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Work Samples

Turn of the Tide

"Turn of the Tide" is an installation in which a performer’s breath manipulates the projected video via wireless biosensor. As the designated performer inhales, the tide in the projected video rises, as the performer exhales, the tide recedes. / Duration variable / 2019.

Our Wandering Nerve

"Our Wandering Nerve" is a live-stream virtual performance. A custom built sensor connected to the treadmill senses every time the performer takes a footstep, which triggers the next frame in the timelapse video to be played. When viewers type “!changescene” into the chat, the timelapse changes to a new scene. The title of this project was inspired by the body’s vagus nerve (“vagus” translates to “wandering” in Latin). Through deep breathing, exercise, and singing, one can stimulate the vagus nerve to de-stress the body. / Full duration 30 min. / 2020.

The Tender Interval

"The Tender Interval" is a live-stream virtual performance. As the performer places their hand on the table over a heart pulse sensor, water begins to drip from the IV stand in time with their pulse into a tea cup. As the cup fills, the performer drinks the water. The other bottle attached to the IV stand drips water into a separate tea cup when the virtual audience types commands into the Twitch chat, such as !drip !drop !dripdrop !DRip !DroP etc... / Duration variable / 2020.

Going/Staying

"Going/Staying" is a performance/installation that uses long range bluetooth technology to send signals from pressure sensors in the artist’s shoes to a kick drum when the artist is within a 1 mile range of the drum. This technology enables an immediate real-time connection between the artist’s footsteps and the drum beating. The drum “plays” recorded data when artist is not present. / Duration variable / 2015-2017.

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About Sara

Baltimore City

Sara Dittrich's picture
Sara Dittrich is an interdisciplinary sculpture artist who builds introspective experiences that shift perspective from passive seeing to active looking, from passive hearing to active listening. Using musical thinking, Dittrich illuminates the dynamic and unconscious rhythms of the body and environments. The work is simultaneously gestural and architectonic: gestural in that it evokes the body’s expression in physical movement; architectonic, in that it occurs in a built environment designed to change... more

Turn of the Tide

Turn of the Tide is an installation/performance based work which draws on site-specific research conducted on the beaches of Cape Cod. Within the installation blue lights give the room a dim glow. One hears the faint tones of wind chimes and sees a large (approx. 13’ x 8’ ft.) custom curved wall in the rear of the gallery. On the wall a projected video of the Atlantic’s oceanic tide can be seen rising and falling, filmed from the Breakwater in Provincetown, MA. In front of the projection a performer is seated on a meditation cushion. The designated performer wears a wireless stretch sensor around their diaphragm. As the performer inhales, the tide in the projected video rises, as the performer exhales, the tide recedes. The surrounding space encourages visitors to sit and spend time in the space. The atmosphere is meditative and calming. When a performer is not present, the projected video is manipulated by the recorded data of a performer’s breath.

Turn of the Tide invites viewers to consider the authority of their own somatic experience, and renews awareness of our physical connection to the earth within the context of a rapidly changing landscape threatened by rising sea levels.

As the piece was developed over several months, Dittrich channeled her interests in the gestural and architectural aspects of music through an ecological lens. She has sought to compare rhythms of the human body with changing rhythms in the landscape, as a method to consider—and place within personal, felt experience—human relationship with the changing climate.

  • Turn of the Tide

    "Turn of the Tide" is an installation in which a performer’s breath manipulates the projected video via wireless biosensor. As the designated performer inhales, the tide in the projected video rises, as the performer exhales, the tide recedes. / Duration variable / 2019.
  • Installation View

    Installation View
    Installation using performer’s breath, stretch sensor, wireless transmitter, projected video on custom curved wall, meditation cushion, blue floodlights, speakers, amplifier, found audio, Arduino, Mad Mapper and Max software / Duration variable / 2019.
  • Performer View

    Performer View
    Installation using performer’s breath, stretch sensor, wireless transmitter, projected video on custom curved wall, meditation cushion, blue floodlights, speakers, amplifier, found audio, Arduino, Mad Mapper and Max software / Duration variable / 2019.
  • Breath sensor (Detail)

    Breath sensor (Detail)
    Installation using performer’s breath, stretch sensor, wireless transmitter, projected video on custom curved wall, meditation cushion, blue floodlights, speakers, amplifier, found audio, Arduino, Mad Mapper and Max software / Duration variable / 2019.

Our Wandering Nerve

“The breathing, sensing body draws its sustenance and its very substance from the soils, plants, and elements that surround it; it continually contributes itself, in turn, to the air, to the composting earth, to the nourishment of insects and oak trees and squirrels, ceaselessly spreading out of itself as well as breathing the world into itself, so that it is very difficult to discern, at any moment, precisely where this living body begins and where it ends.”
– David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous

The virtual iteration of Our Wandering Nerve takes place on Twitch.tv, a live streaming website, as a series of interactive durational performances. The performances feature a performer walking/running on a treadmill with the backdrop of slowly shifting time lapse videos of landscapes.

Additionally, the performer wears a heart rate monitor around their chest, and the heart rate is connected to Twitch in real time.

The viewer also hears a custom sound composition commissioned by Houston based artist Lisa Harris, titled “Undulated Vector Raise-Song for Earth”. The composition acts as a guided meditation throughout the full 30 minute duration of the performance.

As viewers continue to watch the repetitious gesture of the performer, they notice the landscape moves in time with the performer’s feet. A custom built sensor connected to the treadmill senses every time the performer takes a footstep, which triggers the next frame in the timelapse video to be played.

Viewers are able to participate and interact with the performance in real-time through coded Twitch Chat commands. When viewers type “!changescene” into the chat, the timelapse changes to a new scene. The timelapses were collected and filmed from various places Dittrich's travels have led to including Houston, TX, Provincetown, MA, and Grand Haven, MI. All imagery focuses on having aspects of land, sea, and sky with a clear horizon line.

Our Wandering Nerve creates a meditative experience that encourages the audience to slow down, engage in sensory perception, and find poetic refuge in moments of crisis. This multi-sensory experience uses the body’s circulatory system as a means of fielding questions about close listening and ecological healing. Our Wandering Nerve offers participants (and viewers) an opportunity to meditate on how the pace of our bodies’ physical processes are often determined by our surroundings and serves as a reminder of how our body participates in the larger ecosystem (e.g. as we breathe in oxygen, and out carbon dioxide, plants take in carbon dioxide and give us oxygen).

The title of this project was inspired by the body’s vagus nerve (“vagus” translates to “wandering” in Latin). The vagus nerve is the longest of the cranial nerves and connects to the brainstem, pharynx, heart, lungs, stomach, gut, and spine. It is responsible for the regulation of internal organ functions, such as digestion, heart rate, and respiratory rate, as well as vasomotor (blood vessel) activity, and certain reflex actions. Through deep breathing, exercise, and singing, one can stimulate the vagus nerve to de-stress the body.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Our Wandering Nerve was part of The Tender Interval exhibition commissioned by DiverseWorks, Houston, Texas and curated by Ashley Dehoyos as part of DiverseWorks’ Body of Politics 2020-21 programming that explores the body as a resource and inspiration for political and cultural investigations of movement, health and wellness, and the environment. The exhibition was originally planned to be presented in the DiverseWorks MATCH Gallery, but due to Covid-19 was adapted to a virtual setting. The project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Texas Commission on the Arts, the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance, Midtown Houston Management District, the Brown Foundation, Inc., the Houston Endowment, and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

Undulated Vector Raise-Song for Earth, composition by Li
Engineering assistance: Devon Bray
Studio assistance: Turner Gillespie
Performance assistance: Erick Benitez

  • Our Wandering Nerve

    "Our Wandering Nerve" is a live-stream virtual performance. A custom built sensor connected to the treadmill senses every time the performer takes a footstep, which triggers the next frame in the timelapse video to be played. When viewers type “!changescene” into the chat, the timelapse changes to a new scene. The title of this project was inspired by the body’s vagus nerve (“vagus” translates to “wandering” in Latin). Through deep breathing, exercise, and singing, one can stimulate the vagus nerve to de-stress the body. / Full duration 30 min. / 2020.

The Tender Interval

“Maybe the only thing that hints at a sense of Time is rhythm; not the recurrent beats of the rhythm but the gap between two such beats, the grey gap between black beats; the Tender Interval. The regular throb itself merely brings back the miserable idea of measurements, but in between, something like true Time lurks.”
– Vladimir Nabokov

The virtual iteration of The Tender Interval takes place on Twitch.tv, a live streaming website, as a series of interactive durational performances. The performances feature a performer sitting on the floor at a low custom built table featuring an IV stand in the middle with two large water containers attached. As the performer places their hand on the table over a heart pulse sensor, water begins to drip from the IV stand in time with their pulse into a tea cup. As the cup fills, the performer drinks the water. The other bottle attached to the IV stand drips water into a separate tea cup when the virtual audience types commands into the Twitch chat, such as !drip !drop !dripdrop !DRip !DroP etc...

Additionally, the performer wears a heart rate monitor around their chest, and the heart rate is broadcast to the Twitch stream in real time.

The Tender Interval uses the body’s circulatory system as a means of fielding questions about close listening and ecological healing. The work creates its own water cycle of sorts, repeatedly dripping water via heart pulse to feed back into the body (which is mostly made up of water), as well as regenerating growth through the watering of plants from the drips collected via Twitch. As the Earth’s water cycle supports us, we must reflect how we can return the favor?

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The Tender Interval exhibition was commissioned by DiverseWorks, Houston, Texas and curated by Ashley Dehoyos as part of DiverseWorks’ Body of Politics 2020-21 programming that explores the body as a resource and inspiration for political and cultural investigations of movement, health and wellness, and the environment. The exhibition was originally planned to be presented in the DiverseWorks MATCH Gallery, but due to Covid-19 was adapted to a virtual setting. The project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Texas Commission on the Arts, the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance, Midtown Houston Management District, the Brown Foundation, Inc., the Houston Endowment, and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

Engineering assistance: Devon Bray
Studio assistance: Turner Gillespie
Performance assistance: Erick Benitez

  • The Tender Interval

    "The Tender Interval" is a live-stream virtual performance. As the performer places their hand on the table over a heart pulse sensor, water begins to drip from the IV stand in time with their pulse into a tea cup. As the cup fills, the performer drinks the water. The other bottle attached to the IV stand drips water into a separate tea cup when the virtual audience types commands into the Twitch chat, such as !drip !drop !dripdrop !DRip !DroP etc... / Duration variable / 2020.

Going/Staying

Going/Staying is a performance/installation that uses long range bluetooth technology to send signals from pressure sensors in the artist’s shoes to a kick drum when the artist is within a 1 mile range of the drum. This technology enables an immediate real-time connection with no delay between the artist’s footsteps and the drum beating. The drum “plays” recorded data when the artist is not present.

The work investigates the unconscious everyday rhythm of walking. This awareness makes one more conscious of where they are and where they are going, and creates a new awareness and appreciation of these unconscious movements.

“He listens—and first to his body; he learns rhythm from it, in order consequently to appreciate external rhythms. His body serves him as a metronome.” — Henri Lefebvre, Rhythmanalysis

  • Going/Staying

    "Going/Staying" is a performance/installation that uses long range bluetooth technology to send signals from pressure sensors in the artist’s shoes to a kick drum when the artist is within a 1 mile range of the drum. This technology enables an immediate real-time connection between the artist’s footsteps and the drum beating. The drum “plays” recorded data when artist is not present. / Duration variable / 2015-2017.

Score for Room

Score for Room is an experimental music notation installation that transforms the gallery into a participatory performance and composition studio. The entire floor, patterned to look like enlarged sheet music, accumulates the wears and tears of everyday rhythms. As visitors walk through the gallery, the sound of their footsteps are picked up by hidden floor sensors (contact mics) and emitted from an amplifier, producing a sonic architectural landscape. Over time, visitors’ footprints will mark and soil the paper, leaving a written record. Near the end of the installation, a musician is invited to translate the score underfoot into an audible composition as a live improvised performance.

This multimedia work recalls a range of historical precedents, from Allan Kaprow’s happenings and Alvin Lucier’s sound works, to the notational experiments of such Czech artists as Jan Sagl and Vladimir Havlik. Drawing on these contexts, Score for Room further investigates communal aspects of music creation, and aims to give a renewed awareness of the body to the viewer.

  • Installation view at beginning of exhibition

    Score For Room
    White and black construction paper, contact mics, wire, amplifier, the accumulation of dust, dirt and movements over a 5 week period while installed in an office/gallery space / 41’ x 34’ ft. / 2017.
  • Installation View

    Score For Room
    White and black construction paper, contact mics, wire, amplifier, the accumulation of dust, dirt and movements over a 5 week period while installed in an office/gallery space / 41’ x 34’ ft. / 2017.
  • Installation View

    Score For Room
    White and black construction paper, contact mics, wire, amplifier, the accumulation of dust, dirt and movements over a 5 week period while installed in an office/gallery space / 41’ x 34’ ft. / 2017.
  • View into the gallery

    Score For Room
    White and black construction paper, contact mics, wire, amplifier, the accumulation of dust, dirt and movements over a 5 week period while installed in an office/gallery space / 41’ x 34’ ft. / 2017.
  • Musician Benjamin Buchanan performing at closing reception

    White and black construction paper, contact mics, wire, amplifier, the accumulation of dust, dirt and movements over a 5 week period while installed in an office/gallery space / 41’ x 34’ ft. / 2017.
  • Room Schematic

    Score For Room
    White and black construction paper, contact mics, wire, amplifier, the accumulation of dust, dirt and movements over a 5 week period while installed in an office/gallery space / 41’ x 34’ ft. / 2017.

Arrhythmia of the Body

Arrhythmia of the Body is a series of twenty photographs documenting the artist's movements in a photographer’s studio while wearing a pair of absurdly large prosthetic hands and feet carefully crafted from papier-mâché and foam.

The clumsy and unwieldy prosthetics are designed to disrupt Dittrich's everyday movements in order to no longer take them for granted. Heightening the sense of these limbs and phalanges makes one not only care more for their body and its needs, but also their surrounding environment.

"We are only conscious of most of our rhythms when we begin to suffer from some irregularity."
—Henri Lefebvre, Rhythmanalysis

Physical Arrangement for String Quartet

In Physical Arrangement for String Quartet, musicians perform a new composition created by Benjamin Buchanan while placed in strenuous/precarious positions throughout the designated space. Using custom fabricated furniture, a cellist plays from a 9 ft. tall chair, a violist lays on their back on a bench, and two violinists lay against the floor.

The music composition employs contemporary and experimental genres, as well as cinematic qualities. Buchanan also enacts a plethora of extended techniques, which are unconventional or non-traditional methods of playing musical instruments used to obtain unusual sounds or timbres.

The composition and choreography amplifies each musician’s body in space and in relation to one another while providing a playful and meditative atmosphere where the norms of musical traditions are defied in an absurd fashion. Over time, the musicians learn to adapt and collaborate from their new postures.

Physical Arrangement of String Quartet was performed as part of the collaborative exhibition Symphony of Gestures, created by Dittrich and Buchanan at the Urban Institute of Contemporary Art within the context of ArtPrize, an international art competition based in Grand Rapids, MI that attracts over 500,000 visitors in a three week period. Symphony of Gestures was an ArtPrize Seven Public Vote Top 5 Finalist in the Time-based category.

Full duration: approx. 10 min.

*Special thanks to Zachary Graft, violin; Jenna Michael, violin; Elizabeth Boyce, viola; Willis Koa, cello; and the Urban Institute For Contemporary Arts
**Footage courtesy of the More Art Upstairs documentary film and director Jody Hassett Sanchez

  • Physical Arrangement for String Quartet (Excerpts)

    A performance choreographed by the artist using 2 violinists, 1 violist, 1 cellist, custom furniture fabricated by artist, and a custom composition by composer Benjamin Buchanan / Full duration 10min. / 2015.
  • Physical Arrangement For String Quartet (Full Version)

    A recorded performance from the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art in Grand Rapids, Michigan from 2015. The custom furniture was fabricated by the artist Sara Dittrich.
  • Physical Arrangement for String Quartet

    Physical Arrangement for String Quartet
    A performance choreographed by the artist using 2 violinists, 1 violist, 1 cellist, custom furniture fabricated by artist, and a custom composition by composer Benjamin Buchanan / Full duration 10min. / 2015.
  • Willis

    A performance choreographed by the artist using 2 violinists, 1 violist, 1 cellist, custom furniture fabricated by artist, and a custom composition by composer Benjamin Buchanan / Full duration 10min. / 2015.
  • Zach

    A performance choreographed by the artist using 2 violinists, 1 violist, 1 cellist, custom furniture fabricated by artist, and a custom composition by composer Benjamin Buchanan / Full duration 10min. / 2015.
  • Elizabeth

    A performance choreographed by the artist using 2 violinists, 1 violist, 1 cellist, custom furniture fabricated by artist, and a custom composition by composer Benjamin Buchanan / Full duration 10min. / 2015.
  • Jenna

    A performance choreographed by the artist using 2 violinists, 1 violist, 1 cellist, custom furniture fabricated by artist, and a custom composition by composer Benjamin Buchanan / Full duration 10min. / 2015.

Variations on Listening (Series)

Variations on Listening is an ongoing series of 2D mixed media works that span sculpture and drawing as a means of fielding questions about close listening. These works consist of hundreds of small, clay-molded ears, arranged in geometric patterns on wood panels. In some works, black thread becomes a device to connect the ears. The arrangements of ears implies multiple bodies listening to each other in a multitude of ways. Made through a meticulous and repetitive process using rubber push molds, these works give visual form to the labor of listening.

Crafting the ears becomes a meditative tool for reflection, renewing our awareness of the role they play in our lives.

This series of works range in size from 8x8” to 60x60” in.

Cadence

Cadence involves two performers both attached to a heart pulse sensor. Each sensor is connected to a motor which is attached to a drumstick. Each drumstick taps to the individual's pulse. The work brings the internal unconscious rhythm of the heartbeat to the exterior, creating a reminder of a commonality we all share. The rhythmic tension created by the patterns and irregularities of the drumming heartbeats reinforces how fragile our bodies are as well as the fragility of the relationships our bodies share with each other.

The piece can be performed in two variations. In a durational setting, such as a gallery exhibition, predetermined performers can sit with the drum for 30+ minutes at a time throughout the course of the show. Video documentation can be incorporated when performers are not present.

At an event with a set time limit, volunteers can be paired at random and instructed to sit with the drum for two minutes at a time while an audience watches the interaction of the two people’s heart beats.

  • Cadence

    Performance using heart pulse sensors, drumsticks, snare drum, and electrical components / Duration variable / 2013.

Trio for Solo Contrabass

Trio for Solo Contrabass is a life-sized video projection that depicts two musicians and the artist working together to play a single pitch on the contrabass indefinitely using a two-meter long bow. The extended bow unifies the bodies into one being. In this video, multiple points of tension (hair of the bow, strings of the contrabass, muscles of the performers) precisely come together to create a meditative sound experience.

The continuous motion of the performers and unending sound creates a space to "just be" and feel present in the space. The work creates a moment for reflection on the communication and collaboration of the three bodies.

Projected life-size HD video (approx. 8’ x 15’ ft.) with 2-channel sound
Duration: loops indefinitely

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Sara's Curated Collection

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