515 West 26th Street, NY 10001
Between 10th & 11th Avenues
Tues – Sat 10-6
212 397 0742

Carla Gannis: The Elevated Line

October 27 — December 23, 2022

RYAN LEE is pleased to present in RLWindow Carla Gannis: The Elevated Line, the debut of a new landmark video work, of the artist’s Yonder series. Based on 3D images captured along the High Line, the nine-minute looping video with original music by R. Luke Dubois is a cinematic view of a stroll down the Chelsea promenade as perceived by a cyborg with combined human and computer vision. During its walk, this character encounters a kaleidoscopic cast of characters including avatars from various past projects from 1998 to today. This video is a milestone project within Gannis’s three-decade career: long interested in investigating the overlapping realities of the physical and digital worlds, she began incorporating digital elements in her painting-based practice upon her arrival in New York in the 1990s.

View of The Elevated Line, 2022, from the High Line at 26th Street
Views of The Elevated Line, 2022, from the High Line at 26th Street
View of The Elevated Line, 2022, from the High Line at 26th Street

The Elevated Line places itself within the artist’s transmedia practice, which has evolved to capture the context in which it has grown: Gannis’s works are a maximalist mediation of a hyper-stimulated reality, in which individuals are confronted daily with a plethora of online and physical stimulants. Fascinated by digital semiotics and the lineage of hybrid identity, she takes on a horror vacui approach to her artistic practice, culling inspiration from networked communication, art and literary history, emerging technologies and speculative fiction.

Carla Gannis Process Image
Developing the wire frame image of The Elevated Line
Carla Gannis working in the 3D Program
Early render of The Elevated Line in 3D software

To reconcile with the inseparable interweaving of technology in the 21st century, Gannis has adopted an artistic outlook of the world around her inspired by the flâneurs of 19th century France. A word invented by Charles Baudelaire to describe “the painter of modern life,” Gannis embraces in her daily practice the ability to wander, detached from society with no other purpose than to be an acute observer of digitalized and computerized contemporary life. As such, she is a 21st century flâneuse, traversing physical and digital spaces with an eye to grasp, process and create works of synthesis—which capture the spirit of our rapidly shifting visual and technological times. Therefore, Gannis’s practice, an ecology of her own creation, looks to the abstract/impressionistic future while remaining firmly rooted in art and cultural history.


Using this historical framework, the artist draws parallels between the major shifts in technology that have triggered important cultural changes in the past and today, as we ourselves stand on the cusp of a digital revolution that is radically shifting our own relationship with visual culture, general knowledge, and each other. “The invention of tube paints had a significant impact on 19th century painters, who could suddenly take their practice outdoors, painting ‘from life,'” Gannis explains. “Today, a handheld ‘phone’ can capture volumetric impressions of life.” During her daily bouts of volumetric flânerie, Gannis captures 3D Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) scans with her phone wherever she goes. “It’s always a mixed reality that we’re living in. The act of holding a smartphone creates a constant hybrid reality.” Her ongoing series Yonder traces her lived experience within this mixed reality. The series, and The Elevated Line in particular, relies on photogrammetry—a post-photographic process derived from the act of photography as engineered by an algorithm—to create a digital landscape of the mind.

The artist captured the raw material for this video over the course of three scrolls up and down the High Line during the summer of 2022. The goal was not to capture a clean and flawless scan, but rather impressions of the physical experience of this New York City landmark—the act of digitally scanning while constantly moving resulted in fragments of reality. This reality is one in flux, that does not grasp the full picture the technology was designed to capture, thus achieving a so-called ‘glitch’ aesthetic. Using 3D editing software, Gannis digitally painted and animated the individual elements she captured during her walk. The artist’s maximalism becomes more evident in this part of the process: using all of her original data, she layered her digital edits to create a rich universe that reflected her interior mind. She added reflectivity, shimmer, and saturation to a degree that made the scenes she captured abstract and virtually unrecognizable to the human eye. She also frequently inserted references to previous works: to affect the color palette of the video, Gannis suffused her piece with the color scheme of her previous Garden of Emoji Delights’s hell panel. She chose this work in particular to infuse the experience of a leisurely stroll down the High Line with a visceral cognitive dissonance. 


The people that Gannis encountered during her summer walks down the High Line are transformed in this work into an array of unidentifiable characters. Are they benevolent protectors or sinister monstrosities? Are they algorithmically-coded bots, or sentient organisms traveling through their own sense of reality? The answer is never fully revealed as the viewer is left to question their motives, purpose, and consciousness. Beautiful, otherworldly, and sometimes grotesque, the figures in The Elevated Line are linked to the creatures found in medieval fairy tales—themselves inhabiting other universes paralleling—and sometimes overlapping—our own. The characters’ alternate allure and monstrosity are solely a reflection of contemporary social fears. Despite their startling appearance, Gannis’s characters vibrate with personality—and humor.

Gannis scanning the balloon lady on the High Line
Carla Gannis
In process on the High Line

At the climax of Gannis’s narrative stands ‘the balloon lady,’ handing the protagonist fragments of inflated oxygen. The digital ‘balloon lady’ corresponds to a real person that Gannis encountered on the High Line, but in this multidimensional reality, she represents a space in the video where the narrator may find respite. This space is free of the vast plethora of details, stimulants and distractions embedded throughout her work. 

Other characters that the protagonist encounters on its virtual meanderings are representations of the artist herself: included in the video the viewer may find, like hidden easter eggs, a cast of Gannis’s avatars from the 1990s to today, including Lucille Trackball, Sister Gemini, C.A.R.L.A. G.A.N., Tippoo’s Tiger, Victoria, and Jezebel Lanley, among others. These avatars have appeared in previous projects, such as wwwunderkammer, and throughout Gannis’s world-building artistic practice in the metaverse, A.R., and digital artwork. “It is fitting that my avatars over the past 20+ years walk across the High Line in this work,” the artist wrote. “I always seem drawn back to this street and to the Chelsea area, so it makes sense that my avatars of past, present and projected future walk along the High Line, representing an artists’ journey over the years in NYC across the span of an increasingly digitized world.” For this project, Gannis slightly altered the physical forms of each avatar so that they may somewhat seamlessly blend in her present interpretation of the High Line. 


The end result of this rich and layered process is a nine-minute, infinitely looping experience. Though the protagonist of this video does in fact stroll down the elevated park, the journey that Gannis takes her character upon is not a literal walk matching with the physical realities of the promenade. This merged, multi-dimensional experience of the High Line plays into the idea of the gesamtkunstwerk within our digital, hypermediated age—exhibited in RLWindow, visible from the High Line itself, viewers will have the opportunity to connect with the artist’s digital interpretation of the space while experiencing the physical reality of Gannis’s subject. 

Carla Gannis The Elevated Line (still), 2022 4k Digital video with original audio score RT: 9:00 min loop Edition of 3
Carla Gannis

The Elevated Line (still), 2022

View of The Elevated Line, 2022, from the High Line at 26th Street
View of The Elevated Line, 2022, from the High Line at 26th Street