Author Archives: plasticpumpkin

About plasticpumpkin

Ren Adams. New media artist (sound, digital, video, hybrid), printmaker, painter. MFA in Visual Art from Lesley University College of Art and Design. BFA from the University of New Mexico. Native of Southern California.

BEDtalks #9

Bedtalks 9 poster by GRAFT Gallery

In November, I was invited to participate in BEDtalks #9, part of a series of short, powerful pillow talks from Albuquerque artists, organizers, educators, scientists, and people of interest, presented from the comfort of a twin sized bed.

The event series is hosted by GRAFT Gallery, and the 9th installment was featured at TLab/Tricklock Theater downtown.

Each speaker is given only the parameters of 20 slides in 10 minutes (a pecha kucha style, fast-paced talk). Talks range from educational to absurd, global concepts to deeply personal stories.

I was so pleased to be part of the event, and I set to work creating a special, performative artist talk especially designed for the talk series, focused on my recent body of work Channeling – Televisual Memory and Media Seance (dealing with spaces of summoning, rebroadcast, loss, falling apart, media memory, possession, and media seance).

Instead of a formal artist talk, I designed my slides and performance pace to suit the theater audience and environment, providing an anxious, fast-moving intensity. I even included an excerpt (reprise) of the poem, “Invocation,” which I performed during the Channeling closing event.

The stage was set with the odd intimacy of a public-private bedroom, which offered the perfect kind of voyeurism for my talk. Other speakers also made use of the uncanny display of public-private qualities.

Introductions provided by GRAFT gallery co-founders and coordinators, Jazmyn Crosby, Beth Hansen and Cecilia McKinnon and Jessica Chao (not pictured)

The #9 Edition speakers were:

Ren Adams
Matthew Gonzales
CB Bryan
Rudi Thornburgh
Jenette Isaacson
Ayrton Chapman
Marya Errin Jones
Sean Campbell
Elizabeth Murphy

I created a virtual version of the performative talk, which still adheres to the 20 slides in 10 minutes format, with all of the original slides and pacing that I used for the actual event. If you missed the original performance, or want to experience my talk again, please enjoy:

The experience was incredibly rewarding, and offered a certain quality of liberation; I trimmed down the “art speak” in favor of a more engaged and theatrical audience. The results may affect the way I go about doing artist talks in the future–creating performative and engaging conversations that don’t get mired in strictly art historical or theoretical bounds. Not that I don’t love art  history and theory, though, because you know I do. 🙂

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Funaday Ritual (Unraveling)

Ren Adams art. Experimental photography with glitch

Ren Adams. Study for Unraveling. 2017. Experimental photography with analog and digital glitch.

In January, I am working on a daily ritual project: FunADay, hosted by GRAFT Gallery in Albuquerque. 31 artists are producing a fresh piece of work each day, for 31 days, to be installed as part of an exhibition hosted at GRAFT in February.

Artists are tasked with setting up parameters and developing work based on a unique daily practice.

I am using my FunADay as a ritual investigation into new, developing body of work: Unraveling. 

My parameters:

Size: grid of 5″ x 7″ pieces. Five columns wide, 7 rows tall (ish), with a very small space between images.  A mix of horizontal and vertical.

Format: works on paper–experimental glitch photos, physically altered/damaged/destructed. They will stay contained in 5″ x 7″ shapes. Mounted on wall with tape or pins. Might include a video frame at the end of the month.

Concept:  a daily investigation of the space of unraveling / falling apart. Images will move from togetherness to (self)destruction over the course of the month, with each individual image investigating either the space between catastrophes, or a magnified point of no return. It will follow a semi-narrative, start to finish.

Image degradation will suggest the quiet, complicated and dangerous process of falling apart, of losing yourself–that great catastrophe of moments.

The material I’m sampling is a pile of vintage publicity shots from the original Of Mice and Men (1939) film, the film itself, and the John Steinbeck novel; a grand narrative of unraveling. The old publicity stills are also falling apart, yellow, damaged. Losing vitality.

“The best laid plans of mice and men go oft awry,
and leave us naught but grief and pain for promised joy.” –Robert Burns

The daily ritual: I will sample a different publicity still each morning as a kernel. Manipulate and mutate it at night. I am also watching 4 minutes of the film each night, for 31 days, sampling from that 4-minute window to fold into the publicity still. The image I make on each previous day will be added to the following day, so that every day contains a crossover; a conceptual and visual crossfade.

The ritual process will allow for no deviation (sample in the morning, manipulate at night, only four minutes of film, and so on).

More of the backstory:

Publicity shots fascinate me. They’re typically a simulation of implied scenes that aren’t even in the actual film. Instead the shots are a suggestion, a proscribed performance of the staged, the predicted, the laid out, so it’s like you have a memory of a movie-moment that didn’t even happen. Like dejavu (See “Dejavu and the End of History”). They are untrustworthy memories. A record of false memories, even.

The shots are like an uncanny stage arrangement of the already staged, not unlike our vernacular photographs; a social performance, a staging of self and other, of satisfying obligations, of performing happiness, of obliging ceremony, confirming our roles like actors.

They’re also like our narrative reconstruction of memories—except publicity stills are often pre-construction, taken before the film is even made (oooh, what a fun thing to dig into).

I will also go into deeper reasons behind why I chose Of Mice and Men (it ties into Channeling), but no need to do that here/now.

Also, here’s the project playlist (essentially pseudo-soundtrack for Of Mice and Men; the soundtrack of falling apart):  https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/223gordp4up2qxbkiru2pfmfa/playlist/5CeCSlw2qfxEk6FTrmE0tY

Prequels and Sequels

Ren Adams art, video art installation

Living room video installation from Channeling – Televisual Memory and Media Seance. Ren Adams. 2017.

Yes! I’m behind on essays about my recent bodies of work (and assorted projects).

Stay tuned.

I’m in the process of catching up after a semester of teaching, producing three major bodies of work (including two solo exhibitions and several group projects), and researching new developments. Lots to share.

In the next few weeks, you’ll see a host of posts–prequels and sequels. They won’t be in chronological order, in other words. Meta. They’ll  be responsive to my organized thoughts and inspirations, but I’ll be sure to indicate their placement along the 2017 timeline. I suspect you’ll see a few sequels first. 🙂

As always, I hope my posts, prose essays, critical writing and bibliographies are useful, inspiring, insightful.

And I’m grateful for our winter weather here in Albuquerque:

Meanwhile, in Albuquerque… Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill – Better Call Saul

10 Minutes Before (WIPzine Version)

“10 Minutes Before,” 2016. Diptych. Ren Adams. Experimental photography with manual glitch.

Please note: this is the WIPzine 1:1 version of the original blog essay, 10 Minutes Before, and represents the most current version.

10 Minutes Before

Writing and research are critical to my studio practice. Inseparable, really. Words and theory fly hand-in-hand with developing visual work. This essay is part of the second wave of Whitespace-Bluespace: Televisual Memory and the Implied Catastrophe; a conceptual work-through of new pieces in the series, my role as an artist in a post-truth world, our often all-consuming need to address relevancy, and the nature of the suspended moment (that fitful time before, time after).

I’ll admit this year feels like “the time before.” Hell, it’s felt that way since last November.  It feels that way right now. There’s ozone tension around me, within me. In my living room. In my social feeds. In my work.

My work, I realize, is all about this extruded moment. It is the time before, the time after. The extended agony of the moment itself, before it collapses into the next. It always wants to hold its breath. When it exhales, it catches. It assumes and subsumes these time-bent spaces.

Being inside my work is exceptionally uncomfortable. Being in this moment now, in myself, in the world, is a form of living while holding my breath. It seems a collective breath, though not an all-inclusive one.

We seem suspended in that transitory space right before the piercing, forever-change of “the event” eclipses our understanding of everything that’s come before. Everything we hold consistent, understandable, even joyfully reckless. This is the night before the pivot point.

This is two and a half minutes to midnight.

Ren Adams Art

“The Distance Between Us,” 2016. Upper left panel of quadriptych. Ren Adams. Experimental photography with manual glitch.

But there are two kinds of suspended moments at play here: 10 Minutes Before (the unaware) and Two and a Half Minutes to Midnight (the mercilessly aware).

The difference between the painfully ambiguous suspended moment (two and a half minutes) and the blissfully unaware “night before” is the way in which the experiential “time before” gains importance in retrospect. The person experiencing the “time before” has no awareness there’s about to be a very divergent “time after.” They live life unknowingly, with no specific sense of doom. They don’t wake up and say, “tonight my wife will die from an accidentally fatal combination of doctor-prescribed medications, complicated by her undiagnosed heart condition!” They wake up, take a shower, eat, go to work.

Once the “time before” is defined by the “terrible event,” the moments leading up to the change are reevaluated with a fresh perspective. They now form the final moments of normalcy before the illusion was shattered.

The night before my sister was murdered holds merciless clarity for my parents–the ordinary, domestic rituals they performed, the unremarkable process of events. Mundane conversations. Simple things ignored. The fact that my sister asked for pudding only “10 Minutes Before” her actual death still haunts my mother, 45 years later. Mom refused to give her dessert because Cindy had been naughty and was being punished. In this case, “10 Minutes” was actually a matter of hours, but the gravity remains. And the simple act of doling out punishment, not abnormal on its own, now takes on the mythical role of “what if I had…” … “if only I could go back in time and give her pudding, knowing what I know now…” … “if only I could go back to the time where I only had to worry about dessert.” If only life was still the time before, with pudding and punishments and school the next day.

This kind of retrospective moment-before is one without weight prior the pivot point. It’s an ordinary pizza night. Work as usual. Kids grounded for misbehaving. A dripping faucet. Frustration over Netflix hiccups. The mechanics and methods of domesticity only gain monumental importance (or monumental emptiness) after “the event.” This is everyday life. We are always “10 Minutes Before” something, we are simply unaware.

Lost normalcy might even be recalled fondly–recognition that it can all radically shift. The simple joy of walking to the couch is exalted the day after one loses the ability to walk. How easy it was to walk over, to sit, to watch TV.

It really is a great privilege to live in a space where you can expect things to be “normal,” where you can assume life will flow without incumbency or tragedy, and that “terrible events” are allowed to be the aberration, not the norm.

Individual still from installation: “When I Looked Through You,” 2016. Experimental photography with manual glitch. Ren Adams.

But what of this moment? This extruded moment that seems to have no day-after realization of a deceptively comfortable time before?

What is this unyielding, elusive “Two and a Half Minutes to Midnight?”

It is a strange, merciless space. We know something is coming. We know it deeply, naturally. We don’t know exactly what, or whether it’s a series of somethings, webbed and suffocating, invasive and evasive. We don’t know if it permeates the lives of millions, or pierces the moments of a select few. Some of us have been in this space before, and millions of us are in this place right now, as much as we try to combat, avoid, adopt, subvert or destroy it.

Many have spent their entire lives two and a half minutes to midnight.

“I Could not Watch You Fall Apart,” 2016. Manual and digital glitch with experimental photography. Ren Adams.

It’s a paralyzing sense of doom. Truly impending doom. Not an archetypal apocalypse, which proves certain people right/wrong and ends the cycle of confusion in a swoop–but a system of disturbances and moments leading to a bizarre, extruded “apocalypse.” An extended moment that refuses to collapse. Such that every moment is “10 Minutes Before” the next terrible thing.

When the clock is 2 1/2 minutes to midnight, however, you are fully aware of each excruciating time before. You simply cannot conceive of the time after. There is no release.

I have been suspended in this sense of collective breath-holding, of video-pause action delay that permeates everything for me, and for many, at this moment… I ask myself, what is this space? What is it that we’re feeling, this bizarro-world social cabinet of opposites? I’ve been here before on a personal scale, so this touches a deeply ingrained sense of unease. I know there can, and will be, extended “time afters” and no one is immune or exempt.

So, I come to another kind of “time before.” Is my work still relevant in the face of this? In the space of global crises? Everything that seems poised to unfold? Everything that is simultaneously unraveling and intensifying? Everything that’s streaming from and filling the floodgate?

Am I still relevant?

Individual still from installation: “The Language of Falling Apart,” 2016. Manual and digital glitch with experimental photography. Ren Adams.

 

What’s the point of creating work if everything is two and a half minutes to midnight? What is the nature of political artwork? What is an artist’s role in post-truth?

These are complex, multi-faceted points that I raise as rhetoric, better investigated in other essays. I don’t pretend to have the answers, but I do come equipped with questions.

And I realize… this is a familiar terrain. A familiar external Cold War. A familiar internal Cold War. A familiar war.

Individual still from installation: “When I Looked Through You,” 2016. Experimental photography with manual glitch. Ren Adams.

Individual still from installation: “When I Looked Through You,” 2016. Experimental photography with manual glitch. Ren Adams.

Watching arts funding end up on the chopping block, watching the NEA, PBS, and other agencies recede–the act of making, of our presence in the studio, of our voice in the classroom and the exhibition space–the strident motion of being ourselves become political in their own execution. They have weight. They are the weft and warp of interlocked experience.

My work is relevant. I allow myself to be. I acknowledge that it is relevant. I allow myself to continue.

I am relevant.

My work need not carry images of specific politicians or incidents to relate to the sense of anxiety I’ve carried, an anxiety that subsumes this moment, that plagued my Cold War childhood, that plagues millions now.

My work is relevant. It expresses, investigates, indulges both forms of the philosophical “time before” and isn’t afraid to stand inside the “time after.” It lives in the now, in its own relentless, unresolved present moment. In my moment. In our moment.

It emerges from a space of uncertainty, dancing with abstraction and specificity, giving gravity to my own entanglement with knowing and unknowing. This is life, after all. An uncertain dance.

I intend for my work to blueprint a sense of anxiety that’s familiar terrain to many; the uncanny connection we have to feeling almost-safe. That it connects to Cold War television is no surprise. That I use the language of television, with its soft-and-hard dichotomies, its ability to simultaneously offer shallowness and depth, its incomplete, mosaic presentation–is also no surprise. I am always prepared for these moments, even in my direst state of unpreparedness… I am always suspended.

Individual still from installation: “The Glass and the Fire,” 2016. Experimental photography with manual glitch. Ren Adams.

Having decided that it’s okay (even important) for me to continue making work, in my own way, allowed me to view my recent series with the kind of fresh perspective that comes with “the time after.” My most recent bodies of work have preemptively suggested the sensation of “two and a half minutes to midnight,” and they’ve always dealt with describing an elusive space, without being too pedantic. At least, that’s my intention.

The title of my piece at the top of this essay, “10 Minutes Before,” is a reference to a relevant Alfred Hitchcock Presents television episode from 1964: “10 Minutes from Now”

Police grow suspicious of unsuccessful artist James Bellington, after the city commissioner receives a series of bomb threats.  James tries to meet with the commissioner, to personally condemn the city’s choice for its public art display–but he shows up at city hall with a suspicious box.  The police assume it’s a bomb and stop him, only to discover the box contains art supplies. At a public art museum, James is again stopped for carrying a suspicious package, which also turns out harmless. As a side note, James is considered “unsuccessful” by the police because he hasn’t had luck selling his artwork and his style seems “all over the place.”

After a series of bomb threats paired with faux bombs, the police force James to see a psychiatrist. He tells the psychiatrist that his next bomb threat will be real. The police again stop a bomb-carrying James at the city art museum, where he gives everyone ten minutes to get out, before he blows the place, all while making a political stand for a change in the way art is chosen and represented by the city. Spoiler alert: with the museum empty, and James keeping the authorities at bay, James’ secret accomplices steal the museum’s most valuable paintings, replacing them with fakes painted by James himself. When the theft is complete, James surrenders. He opens the box to reveal a harmless alarm clock. Unaware of his part in the theft, the police let him go.

“10 Minutes from Now” is a fascinating title, as is the tension between the way the artist is supposed to behave if he’s to be perceived as “successful” (i.e., selling works for money), and the way in which the artist actually behaves (his own body of work becomes the strange game of manipulation played out through performance, bomb-like sculptures, and secret forgery). This suggests a cultural revolt against the museum-structure, as well as our institutionally defined modes of being “successful,” of adhering to a cascade of stereotypes and expectations. I could analyze this episode for pages, but I won’t do that here. It speaks for itself, as does the expectation of what an artist should be, could be, can be, subversive or not. The funny thing is, using his talents to forge paintings would probably garner a populist recognition of his “ability,” even as the execution (and theft) are illegal. The episode itself suggests the forgeries may be James’ literal retaliation, in support of his original protest, while presenting the potential that his protests were performative smokescreens.  Dichotomies, hello.

“Eclipse (the bomb is already inside),” 2017. Experimental photography with manual glitch. Ren Adams.

My piece, “10 Minutes Before,” is not intended to illustrate the precise content or motives of the Hitchcock episode, but the flavor is present. It’s largely meant to grapple with the same sense of suspension–that 10 Minutes from this point, this interminable, unavoidable and suspended point, that 10 minutes from now, all things have changed. All things have shifted. All things are different. There’s a bomb in the museum, and it might be fake, or it might be real, but it definitely is.

Juan Carlos Romero. January 20, 2016.

My first draft of this essay was written February 6th, 2017. The day before my dad’s 81st birthday. The day before my friend Juan Carlos Romero, fellow artist and philosopher, was shot to death on Stanford, between Central and Silver, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He was 26.

His death is an active murder investigation. His life was full of ideas.

His then-unknowing final Facebook post was:

“It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.”

William Ernest Henley, Invictus, 1875

As I was writing this essay’s first draft, I had no idea (how could I not?) I was again working “10 Minutes Before” another suspended moment, and the mundane coffee-drink, edit-delete writing was another comfortable space, even as it explored the continuously uncomfortable.

At 3 am, February 7, 2017, Juan Carlos was dead. I have the luck and privilege of enjoying a “time after,” as painful as it is. For Juan Carlos, there was only the final “time before.”

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(WIPzine 1:1):

In this Twilight Sleep – Artist Statement (payload delivery, complete)

Ren Adams art. New media artist.

Video still from Miami, After. Ren Adams. 2017.

As I mentioned in this post and this post, I’m working on a multi-part project for the upcoming exhibition: Axis Mundi: the Crucial Role of the Artist in the Age of the Collapsing Global Organism, which opens in September. My video and View-Master installation is part of the Environmental Melancholia wing (more completely explained here), so my artist statement does not provide extensive framework for the big picture “environmental melancholia” theme. The exhibition space and catalog will establish these broader definitions and orientations. Instead, my statement addresses my specific project and its relation to Environmental Melancholia.


 

Artist Statement
In This Twilight Sleep

As our living world collapses into infirmity, dying slowly, dying suddenly—we are surrounded by a seemingly endless cycle of loss most are powerless to mourn. In our paralysis, we turn to media for escape—but that route is haunted. Pervasive media, like television, is an accidental eyewitness, a record of our imprint on the planet. It’s a virtual database of environments ‘caught’ tangentially on tape; an ‘archive’ of our former (changing) landscape exists within the very media we use for avoidance.

Yet, the environment is rarely the subject of TV programming. The land is transient, offhandedly preserved—relegated to the background of a consumable program, itself destined for obscurity. Thus excavating the environment from the backdrop of Cold War television reinforces both the fleeting, secondary representation of landscape, and the notion of environment as ‘accessory’ to human story. This ‘accessorizing’ is part of our misery.

In this Twilight Sleep is a series of linked, looping ‘episodes’ that capture this fading fingerprint, as if recalling the image in perpetuity can somehow mourn and undo human-induced calamity. Using experimental photography and glitch to suggest the partially preserved and the mostly lost, I emphasize the distance between actual loss and our inability to process (or avoid) it. Videos are composed of reanimated, mutated stills extracted from television with a cell phone. This reanimation appropriates life, after the landscape has died. The corresponding Lovely… View-Master set expands this melancholic TV block by serving as memento mori. Suggesting old View-Master reels of postcard locations, my reels are souvenirs of a lost landscape; ruin and absence the only remaining commodity.  Together, they are lamentations; a virtual tourism of a seemingly unstoppable end.


 

In This Twilight Sleep

A working still from one of my video episodes

I’m in the throes of working on an experimental video project (and View-Master series) for AXIS MUNDI: The Crucial Role of the Artist in the Age of the Collapsing Global Organism. 

You can read more about the group exhibition and the concept behind Axis Mundi  in this post, including my overall intent.

As I mention in the above link, I’ve turned again to TV to tap into a haunted and melancholic space; the terrain of television becomes an accidental eyewitness to human-induced global catastrophe even as we practice a stubborn and complicated mix of intentioned forgetting and paralytic grief. We’re normalizing global calamity (as a shifting baseline) with each successive generation and our constantly and endlessly distorted sense of the original,  natural environment is the stuff of theses (and nightmares).

I’ve been researching, planning, and producing work for the project since spring, and the moving parts are finally taking shape.

Research, as always, is vital to both idea and image development in my work. In addition to researching environmental melancholia (the category my pieces fit), I’ve also been digging into notions of ruin, the myth of apathy, environmental amnesia, environmental generational amnesia, absence, presence and disappearance. If you’re interested in viewing or mining my research, my bibliography is available here: https://renadamsmfa.wordpress.com/bibliography-fall-2013/ – yes, I know the link says 2013, but it’s current (and also includes research for the other series I’m working on, Channeling – Televisual Memory and Media Seance).

2017-06-14 18.36.22

Video still from one of the episodes (currently untitled). The bodies provide a televisual grounding point (we’re watching a show, but zooming in on the ignored background).

 

The process? Experimental photography. Glitch. Video. View-Masters. These are my alchemical tools. My studio-lab is bubbling with 50 beakers of mourning and mayhem. Videos are coming alive on the proverbial laboratory table and glitched pixels are flying.

Using my obsessive hunt-and-gather image harvesting approach (commonplace camera, flat television screen), I combine experimental photographs into short videos, which are then linked into a ‘television programming’ structure. The videos then fold one ‘episode’ into the next, punctuated by dark, end-stop commercials (more on that in a future post). The videos are currently silent, but I am experimenting with several possible soundtracks (including a melancholy drone).

2017-06-14 18.57.00

Video still

2017-06-14 18.56.39

Video still

And by “television programming structure,” I mean I’m developing a pseudo television listing, like a standard prime time station block. Think of “Must See TV” or “Adult Swim,” where a lineup of carefully slotted programs play out over a multi-hour chunk, often with a thematic or intentioned purpose.

Instead of popular sitcoms or adult-oriented cartoons, my haunted block programming (In this Twilight Sleep) will address the melancholy of Cold War television as accidental eyewitness to a fragile, tangential and rapidly eroding environmental condition. The benchmark once set as our ‘normal environment’ in these older media backgrounds has already shifted since their original filming, just as they changed from what each previous generation also experienced as ‘normal.’

 

The overall programming block piece, In This Twilight Sleep, will ultimately be a chain of linked videos, each serving as an ‘episode’ from a different implied and melancholic ‘program.’ Each ‘episode’ will therefore be carefully slotted, plotted and designed to contribute to an overall sense of erosion and distance, complicity and helplessness, mourning and exhaustion.

2017-06-08 19.08.59

Conceptualizing “In this Twilight Sleep.”

Episodes play out like a distorted, amnesia-inflected prime time lineup, punctuated by dark, anxious ‘commercial’ strings. Each episode corresponds to an aspect of the fading, the mostly lost, the elusive and the eroded.

But the videos are not the only component. I’m also developing a set of View-Master reels, the Lovely… series, which will amplify and expand aspects of the video installation.

Most of us are familiar with View-Masters as a cool, collectible extension of beloved movies and TV shows; neat, interactive kid’s stuff. View-Masters were originally marketed to adults as an extension of literal and armchair tourism (a convenient, commercialized consumption of place and space). Inheriting the 19th century tradition of stereoscopic travel photography (often hand-in-hand with manifest destiny and expansionist ideals), the early 20th century saw a boon in View-Master reels meant for discerning travelers. You visit a place. You bring back souvenirs. You experience a permanent, repeat simulacrum of the original experience via media, via product, via self-haunting cycle.

2017-06-08 18.03.36-2

One of many vintage travel reels I’m researching for the Lovely… pieces.

My Lovely… series suggests View-Master reels of postcard locations, and their tendency to commodify nature as a fetishized and ownable experience. Also using the experimental photographs I extract from television, I compose reels that serve as souvenirs of a destroyed landscape; ruin and absence the only remaining commodity.  The Lovely… souvenirs are lamentations; a virtual tourism of the end. Combined with the videos, it’s a chorus that features an eroded and unstable space, suggesting the destruction of the site and the eventual decay of the very media that preserved its accidental memory.

More on the Lovely… reels in coming posts.

 

As most of my work deals with the literal, visual and conceptual impact of televisual media on our sense of self and location, mining the language of television offers the perfect kind of elusive, yet pervasive, space of confused mourning. Television thus becomes both method of escape and unintentional, archival monument. Cold War programming even functions as an early form of Google Street View; a proto-virtual database of environments ‘caught’ tangentially on tape. The actual footage becomes semi-documentary; an ‘archive’ of our former landscape exists within the very media we use for avoidance. As I mentioned earlier, the former landscape represented in the original television footage is itself already the ‘former’ environment of an endless string of healthier, better times.

Yet, the environment itself is rarely the subject of television programming. The land is transient, offhandedly preserved—it’s only held in regard by being the background of a consumable program, itself destined for obscurity. Thus excavating and mutating found environments from the backdrop of Cold War television reinforces both the fleeting, non-central representation of landscape, and the notion of environment as “accessory” to human story.

And we’ve been accessorizing our natural environment for centuries, justifying it in the name of religion, industry, money, triumph, politics, power, progress… An androcentric view has already displaced and subsumed other species, other spaces, the health and vitality of entire ecosystems…

 

That our only representation or understanding of some locations might come through television, itself unstable and fading, is another brick in the wall of mourning.

My TV programming also suggests that even when we try to escape facing (and therefore mourning and processing) the nature of human-induced calamity, or when we are unintentionally affected by environmental amnesia: on one level, we can only pay attention when it’s on a screen.

We can only see the simulacrum.

We have already forgotten what has not even arrived.

 

2017-06-14 19.03.59

Video still

Playlisting – The Art of Process

“The Language of Summoning.” 2016. Panel from triptych.

I studied music extensively for years, and in my first-first life (the phase before I majored in English, before I returned for my BFA and MFA in visual art), I thought for sure I’d be a studio musician. A female trumpet-player-keyboardist who didn’t succumb to babies and family and rote domesticity over a prominent role in male-dominated studio music circles. I planned to attend USC, had funding in place–then changed my mind and followed visual art and literature at Berkeley (though I still eschewed domesticity). Because I’m also Indiana Jones, rolling under that slamming stone door, whip in hand.

But the vitality, the flow, the importance of music has never left my studio.

My mono, single-speaker tape recorder was either this model, or very close to it. It was a late 70s device, purchased from K-Mart and first used by my parents, later gifted to me.

 

Ahhh, the classic red K-Mart KMC tapes.

My interdisciplinary work often includes experimental audio and sound. I’ve been sampling, remixing and building audio since I was a kid with cheap K-mart cassettes and a single-speaker tape recorder, capturing audio from the television and playing it back on my parents’ hifi while another TV show played in the background, re-recording the real-time dub on another receiver. The possibilities, layers, and outputs were endless, resurfacing even now in recent projects. The urge to manipulate and receive, polish and process–all tied to a strong audio core. All tied to sound and music.

It doesn’t surprise me that music is crucial to each body of work I develop.

More than just a studio soundtrack, far from “noise” filling voidspace as I work, music, audio and sound play fundamental roles in every step of my studio practice. I carefully construct playlists before I begin work on a given series, allowing the list to mutate and evolve with the project.

It’s not about setting the mood or getting into “the zone” via music. It’s about deep, conceptual and intellectual analysis of each track, each moment, each lyric or note–fitting and associating strings of thought, each delicate audio mark folding into the next, participating in a cross-media dialogue that resonates with the visual art, contributes to it, alters its surface. The playlist construction phase is a contemplative space, speaking to the theory, research and writing that are also done beforehand (and simultaneously) as the new project develops.

Taking the time to produce a playlist allows me to really get inside my project, inside the philosophy that makes it vital (for me). It allows me to refine what I see as the body, the shape, the tone, the voice of a given series.

Each playlist echoes, contributes to, informs, and is itself informed by its corresponding visual series. In the space of sound, I find resolution, direction, clarity, and compliment, even with work that’s intentionally open-ended, irresolute, or defiant against narrative closure. I learn more about my project through this process, through the act of hunting, acquiring and remixing strands of musical thought.

Individual frame from the triptych, “The Language of Summoning,” 2016.

Even the order of the tracks is important. They are carefully selected and placed, flowing one into another. These playlists are not made to impress.  They are meant to investigate, expand, amplify and attend to their corresponding bodies of work. Perhaps they’re even inseparable from the work on some level.

Sometimes the lists are awkward, strange, predictable, surprising… but they’re always earnest. I don’t care if a track is unpopular, wildly timeless or critically irrelevant–each is relevant to my process, to a given moment, a given fold. 

Yes, there are some overlaps. Certain tracks find their way onto the next list, especially when projects are close-heeled. This cross-pollination is often evident in the work itself; relationships between idea, color, form, process, you name it. It’s no accident. I allow it to be.

Playlists themselves are a manifestation of our filter bubble, that celestial-jukebox-global-DJ-remix attitude; hacking, splicing, associating and folding source material into new output… the flexible nature of playlisting is how I work in other media!

A sampling of playlists for recent bodies of work:

Poppy Transitory / Poppy Receding:

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/223gordp4up2qxbkiru2pfmfa/playlist/7DIzme2MhEDZKIrLjth9Y8

Channeling – Televisual Memory and Media Seance (early stages, still taking form)

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/223gordp4up2qxbkiru2pfmfa/playlist/56N3aH7VQTVLm9ZvcOHzWB

In this Twilight Sleep (Axis Mundi project) (still taking form)

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/223gordp4up2qxbkiru2pfmfa/playlist/0uPwgeGRYW5xXpri6bTaUW

Sonny Could Not (Whitespace-Bluespace – Televisual Memory and the Implied Catastrophe) – I still find this list is mutating

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/223gordp4up2qxbkiru2pfmfa/playlist/4dXUqJVatJ3fb2InINup0s

The Cascade – Moments in the Televisual Desert:

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/223gordp4up2qxbkiru2pfmfa/playlist/0GXRnkxospCVnCq7nouDsa