Semester Summary – Fall, 2013

Ren Adams
John Kramer – Adviser
Semester Summary – Fall, 2013

Visualization Map of the Internet, at a Given Moment

Visualization Map of the Internet, at a Given Moment

Research

My Bibliography for Fall, 2013 can be downloaded here.

I began the program with a body of work which was primarily concerned with exploring the nature of emergence—depicting the way being materializes from non-being, matter from the void of non-matter. It synthesized ideas found in Eastern philosophy, archaeology, physics and art history and united them with formal practice, generating a time-neutral space; a seemingly non-contextual moment.

I entered the Fall, 2013 residency at a transition point, knowing future work would build on this foundation, but that it was turning toward a conversation with the “information age” itself.  Energized by the June residency, I dove headlong into research that expanded my concepts across 21st century concerns.

I conducted critical research into:

  • Information theory
  • Postmodernism, Post-Postmodernism
  • Visualization as method of information delivery –escaping “flatland”
  • Hypertext, hypertextuality
  • The vitality of digital creation, interactivity and the fluid nature of digital inquiry
  • Appropriation, remix, recombination, montage, pastiche, hypermedia, mixed media, transmedia, convergence
  • Network dynamics
  • Connective relationships between data, image and the image cascade
  • Micro and macro readings
  • Relationships between biological, information and even star systems / galaxy superclusters – connectivity in web-like patterns
  • Digital culture
  • Space/Place, virtual geography

I also made use of the virtual archive, gathering source material using Pinterest. The resulting smorgasbord allowed me to spot rhythmic relationships and was helpful in generating new ideas for research and formal investigation.

Example pin boards:

Research Board, Residency 1 –
http://www.pinterest.com/renadamsart/research-board-residency-1/

Glyphs, Language, Linguistic Moments – http://www.pinterest.com/renadamsart/glyphs-language-and-linguistic-moments/

Pop Influence – http://www.pinterest.com/renadamsart/that-pop-influence-all-me/

"Generative Forms." Layers of serigraphy, watercolor and acrylic monotype, trace monotype, woodcut on Thai Kozo rice paper.

“Generative Forms.” Layers of serigraphy, watercolor and acrylic monotype, trace monotype, woodcut on Thai Kozo rice paper.

Studio Work

My studio work this semester encompassed printmaking, mixed media and digital output, at times seemingly divergent.

The works on paper carried on my existing practice, initially relying on familiar methods to investigate expanded concept, later shaken up with the inclusion of collage and heavy media mixing. The digital work started out as a daily ritual, a side project called The Cascade, which evolved into a full-blown series over the course of the semester, using less familiar territory and embracing interdisciplinary thinking.

Prior to the residency, I had been examining ways to evolve my work so that it addressed contemporary considerations. I was already interested in digital culture, visual media and the information cascade, finding relationships between the flow of data and its counterparts in physics and philosophy (as Fritjof Capra did in The Web of Life—information systems uncannily reflect biological and atomic patterns).

Drawing on conversations from the residency and independent research, I investigated ways of using my visual vocabulary to address information as matter, the interconnectivity of networks (biological, social, spatial) and the deep virtual space where it all takes shape.

I stirred the creative pot, whirling all manner of language, rocks, artifacts, layers and levels, shaking the virtual snow globe to reveal and create new relationships and connections—both in the literal picture plane, as well as in concept. I worked through these ideas by layering printmaking techniques with drawing and painting, breaking away from the rigid purity of the print-only mindset.

inprogress6

I gave myself permission to work with more mixed media than ever before, combining everything from charcoal and Prismacolor to watercolor, oil, acrylic and glue. Since the very idea of mixed media is a metaphor for interdisciplinary thinking, it made sense to push materials to the breaking point. Woodcut, intaglio, photogravure, monotype and collagraph intermingled with direct marks and collage, like archaeological layers. Sometimes I pushed too far and pieces became convoluted. Encountering the breaking point was exciting and necessary—a walk through dangerous territory.

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There was more to my exploration than just continued dialogue with paper, however. The Cascade project marks an important breakthrough. Developed from a curatorial exercise, it started out as an experiment in found landscape; an investigation of the transient nature of virtual, social geography and the deep, time-stripped, transient space of digital data. It was another kind of dangerous territory—one involving photography, digital manipulation, appropriation, recombination and a denial of object-hood.

The project was sparked by a personal connection to the Southern California landscape that permeates American television from the 1960s-80s. I broke self-imposed boundaries and used a cell phone camera to capture the panoramic space found in fleeting backdrops.  This transitory landscape punctuates many TV adventures, knitted into production, reception and even shared, macro-level cultural understanding. I took a screen cap each day, dividing them into phases for processing. Phase I is an archive of distorted footage in an almost-raw state.  Phase II translates each photograph through a “traditional” art medium. Phase III is about endless layering—a combination of digital analog components creating virtual paintings and imagined environments.

As a result, I developed an archive that plays with space, information and time relativity. The Cascade freezes geographic (and linear) traces in an instant, as stills once removed from their physical location by the original filming and again removed by the act of capturing a temporary instance. The environments inhabit the very real, the imagined and the transient place of recollection, iconographic of a collapsing space between personal history, geologic reality and cultural production. When capped for The Cascade, these spaces take on an additional role in the non-linear, relational nature of the deep digital world.[1] The Cascade became my way of investigating this hypertextuality of time, space, matter and information. The result is an alchemy of image that integrates micro and macro layers, networking and ideas of constructed personal mythology. Over time, the landscape itself loosened and figures and vehicles were allowed to enter the conversation, potentially changing its reliance on geography.

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Future Work

The Cascade has grown beyond its original lifespan. I became obsessed with the process of collecting screen caps and employing digital alchemy. What started as a series of distorted captures and digital experiments became a series, a force. I can see The Cascade developing into a significant body of work, uniting with the visual vocabulary I have previously deployed on paper.

I will allow the physical mixed media work and digital output to unite in new ways this coming semester, experimenting with creating and de-centering the object itself. Pieces will be output onto paper, where they will be directly manipulated with paint, printmaking, collage and additional digital overlays. This will allow me to experiment with the offline physicality of the digital aesthetic, while at the same time investigating virtual methods of display. I am also interested in pursuing a truly interactive author-viewer inversion for the project: the creation of a delightfully virtual, hypertext choose your own adventure (virtual galleries, non-linear displays).

My interest in The Cascade does not abandon the works on paper. It absorbs them.

Richard Diebenkorn - From the Albuquerque Series

Richard Diebenkorn – From the Albuquerque Series

Artists

I researched a variety of artists based on residency, mentor and adviser recommendations, but the following frequently re-surfaced and became pivotal to my investigations:

  • Richard Diebenkorn
  • Julie Mehretu
  • Cai Guo Qiang
  • Joanne Greenbaum

Mentors and Visiting Artists

My mentor, Karsten Creightney, and I have met more than a dozen times, combining formal critiques with casual in-studio discussions. I’ve been visiting his studio weekly. Though we did not always agree, Karsten provided useful insight, including the following suggestions:

  • Consider ways of creating negative space, without relying on blank paper
  • Be willing to sacrifice even the most “precious” part of the image for the good of the whole
  • Provide a variety of marks (mix tight with loose, rough with refined) to prevent homogenous surfaces
  • Consider the way presentation affects viewer reception
  • Experiment with literal and implied collage techniques to help communicate concept

I also arranged two visiting artist critiques—one with a potential mentor, Leslie Ayres, and another (upcoming) with art historian Stephanie Morimoto. Leslie and I had a productive critique which lasted nearly three hours (resulting in pages of workable notes and fresh excitement about current and future work!).

Future Readings

The following texts are on my 2014 must-read list:

  • Burnley, David. “Scribes and Hypertext.” The Yearbook of English Studies. 25 (1995) 41-62.
  • Capra, Fritjof. The Turning Point: Science, Society and the Rising Culture.
  • Kaku, Michio. Parallel Worlds: A Journey through Creation, Higher Dimensions, and the Future of the Cosmos. 2006.
  • Kirby, Alan. Digimodernism: How New Technologies Dismantle the Postmodern and Reconfigure Our Culture. 2009.
  • Patterson, Nancy. “Hypertext and the Changing Role of Readers.” The English Journal. 90 (2000) 74-80.
  • Potter, Garry and Jose Lopez. After Postmodernism: An Introduction to Critical Realism. 2001.
  • Riffaterre, Michael. “Intertextuality vs. Hypertextuality.” New Literary History. 25 (1994) 779-788.
  • Snyder, Ilana. Hypertext: The Electronic Labyrinth. New York: New York University Press, 1996.
  • Strogratz, Steven H. How Order Emerges from Chaos in the Universe, Nature, and Daily Life.
  • Vaidhyanathan, Siva. The Googlization of Everything: (And Why We Should Worry). 2011.
  • Vermeulen, Timotheus and Robin Van der Akker. “Notes on Metamodernism.” Journal of Aesthetics & Culture 2 (2010): 1-14.

[1] In this digital space, I feel time exhibits a new kind of relativity. It also opens dialogue about the nature of the “visual remix” itself, relating ideas of art, commodity, information and social interaction to the unstoppable cascade of data married to daily life. The inherently mutative character of information as it exists in the digital flow—how our memory of a cultural element like a television program is modified, adapted or remixed by users into new material, recalls oral storytelling. Activity itself becomes vaporous, dematerialized and rematerialized in an instant, in that collapsed space—just like the thin layers used in digital art.

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