Night Circles by Nura Petrov
Night Circles
mixed media photo collage 22x30 inches

String Theory

Through a fortuitous set of circumstances, I began string work in 1987 on the occasion of MarcelDuchamp's 100th birthday.

I had been fascinated for some time by reports of a new mathematical theory in which it is hypothesized that tiny strings are the foundation of the universe. They exist in as many as ten dimensions and are designated by wonderful names: squarks, sleptons, photinos etc. Their existence seems to be equally real in imagination and the material world. Is there ever really a separation between these two?

As part of the city-wide birthday celebration, Nexus Gallery in Philadelphia invited artists to submit work to an exhibition of book works. I remembered Duchamp's interesting usage of string at Peggy Guggenheim's Art of This Century Gallery where he installed 1st Papers of Surrealism in 1942. His installation utilized one mile of string stretched in overlapping angles in front of paintings so as to cause the viewers to make a more strenuous effort than usual to look at the paintings — some necessitated holding one's head at a tilt in order to see past the string, etc. I suspect it was amusing to see the audience involved in the gentle gymnastics the string arrangements provoked.

Taking these two references into consideration, I made an accordian-pleated book containing edited accounts of string theory from the New York Times and a physical string threaded through the folds in such a way that it would cast a relaxed shadow on the white paper behind it, reminiscent in some ways of Duchamp's T'um. Also collaged into the book were photocopies of string dropped onto the surface of the machine whose lid was deliberately left open to create a black background.

I later realized that Duchamp had purchased 3 miles of string for the gallery installation and used only a small part of it. I began to wonder what had happened to the rest. I posed this question in an article published in Tout-Fait: The Marcel Duchamp Studies Online Journal,Vol.2/Issue 5, April 2003, Art and Literature Section.

My reply would be that much of it has found its way into my work, some of which began with a nod to Three Standard Stoppages but continues with many more than three strings and their symphonic convolutions. They have become a source of line and linear motifs that have their own peculiar quality remote from the 1st Papers of Surrealism but close to its impulse and intent.

Other random, found lines occur in my work, espcially in the 3-dimensional stick works which are lashed together with string. I also collect tracings left by natural events observed where I live in the country: animal tracks, fallen branches, dry weeds in the winter snow: trails and pathways — lines that hesitate and meander before returning home.
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(more string images and sculpture on following pages)

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