthouse Works Residency, Fishers Island, NY

Shandaken Project Residency, Shandaken, NY

EMPAC (Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center) Commission, Troy, NY


Triple Canopy Commission, Bloopers performance

Pioneer Works Residency, Brooklyn, NY


Milton and Sally Avery Scholarship, Bard College


Departmental Fellowship, Bard College


Alula Editions, Project Grant

Creative Growth, Visiting Artist Grant


Medici Scholarship, The School of the Museum of Fine Arts



NY Film Festival, Film Society of Lincoln Center, New York, NY, Projections

CAVE Gallery, Detroit, MI, Mickrys

Jane Harstock Gallery, Greenwhich House Pottery, New York, NY, Teen Glazed

Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York, NY, Purple States

Chapter NY, The View from the Window, Sara Magenheimer, Ryan Mrozowski, Sophy Naess

Soloway Gallery, Brooklyn, NY, LIFE, SIGNS, CEREMONY, END, screening

Cleopatra’s, Brooklyn, NY, Which arbitrary thing are you, Sara Magenheimer and Sadie Laska

ICA @ Maine College of Art, Portland, ME, Community Television Network

The Kitchen, New York, Primary Information Presents

New Shelter Plan, Copenhagen, Artist Run

837 Washington St., NYC, Bruce High Quality Foundation, Brucennial

20 Jay St. DUMBO, Brooklyn, The Whitney Houston Biennial

Living Art Museum, Reykjavik, Iceland, PLAY

Soloway Gallery, Brooklyn NY, PLAY

Museum of Modern Art, Portland, OR, A Light Spray


ICA Boston, collaborative project with Amy Sillman, Boston, MA

SiteWork, Chapel Hill, NC

Torrance Shipman Gallery, Brooklyn, NY, Just Light

Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn, NY, CKTV

Court Square, Long Island City, Queens, FABRIKA, with Marley Freeman


Parallelograms, artist-curated online publication, Brooklyn, NY

Recess Art, NY, NY, with Christine Sun Kim


Triple Base Gallery, San Francisco, CA, Alula Editions


Four Month Residency, Berkeley Museum, Berkeley CA

The Secret Society, Berkeley Museum, Berkeley CA


The High Line Festival curated by David Bowie, Irving Plaza, New York, NY


Suave Levendra, Philadelphia, PA, I Look at Me and 10,000 Shrimp


The Vaccuum, Philadelphia, PA, I Look at Me and 10,000 Shrimp



EMPAC (Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, Troy, NY, BLOOPERS

Meet Factory, Prague, Czech Republic, After the Future


Performa 13 Biennial, New York, NY, BLOOPERS

Cage Gallery, NY, NY

Recess, with Malik Gaines and Alexandro Segade, New York, NY

Issue Project Room, with Ben Vida and Tyondai Braxton, Brooklyn, NY

AVA Gallery, New York, NY, Metal Fatigue Music


MOMA P.S.1, Queens, NY, Certain Distinctions

CANADA Gallery, with Sadie Laska, NY, NY

CANADA Gallery, with Greg Saunier, NY, NY


Triple Base Gallery, San Francisco, CA


Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley, CA, The Secret Society

San Martino Spino, Italy, Musica Nelle Valli Festival

Brooklyn Bowl, Brooklyn, NY, The Northside Festival


Woulds Gallery, Oakland, CA, The Cave Show

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA


CitySol, New York, NY, Solar One Festival

DGC Gallery, Montreal, Canada

Dudingen, Switzerland, Bad Bonn Kilbi Festival


Saratoga, CA, Bleeding Edge Festival



Seven Signs that Mean Silence booklet


WOOM/Deerhoof split 7”, Polyvinyl


Muu’s Way, CD and limited edition vinyl, WOOM, BaDaBing Records

WOOM v.s Kasai All-Stars, Tradi-mods vs. Rockers, Crammed Discs


Draw it in the Dark, DVD of artist-made music videos and 7″ record, Menlo Park Recordings


7″ Backwards Beach/The Knife, Fertile Crescent, Menlo Park Recordings

Faces of the Night, Flying, Mill Pond Records


Just-One-Second-Ago-Broken Eggshell, Flying, Mill Pond Records



Critics Pick, A View From the Window, Art Forum, July

First Look, Sara Magenheimer, Art In America, June/July


Feature, Artists to Watch, Modern Painters Magazine December

Artists to Watch, BLOOPERS, ArtFCity, October 13

Performa 13 Aims to Turn All of New York Into a Stage, Wall Street Journal, November


News Feature, Bearing Witness: A Week of Performance at Canada, Art In America, Dec 16


Feature, BUST Magazine, Oct-Nov Issue

Feature, Muu’s Way, Brooklyn Vegan, May 19

Interview, Anika in London, June 21

Interview, Microphone Memory Emotion, June 25

Lauren Beck, Muu’s Way, The L Magazine July 21

John Norris, Muu’s Way, Noisevox, July 3

Alexander Tudor, Drowned in Sound, Plan B, London, June 6

Jude Clarke, Line of Best Fit, Plan B, London, June 6

Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?, Death By Audio June 26

IMPOSE Magazine, Music Hall of Williamsburg, July 7

Brooklyn Vegan, Music Hall of Williamsburg, July 6


Collin Anderson, review Just-One-Second-Ago-Broken Eggshell, Indie Workshop, March 6


Etan Rosenblum, review Just-One-Second-Ago-Broken Eggshell, Prefix Magazine, May 9

Todd Burns, review Just-One-Second-Ago-Broken Eggshell, Stylus Magazine, June 30

Grant Capes, review Just-One-Second-Ago-Broken Eggshell, Indie Workshop, June 26

Jeff Terich, Trebelzine, Album of the Week, Just-One-Second-Ago-Broken Eggshell, May 16

Jessica Suarez, CMJ Magazine, New Music review Just-One-Second-Ago-Broken Eggshell


Ilana Horowitz, review Flying EP, Aural Minority, June 5th


Roberta Fallon, “Sketches,” featuring videos “10,000 Shrimp and “I Look at Me,” Philadelphia Weekly, January 5th



Seven Signs that Mean Silence


Nothing Comes from Talking (But Sound)


One Vast Focus


Which Arbitrary Thing are You (Excerpt)