Rhizome Features Two PNCA Alumni


PNCA grads Brenna Murphy '09 and Tabor Robak '10 are working at the "furthest reaches of technological innovation."

It’s a big deal to be featured on Rhizome. A HUGE deal. Rhizome is commonly held to be the definitive watering hole and critical forum for artists working with digital, web-based media. The organization celebrates digital innovation, funds art and artists, plans events and exhibitions, and publishes features on artists “working at the furthest reaches of technological innovation.” Thus, it’s worth applauding recent PNCA graduates Tabor Robak ’10 and Brenna Murphy ’09, who were each featured on the Rhizome blog earlier this Fall.

Rhizome is a dynamic online forum, and as of 2003, based out of the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City, dedicated to the “creation, presentation, preservation, and critique of emerging artistic practices that engage technology” The website pays special attention to artists who actively grapple with the aesthetic and political implications of new media in today’s increasingly digital age.

Brenna Murphy graduated from PNCA with a deep interest in sculpture, painting and video. Her current work explores the complex interrelationships between technology, art and culture. Murphy is also a member of the Oregon Painting Society, a Portland art collective that produces interactive audiovisual environments, recordings, and performances.

As Murphy explains in her interview on Rhizome, “Working in a variety of mediums is really important to me. My digital collages, physical installations, videos, websites, sounds and my collaborative performance projects are all completely intertwined. Each mode of working has a special structure to it that resonates my mind with its unique frequency.”


Brenna Murphy ’09. Facing Face. Image from the artist’s website.

Murphy’s creative workflow requires that she be flexible enough to jump between different media and programs, adjusting to the different rules and organizing frameworks that “guide each realm.” She is an active reader of criticism, philosophy and critical theory, which offer a breadth of perspectives on historical significance of issues present in her work. Murphy’s digital compositions also examine the historical tradition of portraiture within the digital realm:

“I like to think of a lot of my work as portraiture in the sense that making a portrait means exploring the essence of an entity by representing it in an alternate form. I play with the idea that reality is a trippy entity that I can learn more about by making poetic models of it.”

Classmate Tabor Robak, who graduated from PNCA as a General Fine Arts major, also considers the blurring line between fine arts traditions and the rapidly changing front of digital art:

“I truly believe in the transformative potential of technology but I am also trying to be a realist… There are two feelings I frequently find reflected in my work that express this attitude. One is a complete, hopeful, teary-eyed love of the glittering special effects and commercial aesthetics. The other is a dark, almost comedic feeling of content-less emptiness.”


Tabor Robak ’10. Still from “World of Regret.” Image from the artist’s website.

Robak is also a 2011 Rhizome Commissions Winner for his proposal, Tunnels. The aim of the Rhizome Commissions Program, founded in 2001, is to support the creation of significant works of new media art by emerging artists. These works represent innovation in new media and internet-based art, including those like Robak’s that engage networked and interactive technologies and “reflect on the broader social and political impact of those tools and media.”

Read the full profiles here: Artist Profile: Brenna Murphy and Artist Profile: Tabor Robak.

by Killeen Hanson MFA '12

— Posted on 11/09 at 11:59 AM

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