Portrait of the Artist

Sara Dittrich

Nonversation

By Noelani Kirschner | August 17, 2020
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A decade ago, when Sara Dittrich attended the Maryland Institute College of Art, she promised herself that sculpture was the one medium she would never touch. But today, she is not only a performance and multimedia instillation artist—she is an accomplished sculptor. “I really found a satisfaction in building something and making it come to life,” she says. “Instead of painting a picture of a chair, why not just build the chair?” One of the motifs in her sculptures is the human ear, reflecting her interest in music and audience interaction. Dittrich began incorporating ears into her work about five years ago and continues to explore the form.



One such piece is the interactive work Nonversation. Two clay ears—one left, one right—hang in the middle of a room, connected by an eight-foot pole. Embedded inside each ear is a speaker that plays C-SPAN audio of American politicians talking about climate change. Conservative voices emanate from the ear on the right; liberal voices from the one on the left. Visitors listen to the recordings while surrounded by Dittrich’s photographs of organic forms on Cape Cod. “I was just amazed, when listening to the C-SPAN audio, how each side was voicing complete opposite thoughts from the other,” she says. The work explores this breakdown in communication, tacitly suggesting that we take a less partisan approach to climate change. “I am trying to focus in on the act of listening,” she says, “by forcing the viewer to listen to the other side and think critically about what we’re hearing.”

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