Christine Zuercher is an honorary astronaut and member of the American Interterrestrial Society. She was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio and received a BFA from the University of Dayton in 2011 and an MFA from East Carolina University in 2016. She currently works at Kent State University as the VCD Creative Facilities Coordinator. Her research is on shortwave radio, the Space Race, and transmission technologies with a focus in interdisciplinary and alternative photographic processes. She is a Dayton Art Institute Yeck Fellow and an Ohio Arts Council Excellence Award Recipient. She has a national exhibition record that most recently includes the GreenHill Center for Art in Greensboro, North Carolina, Clamp Light Artist Studios and Gallery in San Antonio, Texas, and the Imperial Centre For The Arts and Sciences in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Her work can be seen in publications such as The Hand Magazine, Ticka Arts, Ain't Bad Magazine, and Light Leaked. She enjoys photographing interplanetary adventures with collaborators and friends while in her spacesuit.
PROJECT SPOTLIGHT: Distant Transmissions
2015 – present
Distant Transmissions is presented under the guise of the “American Interterrestrial Society", a fictitious organization that comments on the history of space travel and how our history is informed and changed by technology. The American Interterrestrial Society challenges the current trend of alternative history and alternative facts. Photographs encourage us to dream of exploring the unknown through their subjective nature. I use the subjectivity of photography to rewrite and reimagine a history that includes the powerful role of the female explorer. My images are grainy, out of focus, abstract landscapes. I play a performative part in the work as the figure in the spacesuit. In the exhibition, found outer space objects highlight the tension between truth, fabrication, and the power of the photograph to influence memory and our associations with place. The exhibition includes photographs printed in Gum Bichromate, an installation where viewers are invited to explore my collection of altered shortwave radio postcards, found shortwave radio audio, space diagrams, and a handmade spacesuit. The aesthetics of my photographs, the in-between nature of my images, demonstrate a lack of literal representation-- the layering, covering up, and altering of memories through process. One of the methods I use to mimic the layering of memory is Gum Bichromate, a photographic print process that has a grainy, soft focused quality. Gum Bichromate emulsion is made with pigment, gum arabic, and potassium dichromate and hand coated on a piece of rag paper. I use this method in my image making process to create an obscured, otherworldly aesthetic. Contemporary photography is being transformed through process and interdisciplinary mediums that examine our world and tell stories in non-traditional ways. Distant Transmissions examines photography in the context of new and old technologies. I use various mediums to interpret a complex and changing world by reexamining history to ask new questions.
When and where did Distant Transmissions begin?
Shortwave radio is a band of transmission frequencies used for distant communications. I discovered shortwave radio after hearing David’s Goren’s audio piece called “Atencion! Seis Siete Tres Siete Cero: The Mystery of the Shortwave Numbers Stations”. David discusses an anomaly that can be heard on these shortwave frequencies: spy codes, a lone voice reading messages in code via a list of numbers. What a beautiful sentiment- spies communicating over a public medium that anyone can hear. I was instantly hooked. As my interest grew and I decided to research shortwave further for my thesis, I found out that Greenville, NC, where I attended graduate school, is home to Voice of America, the last government owned shortwave radio station in the country. Shortwave radio has had a tremendous influence on how I experience the world. My discovery of it felt almost like fate. Space exploration and aviation have always been a conceptual interest of mine. I was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio, the birthplace of the Wright Brothers, the inventors of aviation. Dayton, to this day, has a lot of pride for the innovations of these two brothers. This pride, instilled in me from my father, has given me a reverence for flight. When NASA ended its space shuttle program in 2011, It felt like we as a culture lost our curiosity, our drive to push the limits of the unknown, to discover whatever may be out there and I think recently we’ve started to get the desire to explore back with innovators and explorers like Elon Musk and Penelope Boston. The former is inspiring us to explore Mars and the latter inspires us to explore the Interterrestrial, deep in the caves of our own planet. Distant Transmissions considers how we understand our planet, our place in the universe, and our history through mediums that are malleable. Are these mediums as faulty as our own memories? And can we use these mediums to question and rewrite history?
Where do you see this body of work going?
Distant Transmissions is in progress and is evolving into a more interdisciplinary experience for the viewer. I am incorporating performance, projection, video, and objects into the work and am using exhibitions as a “home-base” for experimenting with how to best convey the idea of exploring the unknown. I have a two-person show in the works for next fall in Dayton and am in the process of planning a performance in my spacesuit at a space festival on the east coast. I am currently researching contemporary female explorers and my role as a fictional female explorer. Oddly enough, I’ve recently been offered the chance to apply for a seat on one of the Blue Orbit shuttles to low orbit…So I may actually travel to space! It’s a long shot, but life is full of twists and turns.
What helps you sustain your current creative practice?
I work an 8-5 Monday-Friday job at a university and teach a couple of evenings a week. I am fortunate to work all day with delightful, inspiring, supportive artists and people. There are many days, however, when I get home from work and am exhausted. I am still learning how to be a working artist and I think that will always be the case. When I am not at work, I devote my free time to applying to shows, exhibiting work, researching, exploring the world, and keeping in touch with inspiring friends that live far away. One of the best methods I’ve found for keeping up with my practice is frequently exhibiting work and collaborating which keeps me in touch with people that are important to me. I’ve also grown fond of hiking, meditating, cooking, and hunting for meaningful movies and books.
What’s next for you?
I moved to Kent, Ohio just this past year and am falling in love with northeast Ohio. I look forward to exploring more in this part of the country. And many, many places on this planet: I would like to travel to Paris, photograph in Iceland, get back out to LA to continue working with the fantastic printer Barret Oliver and see the California mountains and deserts again.
What other artists should we be keeping an eye on?
Sarah Lazure is a fabulous artist. Her self-portraits are layered, complex, and bold. And the various methods she uses fascinates me to no end: printmaking, 19th century processes, film, metalwork. Her images are emblematic of the way contemporary art is becoming more interdisciplinary and collaborative. And as a fellow female artist, I find her concepts and work empowering. In our current political climate, we need more female artists to speak up against outdated social expectations and structures.