Tag Archives: media memory

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. 🙂

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

Installation, Process

Ren Adams Art installationThe first week of October, I flew to Sacramento, then on to Oroville/Chico to install Whitespace-Bluespace – Televisual Memory and the Implied Catastrophe at the Butte College Art Gallery.

The body of work is adaptable to different kinds of spaces, and for this particular install I brought works on paper (large diptychs, triptychs and quads and smaller grids), videos and View-Masters. I used alternative installation methods, rather than framing, and the smaller pieces were rather modular and flexible in ways I hadn’t quite expected beforehand.

The Butte College Art Gallery was an excellent space–not incomprehensibly large and pretty straightforward in terms of lightning, surfaces, flooring and usable space.

After being given a tour of the art building (more on that adventure in a future post!), my first task was, of course, to unpack and curate. I had already done a mock-up of the potential installation, using the gallery floor plan, so I knew where I wanted the large pieces, and where I wanted grids, but I remained responsive to the unique characteristics of the space itself–its bouncing light, its angles and surfaces.

I laid out the largest pieces, following my original mock-up, ensuring they would interact the way I’d intended. The View-Masters, with each reel already pre-assigned to an informed color choice, huddled until appropriate pillars were chosen for each.

Though part of my first day’s install was interrupted (I gave a printmaking demonstration to one of the Intro to Printmaking classes that afternoon, which led to an insightful and productive pause), I tackled the larger works with their alternative install structure.  No frames. No traditional enclosures.

I had already experimented with traditional framing, only to find the static, predictable nature of the enclosed box killed the dynamism of the pieces, and dampened their cross-piece dialogue. There was just something vital about having them suspended, perhaps indeterminately, between each other, between walls and corners–like the fragile nature of the moments they suggest. To frame/not frame has often been a frustration of mine, and even when conceptual reasons insist on pieces being left unframed, some spaces require framing (probably justifiably so, as framing also helps protect works on paper). Thankfully, university spaces are typically more experimental and open to non-traditional installs and I was able to do what I wanted.

To suspend the works, I used a combination of Gaffer’s tape and Stick and Peel, a special polymer, glue-like product that firmly adheres paper to walls, but does not damage either the paper or the paint.

As an unexpected bonus, the printmaking professor Max and his fellow printmaker/artist friend Dean decided to assist me in hanging the large pieces. We made short work of them and cut out for a tour of downtown Chico.

Installation continued the following day, this time concentrated on the multi-part grid installations. I laid out the many smaller arrangements that could potentially fill the walls I’d outlined as installs:

I only needed about 75 individual works to create the structures suggestive of TV-screens, but I’d brought more than 300. Overkill? Maybe. Flexible? You bet.

Thus, the second day was dominated by the tremendous task of narrowing down the final 9-piece grids, from the 300+ individual image-moments I’d brought. They were already grouped by title, of course, but I had to select which grids uniquely conversed with the large pieces in their final placements. This required real-time review of color, form, and suggested semi-narrative. Were too many of the grids reiterating the larger works, unnecessarily? Which grids brought new dimensions to the dimensional web of “before,” and “after”?

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Having such an amazing, wide floor to work on was beyond useful. I was able to really grapple with the smaller works, addressing each image-moment, each fluid cell, as potential moving blocks in a larger implied catastrophe.

Viewing so many selected extracts from the archive, off the monitor and laid out in real space, invited investigation of new kinds of visual and conceptual connections between the grids, and within my own methodology.

Once the panoply of potential grids had consumed the floor space, I enlisted the help of one of the Butte College Art Gallery assistants. Kong and I analyzed, discussed and dissected the suddenly movable parts, and he was clearly drawn to his own newfound ability to reshape and restructure grid-relationships with his own hands. In fact, he couldn’t resist.

This was a valuable, spontaneous critique and dialogue, and it emphasized the viewer’s desire to rearrange frames for their own sense of understanding. I do plan to allow viewers to install the 23,000+ archive by hand in a future version of the exhibition (a real-time, collaborative event where attendees can stick small versions of each frame anywhere on the wall, in any way they like) and we also addressed the potential (even the want) of each image to exist as a physical, movable, and invitational object. Like words in a sentence in Latin, where order is determined by the writer’s conceptual decisions, not by formal structure, we could see each cell mounted on a sturdy backing, perhaps prepped with velcro, and walls upon which the cells could be arranged with just pressure. I’ll be investigating this further when I return to the studio, but for the Butte College installation, I stuck with my immovable grids.

I swapped, moved, scaled, adjusted and mutated each grid relationship.

A surprising, delicate and uncertain overall semi-narrative suddenly crystallized. Kong saw it. I saw it. We followed the threads.

Reading the completed gallery install, from the south wall around to the east entrance, it began with Sonny suspended in the agony of learning terrible news to the final cell, where Sonny appears to die in his partner’s arms.

If viewers began with the east entrance wall, and followed, the cells seemed to suggest the indeterminate passage of moments prior to the disarmed hero’s apparent death. If viewers attacked the install from any angle, they received a mosaic flutter of information that danced around the before and after of my suddenly emergent main character’s last few days or moments.

Another reason the artist’s conceptual engagement with the gallery space they use is absolutely primary, vital, revealing. And amazing.

The final install:

The opening night (I was so busy, I only got shots at the beginning, but it gives a great idea of scale):

 

Looking, Looking

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Looking, always looking… Tubbs reaches for the self

 

Continuing to push the transitional state between memory, media, landscape and identity–a weird wasteland that’s simultaneously sparse and conflated. Dense and hypnotic.
I’ve been sampling Miami Vice lately, also filmed in LA County (most of it, anyway), and finding a melancholy relevance that’s ringing pretty true to my individual standing and the growing highways of The Cascade. With a certain droning, consistent sense of loss and distance, the characters are always gaining, never retaining. Losing ground, moving sideways. Wistfully linked to a weird TV blue environment. Hunting, searching, donning costumes and falsehoods.
I’ll share more of these soon. They’re going in odd directions, with some becoming animated as GIFs.
 .
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Engaged

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Consumed

 
Current Exhibitions:
 
Automic

“Automic”, an exhibition curated by The Hand Magazine co-editors, Adam Finkelston and James Meara, will be at The Small Engine Gallery in Albuquerque, New Mexico, from Feb. 2nd through Feb.25th.

Where:
The Small Engine Gallery
1413 4th St SW
Albuquerque, NM

When:
Exhibition runs Feb. 2nd through Feb.25th, 2016.
Artist / opening reception: Friday, Feb. 12, 6-8 pm. More details in January.

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That’s one of my pieces on the right, arrow pointing to it – Mojave (always), 2015

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My piece, framed by dudes

Publication News:
 . 
Art
 . 
The Hand Magazine – Issue #11
https://thehandmagazine.wordpress.com/issue-11-purchase-and-artist-links/
Featured Mojave (always) from my Desert (Loss) series.
  . 
  . 
Poetry & Art
  . 
“Non-Image” appears in the January, 2016 issue of e-ratio 
  . 
“This Uneven Tread” (art and poetry) appears in First Class Lit
  . 
Winter, 2015 Issue of BROAD! 
Features “Time Slowing Down” and “Suspension”
Download the issue – http://broadzine.com/about/issues/
  . 
Upcoming publications: 
The Bombay Gin (art) (2016)

Desert (Loss) and Google

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Pearblossom Highway near Four Points, East Highway 138 – Palmdale, CA

I have a solo exhibition in November and I am fusing aspects of my most recent body of work, The Cascade – Moments in the Televisual Desert, with excerpts from Last Days (poetry), to suit the space.

Rather than install the Cascade paintings, digital images or videos straightaway, I’ve remixed my own ‘episodes’ to produce an offshoot series, incorporating new research and experiences.

The November installation is entitled Desert (Loss). 

I’ve been mining my stills, videos and paintings for images and symbols that can be remixed into a visual discussion (or even dissection) of the eroded, fleeting memory and its tie to the tenuous nature of ‘depthiness,’ truth(iness) and media. Such that the creative speculation we use when recalling television–or when violently, even romantically, pursuing or attempting to possess fleeting memory, becomes all-consuming.

This pursuit, this grab for thin, fading and re-combining elements becomes the basis of our understanding of self and place;  the backdrop of gain and loss.

There are similarities between the recollection of events (real or fictional) and the abstract construction of place, moment and self built in our brains, to house our weird collection of experiences, our filtered understanding of things. It’s rather like the memory palace of Simonides, with a twist of media theory and personal loss. In this case, the desert backdrop of Adams.

Many of the elements sifted from my televisual desert have been stripped own and abbreviated. This is a graphic mode of erosion, such that only certain highlights remain, not unlike the white-hot pinpoints we latch onto when recalling an encounter, real or fictional, remembered or repressed:

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Martin Milner, who becomes an abstract sheath of black to the right, died Sept. 7. Each image is a monument to eventual loss, and apparently so is the digitally remixed and fabricated: Roland Barthes + The Flaming Lips

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Joshua trees

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Carson, CA

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14 Freeway

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Something’s been lost, or maybe he’s got dust in his eyes

Of course, these extracts, are black and white because they will become transparencies for exposing serigraphy screens.

This allows me to duplicate and further erode each moment, using a variety of ink transparencies and tones, letting some fill in and others become partially obliterated by additional layers and text. So, they won’t be straight black and white and they won’t be single-layer.

In addition to mining my existing episode base, I am also gathering new Google Street Views, stripping, twisting and mutating them, or matching them to television sources. They become part of the remix of reality and fantasy–each carefully chosen vignette speaking on multiple levels (I’ll address some of these in a future blog post). I’m also researching other artists (like Doug Rickard) that use Google, both perceptually and conceptually.

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Yes, this is along the length of Hockney’s Pearblossom Highway; 138. Or, maybe it’s my highway 138. LOL. This is past Littlerock, CA, looking East.

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Los Angeles County Cascades (on the right, see the tank and aqueduct?) plus the definitive overpass leading to Palmdale, Lancaster. Not far from the freeway interchange that fell during the 1995 Sylmar quake.

I’ll share progress shots and images of the finished series in the future. I am still working on audio, new videos and more paintings for the Cascade, but the paintings and videos won’t be part of Desert (Loss) as there is not enough space in the gallery and I adapted the show to suit the location. Audio could play a role, however.

Also, expect a better / deeper explanation of Desert (Loss) and the ideas behind it in coming weeks.

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Desert Simulacrum

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Backdrop addresses cowboy

BY MARGARET ATWOOD

Starspangled cowboy
sauntering out of the almost-
silly West, on your face
a porcelain grin,
tugging a papier-mâché cactus
on wheels behind you with a string,
.
.
you are innocent as a bathtub
full of bullets.
.
.
Your righteous eyes, your laconic
trigger-fingers
people the streets with villains:
as you move, the air in front of you
blossoms with targets
.
.
and you leave behind you a heroic
trail of desolation:
beer bottles
slaughtered by the side
of the road, bird-
skulls bleaching in the sunset.
.
.
I ought to be watching
from behind a cliff or a cardboard storefront
when the shooting starts, hands clasped
in admiration,
but I am elsewhere.
.
.
Then what about me
.
.
what about the I
confronting you on that border,
you are always trying to cross?
.
.
I am the horizon
you ride towards, the thing you can never lasso
.
.
I am also what surrounds you:
my brain
scattered with your
tincans, bones, empty shells,
the litter of your invasions.
.
.
I am the space you desecrate
as you pass through.
.
.

Margaret Atwood, “Backdrop addresses cowboy” from Selected Poems 1965-1975. Copyright © 1974, 1976.

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