Steve Rosenthal, ≡

British, b. 1965, playing from London, United Kingdom

Born London 1965, I worked as an actor for 16 years before returning to education in 2004, graduating in Fine Art from both Camberwell College of Arts and Chelsea College of Art & Design with First Class Hons. I have since been establishing an international reputation for provocative artworks that materialize in miscellaneous forms: from sculpture to photography, as video, audio, text, performance, installation and intervention. My work is exhibited in commercial galleries, project spaces and public museums throughout London, across the UK, and overseas in Basel, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Chicago, Lahore, Miami, New Hampshire, New York, Odzaci, Paris, Ponte Nossa, San Francisco, Siena, Venice, Virginia, Zagreb, and Zurich (including: The Royal Academy, Victoria & Albert Museum, Flowers (East), Salon Vert, Bow Arts Trust, Department of Philosophy Cambridge University, The White Building, The Exchange Gallery, Meštrović Pavilion HDLU Museum, Zahoor ul Akhlaq Gallery, Cite de la Mode et du Design, HH4, The WYE, Kantstraße Women’s Prison, Annex/Manesse, Kopfbau, MAS Gallery, Siena Art Institute, Galleria Perela & Serra dei Giardini (54th Venice Biennale), Currier Museum of Art, CRG Gallery, Cheim & Read, SOMArt, Sikkema Jenkins & Co.) Often working to commission I have pieces placed in numerous public, corporate, and international private collections.

Throughout the summer of 2012 I was Artist in Residence for Sound Development City (made possible by Sound Development and Heller Enterprises, Zurich) in three city locations - Berlin (The WYE), London (The White Building), and Zurich (Annex/Manesse) - creating sound-centric poetic 'Everyman' portraits of each city, made from extracted on-line profile headlines found in each location.

Work in publication includes: 'Summer Expeditions - Berlin London Zurich' Sound Development Press, Zurich (2012), 'Walls/Wände Doors/Türen Windows/Fenster' - Platform79 Publications (2012), '48Sheet' - EC Publishing (2012), 'Vending Machine: An Installation' - Art-E-Motion & Elysium Gallery Press (2011), 'Splitter' - Splitter Publications (2008).

Thoughts on the Telephone process

How does one ‘look through’ a piece of work and endeavor to unpick the intricacies of the surface structure in the hope of ascertaining what impetus was applied to create said work? The challenges of deciphering the original intention or concept of a ‘telephone’ (or as we, in the UK, would say ‘Chinese Whispers’) visual conversation are numerous. The work I have been given to ‘de-code’ shows an absent son of many years returning to the familial home but finds himself unable to access entry and unable to illicit a response. Are the parents, or more specifically the father, who the actor’s words are directed to, there? Is he/are they deliberately ignoring the shouts of their son to be admitted? Or does something darker lie beneath the surface? Where has the son been for 17 years? In prison? The army? These possibilities are both suggested by what appears before my eyes. Is the ‘telephone’ message therefore about absent relationships? Loss? Loneliness? Old wounds? Baggage? Midlife crisis? Does the not-so-young son carry the essence of the ‘telephone’ secret, expressed through his passive-aggressiveness, impatience and defeat or is that concealed elsewhere in the drama? Towards the end of the short film the son appears to undergo a mental transformation and/or seems no longer to recognize the place that he’s in. He does not go to neighbours to ask where the parents are. Has he actually been here before? Or is he questioning his understanding of where his family might be, or what a family actually is? Is he mistaken about where he believes that he has come from? Does the place of ones youth hold any relevance on the person we find ourselves to be today? Do the shingles on the side of the building hold some deeper significance? Questions, questions, and more questions leap out like the contents of Pandora’s box. And then the house disappears. He is in an empty green space. Are his family dead? Is he dead? In purgatory, or in heaven or hell? Is this drama simply to be taken as a metaphor? Surely it is, but a metaphor for what? And then he leaves. Seen wandering alone down a dusty road. Sad? Rejected? Neglected?

So, returning to the beginning, what is the conversation being passed forwards to me? How can one be certain that the choices one makes when one attempts to decipher another artist’s work are that which were initially intended? The overall feeling that one is left with, in this instance, is one of a man searching for his identity. I have therefore concluded to pass forwards ‘telephonically’ the following symbol ≡, it being the mathematical signifier for identity. By definition this symbol ‘defines an equation that is valid for all values of its variables. ≡ is an equality relation A = B, such that A and B contain some variables and give the same result when the variables are substituted by any values (usually numbers). In other words, A = B is an identity if A and B define the same functions. This means that an identity is an equality between functions that are differently defined. For example (x + y)2 = x2 + 2xy + y2 and cos2(x) + sin2(x) = 1 are identities. Identities are, or at least were when commonly utilized, much like the son in the film was once a son, indicated by the triple bar symbol ≡ instead of the equals sign’. Furthermore ≡ symbolizes within the ancient laws of the Bagua that of heaven. The trigram symbol being three solid lines, showing male energy that is strong and undivided. Heaven is the creative celestial force, from which everything occurs. In familial terms the symbol represents the father and it possesses an expansive energy. Triangularly, identity is defined as ‘the collective aspect of the set of characteristics by which a thing is definitively recognizable or known; the set of behavioral or personal characteristics by which an individual is recognizable as a member of a group; the quality or condition of being the same as something else; the distinct personality of an individual regarded as a persisting entity; individuality.’ Whether I have been successful in decoding the original message is as yet an unknown quantity. What I pass forwards has numerous concrete, and endless abstract possibilities. Good luck to the next receiver…

Film by Sean McGrath