Jana Sterbak

WS-Jana Sterbak, "Oasis (Prototype)," 2000
Jana Sterbak, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia, Oasis (prototype), 2000. Stainless steel, wool, and nylon. 119 x 158 x 122 inches. Photo credit: Aaron Igler.

Oasis is Jana Sterbak’s investigation into the psychological and physical limits of the self within the spiritual and technological realities of our day. Its title suggests a safe haven, and its tent-like form is an enclosure large enough for a person to occupy. Fabricated from knitted stainless steel filaments, Oasis is modeled after the idea of a Faraday Cage, a 19th century sealed metal structure used in scientific laboratories to block lower frequency electromagnetic waves. In today’s culture, this would include blocking waves from cell phones, televisions, and radios. As a space of retreat from the technology that surrounds us, yet created from a technologically advanced metal fiber, the symbolism of Oasis darts between poetry and science.

Sterbak and FWM extensively researched conductive fibers currently in production that would satisfy the artist’s aesthetic sensibility, functionally perform the capabilities of a Faraday cage, and have the tensile strength to hold their shape. Experimentations were conducted with handwoven copper, nickel-plated Kevlar, and silver-plated knit nylon before settling on knitted stainless steel, which was developed in Belgium for use in industry.

After Sterbak selected a final form for the tent from the many experimental shapes modeled at FWM, a small three-dimensional prototype was given to FTL Happold in New York, an engineering and design firm that specializes in tensile structures. With the aid of their form-finding computer programs for tensile structures, FTL Happold generated a blueprint for the tent’s exoskeleton and a pre-stressed pattern for the knitted stainless steel skin. Based on this pattern, the FWM studio team then sewed the knitted steel into the tent form.

Artist Bio

Jana Sterbak (Canadian, born Czechoslovakia 1955)