Faculty Spotlight: Tori Foster

Recently, CSUN Professor and Artist Tori Foster flew home to Canada to be present for a public reception of her exhibition Traces of Beings. 


Joanne Marion, Director/Curator of Downtown Artwalk and Culture Days, where Foster’s exhibition was on display,  had this to say about her work:

Tori Foster’s work in photography, kinetic sculpture and video is based on logic and rigorous recording of data over time. Her everyday subject matter – city rush hour traffic patterns, people moving through public transit, eight city streetcar shelters, primary satellite recording techniques and a New York streetscape – become documents of the ephemeral, mysterious and moving poetry of ordinary life.


Originally from Toronto where she earned an MFA and BFA from Ryerson University, Tori Foster is now based in Los Angeles where she is Assistant Professor and the Head of Video/Digital Art at California State University, Northridge. She has received dozens of grants and awards; most recently a New Media Research and Production grant from the Canada Council for the Arts in 2016. She has shown work in 16 countries world-wide, including Canada, Germany, India, Korea, Australia, Brazil, and the USA, and her work is held in numerous public, private and corporate collections. Tori Foster’s work is represented by the Pari Nadimi Gallery, Toronto.


Tori Foster describes her artistic practice as focussing on “emergent behavior and the urban landscape.” Emergent behavior is complex behavior that arises from the interactions of individual agents; the ideas and speculations underlying emergent behavior have their origins as early as Aristotle’s time. Today, in addition to artistic practices such as Tori Foster’s, emergent behavior has relevance for a multitude of fields, from biology and economics, to architecture and artificial intelligence/ artificial life computer applications.


At its most simplistic, ‘emergence’ is based in the idea of ‘the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.’ An important aspect of emergent behavior is that the action and very nature of that ‘whole’ (or system) is not usually predictable from an analysis of the individual parts. For example, the movement and shapes of a flock of birds or a school of fish cannot be predicted by observing one bird or one fish. And the behavior of the flock or school does not depend on any one individual bird or fish, but rather upon their relationships to each other.

In Tori Foster’s video works these emergent patterns can be seen in the ghostly figures of travellers in Grand Central Terminal, moving through New York’s Grand Central Station and around the more stationary (and therefore more solid) tourists. Likewise in her Pulse Crowd series, the emergent behaviour is visible in the patterns of moving and stationary commuters in Toronto’s Downsview subway station and in the Dundas Square intersection’s drivers and pedestrians.


While Foster very rigorously and accurately records the original material, or visual data, her videos, composite photographs and sculpture become surprising and innovative artistic works through her re-configuration of that material, or data. Foster notes that “heavily process oriented, very little of (my) work is a direct representation of captured environs. Rather, captured imagery is treated as data, subjected to a series of actions, and re-presented to expose alternate information inherent to, but not visible in, the original dataset.”

The strange distortions depicted in her Moving Portraits series are, for example, created by a strictly accurate recording of movement  – a boy on a swing, or dogs in a park – within a very short time span (as short as 3 seconds), and within a narrow band of band of space. But the result of her splicing together a very large number of extremely narrow vertical frames (as many as 1000) which document movement in that space, is an eerie and unexpected representation of very ordinary figures and scenes.


The effects of this rigorous and objective gathering of data, when re-presented in Foster’s various works, range from uncanny figures and environments of the Moving Portraits series and the mesmerizing sinusoidal patterns of traffic in Cadence, to the dizzying and wholly absorbing movement and detail of the five channel video work Continuous New York, and finally to the quiet and wordless poetry of the simple tree forms in Foster’s photographic Primaries series. Traces of Beings presents a body of work which rewards contemplation, and speaks to the underlying mystery of life, which only becomes more enigmatic the more deeply we look and the more we think we know.

For more information on Foster and her work, visit her website at: www.torifoster.com

As a student, you can seek out her video and digital classes through the CSUN Art Department.

One Comment Add yours

  1. torikfoster says:

    Thanks Michelle [😊] looks great!

    Tori Foster, Assistant Professor

    Head of Video/Digital Art

    Department of Art

    California State University, Northridge





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