First Mentor Meeting



Fire Station 127, Carson, CA. A telescoping reality point.

My first mentor meeting was productive, philosophical and idea-inducing! I’m so excited to keep digging into this work.

My Fall mentor, Kevin McCoy, had already taken the time to read some of my papers and posts, and had familiarized himself with my current work, which meant we could jump right in to a serious conceptual discussion. We covered so much ground, it was hard to keep my pen moving fast enough, but I’ll share some pertinent highlights here.

Response to the videos:

  • Kevin found the videos important/compelling.
  • He was especially interested in my decision to sample Emergency! (an excited curiosity!). He instantly recognized the program and was able to bring a level of inner-circle knowing to his response, which this project definitely offers Generation X and Baby Boomers. As Stewart Steck pointed out, it’s compelling (and okay) when the work can offer something a little more to certain groups!). There is no universality, anyway.
    • Kevin commented on the fact that Emergency! itself is a rather obscure reference, just as Starsky & Hutch was when he completed Every Shot, Every Episode. By referencing, and therefore revitalizing or renewing, an obscure television reference, I effectively reopen, or renew, the archive. This raises compelling questions about whether the material can take on new life with new context, or whether it ever ‘lost’ life at all. Since television itself constantly brings material back into its own persistent present, renewing obscure material references the nature of television information structure itself. It may become vital and significant, being re-sampled from the archive.
    • This led into an excellent discussion of remix, rerun and syndication, as well as the act of experiencing shows for the first time, when they are actually leading a “reincarnated” life as rerun. We talked about a recent network experiment at running all 500 epsiodes of The Simpsons as a kind of hyperreal, syndicated binge-watching program, designed to renew commercial interest in their broadcast: a kind of 21s t century, totalist format.
  • Kevin also asked me why I chose Emergency!, which was a very useful, direct question. Since so many shows were filmed in the Mojave Desert/Los Angeles County, I had to narrow my choices with applied logic. Ultimately, selected series were chosen based on these factors:
    • 1.) They had to be filmed in Los Angeles County during the 1960s, 1970s or 1980s (the heydey of LA County as the seat of American television filming).
    • 2.) They had to be programs I had originally watched in their first (or partial first) run, or in syndication during those same decades.
    • 3.) They had to offer some kind of iconographic contribution to the project; the “paramedics” or the “detectives..”
    • 4.) They had to be dramas (or in the case of M*A*S*H, a dramedy).
    • 5.) They had to be programs I had actually enjoyed watching, or felt some obsessive compulsion to engage with. This is why, for example, Airwolf isn’t on the list. I frankly didn’t like it. This is important for the earnest angle, which leaves sarcastic critique at the door.

Google Street View Experiment:

  • Kevin found this investigation fascinating and incredibly relevant. He pointed out that shows like Emergency! function as a kind of early point in Google Street View themselves. Sort of a proto-virtual-database of streets and locations. He found the 1972 and 2014 shots of Fire Station 127 especially poignant.
  • This led into a discussion of film and television footage as a documentary of space-time! These stories were filmed in real spaces, at real times, however the resulting spiral of times, reruns, understandings and future uses spiral. For every program, there is a documentary subtext, in this case tied to place and space.
  • We talked about the ways that establishing shots are a bigger metaphor for the fact that filming locations exist–that they offer a POV of a given spot, at different times.

Remix Topic Relevancy and The Celestial Jukebox:

  • Kevin found the original (and mutated) concept of the “Celestial Jukebox” fascinating, especially its origin and subsequent application to more contemporary issues by current theorists. We discussed the fact that the “Celestial” resonates with a kind of vitality and poignancy that ties it to (and contrasts it with) concepts like the Internet and the Cloud. He also found the “Jukebox” angle an appropriately dated, cool, metaphor… which is something Kiera Reese synchronously mentioned the day before the mentor meeting: that discussing the Celestial Jukebox in my papers/thesis is “appropriately anachronistic.”
  • Since my most recent paper covered the vitality of Remix as a necessary component of Information Age living, we had a long conversation about whether or not it is even necessary to point this out anymore. He asked me to consider wether we were nearing the end of remix culture, or if it was no longer a relevant topic.
    • It’s really no longer necessary to justify the use of remix. Anyone who still reacts with a “but it’s plagiarism!” is stuck in the 19th or early 20th centuries, or doesn’t understand their own engagement with remix. The reason I wrote a paper addressing the importance of remix (recognizing I am drawing on now-older sources as citations) is to cover the “why are you ripping off The A Team?” questions that could pop up during my defense or artist talk. I need to have a fully realized, critically considered angle on remix and appropriation to defend my use of it. So, really, remix is already understood and accepted by serious academics and even by the culture at large (whether they realize it or not), but those unaware questions can still cause snags.
    • It’s not necessary to defend or justify remix just as having to defend the vitality and worth of digital art is now irrelevant. If someone still can’t grasp the importance and validity of digital art, that’s really their problem at this point.
    • We discussed that it’s no longer important to point out remix as something singular, special or emerging. It’s actually now so intertwined with all aspects of life that it has joined the invisible, normalized framework. It is now ubiquitous. Remix is part of the DNA of contemporary culture. no longer just a rebellious deconstructionist idea. We talked about first wave and second wave new media work–how initally artists had to write or create platforms and protocols for generating work. Now, the platforms and protocols are in place and built, and second wave artists can manipulate without developing the platform itself. It moved from obscure to normalized.
    • Remix is still a relevant concept and approach, but it has become part of the superstructure itself, not a reaction against it. The change in remix’s stature, the transitional moment, keeps it relevant, though different.
    • In remix, more material is required to get the whole picture.

Since Kevin was one of the artists I have been studying to provide critical context for my thesis work, it was especially interesting and helpful to hear him talk about projects I’d looked at in relation to my own work, as well as other related projects (some unofficial) which speak to the deconstruction of video as a way of accessing space-place and time.

We also discussed:

  • Telescoping realities – how a site, or active platform, cycles through past, present, potential futures, fiction and documentary, narrative and reality. 
  • How specific sites, like Fire Station 127 (used as Station 51 in Emergency!), become focal points of this telescoping reality. 
  • How television, video, internet and even fanfiction play into the dimensions surrounding a site.


The digital still formats:

  • I asked Kevin to talk about how the digital stills could perform as the third segment of my interdisciplinary piece. He felt the stills were beautiful and compelling, but that printing digital video stills is almost always an insurmountable problem that kills some of the original intensity of the video. It’s definitely a challenge. Why couldn’t they stay digital and maintain their sense of selfhood? Do they need to be on paper?
  • We agreed that the final forms and materials the digital stills would take would definitely make or break them. He was interested in the idea of a Viewmaster reel, an app, or other creative outlet for them, rather than paper.
  • My video work already captures the kind of painterly affect that the digital stills were accessing.
  • If the digital “screensaver” still-video versions remain part of the project, what happens if they are much bigger, or much slower?
  • There is a kind of cinematic abstraction in them that reminds him of Jeremy Blake and collage-ness that reminds him of James Rosenquist. The figures may diminish the abstraction.

What I gathered after contemplating our conversation, responses from other faculty and students, and the stills themselves, yet again, is that I am leaning toward allowing the video work to carry what the stills allowed me to access–and let the paintings handle the “hand” aspect of the digital stills. I do love the stills, and most people respond favorably to them, especially when they are backlit on digital screens. They will be folded into something that’s more active, or interactive, rather than simply being output on paper.

I feel confident that abandoning their “paperhood” is important for this project.

Suggested artists/works to look at:


7 thoughts on “First Mentor Meeting

  1. Kiera McTigue

    Awesome, sounds like you have a great mentor! Glad you were able to find a good match! I’m reding this book right now called “Present Shock,” by Douglas Ruskoff. It’s super relevant to my work, and I keep thinking of you during it. One section in particular talks about the “remix” or “mash up” being cubism in reverse: instead of being in multiple places at one time (cubism), mashup is being in multiple times in one place (His whole angle is we are living in compressed time, which I’m totally on board with at the moment). Not sure if it’s exactly your same angle, but it might be worth looking at (you know, in spare time). Anyways, good stuff! And I love the idea of an app. It makes me think of your presentation in the archive class, and interactive design, and time without a narrative flow….

  2. plasticpumpkin Post author

    Hey! Thanks for the response. I’m checking to see if the UNM library has “Present Shock” tonight. It sounds totally relevant, especially as I’m investigating multiple times in one place, as well as multiple places in one time. I agree with the idea of compressed time, at least as one aspect of experiential living. In fact, Kevin and I talked about that fire station as being a site where time telescopes, with an identifiable anchor-point. When I represent it, or something like it, in the new media and digital work, I can (at least attempt) to show various times overlaid on one place. I think our work has definite crossover relationships.

    Thanks for the feedback on the app. I’m also toying with the idea of scannable stills (like QR codes), Viewmaster reels and digital photo frames that cycle those animated versions. What do you think about the photo frames? Too much like paper stills?

    1. Kiera McTigue

      Digital Photo frames seem like a logical direction…I’m most familiar with the ones for homes though, which might feel kitsch. I’ve seen some in a gallery in NY that looked top end though (but maybe they were monitors?) so it’s definitely a possibility. I love the idea of QR code things, though admitted, when I’ve seen them at museums, I rarely scan them. It’s a level of interaction that’s difficult to get viewers to do, I’m sure.

      1. Kiera McTigue

        I also just remembered this app, Circa 1948 (it’s free, but requires more space than I have) by Stan Douglas. He recreated this crime scene that’s interactive but can’t be solve. He actually showed it at a film festival too, instead of a gallery, which is interesting.

      2. plasticpumpkin Post author

        True. And that’s something to consider. At that Digital Latin America show, there was a Native American artist who used something called Layar to make dynamic images that didn’t look like they had embedded “Qr” style codes. People who took the time to read his artist statement and short wall panel realized they could download an app and “read” the large photos differently. It was really compelling.

        However, while my friend and I were watching the photos come alive as videos, a number of people walked through the exhibition, read them as big photos and moved on. They never stopped to read the tiny wall panel and had no idea you could interact with the large prints.

        A QR code would be more likely to get noticed as an interactive node, but not everyone would be capable (or have the time/want to spend the time) messing with it.

        I love the idea, but there’s always that consideration.

  3. plasticpumpkin Post author

    Now the app sound super cool. It’s something that would be worthwhile for people who take the time, as it would be an “object” they could take away with them. I’ll check it out!

  4. Pingback: Semester Summary, Fall 2014 | Ren Adams – AIB MFA Blog

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