Tag Archives: semester summary

The Cascade(s)


Los Angeles Aqueduct Cascades, Sylmar, CA. Near Foothill Freeway.

“Connecting images to images, playing with series of them, repeating them, reproducing them, distorting them slightly, has been common practice in art even before the infamous ‘age of mechanical reproduction.’ ‘Intertextuality’ is one of the ways in which the cascading of images is discernible in the artistic domain – the thick entangled connection that each image has with all the others that have been produced…”

–Bruno Latour, What is Iconoclash?

My third semester is now folding into my fourth, or thesis, semester at LUCAD/AIB and I’m in the process of wrapping up for the January residency. I will be shipping Roy and the Mojave Subsequence in late December and the video pieces, View-Masters and reels will accompany me in person.

My semester bibliography, thesis outline, and artist list are available under Papers.

The Los Angeles Cascades (Sylmar, CA)

The Los Angeles Cascades (Sylmar, CA)

“As we encounter the data cascade, each of us constructs our own personal mythology from bits and fragments of information extracted from the media flow… transformed into resources through which we make sense of our everyday lives.”

Henry Jenkins, Convergence Culture

This semester, The Cascade – Moments in the Televisual Desert (my interdisciplinary thesis) made tremendous headway and I have a clear direction for resolving the final moments of …Moments. 🙂 The residency will give me the opportunity to gauge ideas about installation and continued relevancy of its interrelated parts.

“…the crucial distinction we wish to draw … is not between a world of image and a world of no-image– as the image warriors would have us believe – but between the interrupted flow of pictures and a cascade of them.”

–Bruno Latour, What is Iconoclash?

I also met with Les Ann Holland, my second semester mentor, during November and brought her up to speed on the project’s progress since we last met. I’d like to work with her during my final semester and I’ll be proposing that to my final adviser in January.

Between the (technical) end of the semester and the beginning of the residency, I’ll be continuing work on the next video piece, Ambush, producing more digital stills, and practicing stereoscopic imaging. I’m also doing a lot of reading for the upcoming critical theory course and fleshing out side sections of research that were identified while writing my thesis outline.


The Cascade(s) in Situ, Emergency!

The Cascade(s) in Situ, Emergency!

Semester Summary, Fall 2014


Ren Adams
Peter Rostovsky – Advisor
Semester 3 Summary – Fall, 2014

Download PDF Version

My work this semester centered on the development and articulation of my interdisciplinary thesis project, The Cascade – Moments in the Televisual Desert, including the production of new pieces and formatting refinement. The semester was punctuated by major decision-making, significant breakthroughs in video work and continued cohesion of the three-part installation.

Studio Work

I knew The Cascade would be interdisciplinary, but the final format had not completely coalesced. This semester, I determined the final media, refining, reshaping and abandoning divergent leads. Research, residency feedback, mentor conversations and personal brainstorming made this shape-up possible. The final three components are: video, painting and digital imaging (View-Master reels), reflecting my investigation of Lev Manovich’s three-screen theory (classic, dynamic, real-time) of new media.

Other developments:

  • I worked with ways of dimensionalizing the television experience. Feedback from my advisor and from the residency encouraged me to consider methods of collapsing viewing into geometric interludes. These interludes locate references specifically in the text and can synthesize, simulate or otherwise add dimension to the act of engaging television. This investigation impacted all three formats—and I considered how large-scale paintings, video and hand-manipulated digital reels played on different qualities of viewing and consuming, literally and philosophically.
  • Working with SOUND. It came up in nearly every residency critique. I needed to work with sound—and I did. Rather than simply add sound to the original video animations, I dug into my audio background and sampled, recorded, remixed and produced entirely new soundscapes designed for the video art (and also to be ‘overheard,’ as we do televisual noise, if played aloud near the paintings and View-Masters). This required a combination of sourcing and recording both appropriated and original material, then deeply mixing the clips into complex, articulated audio. Sound is absolutely pivotal to the project and I made ample use of my musical background, combined with theoretical concerns. My mentor was also very pleased with how radically the sound intensified and complicated the video experience.
  • Developing a clear iconographic system. I investigated ways of using direct referentiality to my advantage. Stuart Steck suggested, “why not embrace Hollywood more directly? Specificity is okay.” In response to this (plus advisor feedback and personal research), I folded more specificity into the mix, allowing some segments to remain ambiguous, others to embrace their Hollywood referentiality. I considered the ever-expansive mythology of the west as a cultural and political construct and I asked how these considerations were playing out in the work. The west behaves as a blank physical and cultural canvas, cut through by human intervention and I added and removed material to create a ‘scape in flux, no longer shying away from specificity. Characters allow a point of entry and disrupt the ambiguous space. Thus I settled in on iconography related to hero types, as well as an iconography of vehicles, colors, marks, shapes, mountains, industrial symbols (power lines, factories) and other rhythmic motifs.
  • Tony Apesos suggested I go either more minimal or intensely baroque—avoid the in-between—and I worked with this. I made the painting denser, more populated and more entangled while simultaneously emptying some of the newer digital stills (and certain aspects of the video work) to balance.
  • I also continued:
    • Allowing the work to collapse the essence of site into a single moment
    • To produce directional entanglements that create a philosophical space where the past erupts into the present.
    • To maintain a sense of time-relativity, ambiguous perspective, contingent and indistinct intervals.
    • To deny finite resolution. There is no single, grounded moment—the instability and contingency speaks to the unreliability of memory, geology, Hollywood fabrication and television.
    • To manipulate a sense of memory, recollection. To use layers to make it a challenge to separate memory from lived experience; a sense of obscuring/revealing occurs.
    • To deal with the space between objective and subjective ideas of landscape, operating in a middle-ground that provides tension; an engagement with interstitial space.
    • To reference our strange reality we’re, where TV informs our memory of real places and events. To manipulate the scripted, the cultural and the real.
    • To suggest that characters and landscape behave as ephemeral, ghostly, even spectral intrusions—spirits from our own mind (personal or cultural) that inform how we understand landscape, place and time.
    • To produce images that act as sites of activity and archaeology.
    • To investigate ways of representing how fantasy-Hollywood happened in real space.



I produced several video art pieces by synthesizing residency, advisor and mentor feedback on the original set of oscillating videos I presented in spring.  The video work made tremendous headway and brought a whole new vitality to The Cascade that has become indispensable to the final project. I made an effort to stay at a critical distance from the exactness of film, instead embracing the mosaic/montage flavor of television and deeper issues of television theory.

Major pieces:

  • So I Asked…
  • Elevator (Finding a Way out of Here, I Hope)
  • Encounter
  • Rental (Requesting Backup)

Rough Cuts:
Early, in-progress drafts which will not be shown at the residency.

  • Ambush
  • Untitled (Car Chase)

I also produced a number of side experiments leading up to the formal video pieces, to investigate formatting, aesthetic relationships and the language of digital elastic-space. They were useful in working out technical details and conceptual rhythm.

Another completed side video, Opening, was a useful foray into overlaying multiple opening credit sequences with painterly flavor, guided partly by feedback from the residency where some viewers suggested trying a literal method of building out the physical parts of a television program. My mentor and I ultimately decided the video was a useful exercise, but not a specifically relevant part of The Cascade, especially when ranked next to the other videos.

Video Display

At the start of the semester, the exhibition format of the videos was literally up in the air—they could have taken nearly any form, from wall projections to tablet playlists. My mentor suggested that I make critical decisions about the final installation format, in order to better work with, and serve, the videos as they are produced. Knowing how they will be engaged, and in what scale, affects viewer response and even production. I comment on this decision in several other parts of this summary, but in short, television will be shown on television.

Finished piece.

Finished piece.


I need several paintings to form a counterpoint to the digital work and I completed the first in the series last semester. This semester, I finished Roy and the Mojave Subsequence, another 38” x 50” work on Lenox 100 cotton paper, composed of layers of acrylic, watercolor and ink.  

The painting collapses time and a sequence of (potentially) interrelated events that play out in a dramatic urban-desert landscape. There is a sense of anxiety and unreliability as planar intrusions fracture to suggest various moments witnessed simultaneously. I consciously played with establishing shots used in television to indicate location, and I gave critical consideration to the migration of work between painting and digital. When I asked myself what happens in this transitional state, I found there are fascinating ways of expressing ‘digitality’ through the classic ‘screen’ of paint. Paint even made it possible to show a collision that seemed too artificial or noisy in a completely digital context.

During the residency, Tony Apesos pointed out that over time, landscapes became emptied of people. 16th century landscapes, on the other hand, were crowded with characters, events and intersections of activity. I had this in mind when further investigating landscape repopulation.

My students also gave candid responses to the work as it developed. Some suggested a sense of pervading violence—the car culture of Los Angeles and its hurtle toward physical ruin. Others suggested it captured a rather direct sense of our lived, real space—where industry and accident fuse with geology. All of them gathered a saturated sense of Hollywood. Thanks to the specificity of television, friends who grew up in the same region instantly recognized and cohered an understanding of televisual space-place and its connection to Hollywood memory.

I have also begun work on a third painting, which engages aerospace. I may proceed quickly enough to bring it to the residency, but it is currently in early stages.

Digital Images

I produced a number of straight screen caps this semester—so many that I have not documented them all on The Cascade sandbox blog. The stills were worked into stop-action sequences, used as stand-alone works, or folded into the View-Master slides. I also produced several new sequences of digital images, abandoning the printmaking and drawing intrusions that populated earlier stills. Selected pieces can be seen in the “gallery” section of my blog.

I also produced a number of stills taken from the video pieces, which added a new dimension to the project.

The interactive component underwent major changes this semester. Prior, I had an overwhelming list of possible formats—everything from websites and phone apps to interactive prints on paper (like QR codes). I did some conceptual housekeeping, sweeping away techniques that did not directly communicate my concept and its ties to televisual experience.

Instead, I am producing a series of 2D and 3D View-Master reels, which provide a semi-narrative of linked slides. My reasoning (mentor-approved!):

  • The View-Master format provides a relevant, interactive method of negotiating the digital stills. Using an app, website, Processing/Arduino or specifically electronic angle may have pushed the content and concept too far away from televisual language (though they are options for future work).
  • View-Masters have been a popular way of dimensionalizing television, media and even landscape/vacation photography (site as participatory culture) for a number of years, especially during the 60s, 70s and 80s (the related period of TV I’m working with). They may also suggest nostalgia, which is fine, but they are not completely rooted in it as they are still actively produced and consumed.
  • It provides a method of interaction that speaks to the original, semi-narrative forms of the reels themselves (and to my video works).
  • It breaks the digital stills away from a simple life on paper
  • It provides an opportunity to work with micro-narratives, of archival considerations, where reels contain sub-groupings of space, event or specific categories of visual information.

I will have three of the 2D reels and two View-Masters at the residency:

  • Foothill Incident
  • Mojave Superchase
  • First Responder

I am treating each reel as part of the installation, but also as a self-contained work. 

Major Decisions

I had several major decisions to make, in order to direct my final thesis work:

  • I narrowed down my list of television programs. Hundreds of programs were filmed in the area; an overwhelming list of sources. To make matters worse, every viewer suggested their own favorite shows, stretching the list farther. Early in my first mentor meeting, Kevin asked me why I had chosen Emergency! (an admittedly obscure reference). In answering his question, I also answered broader questions related to which programs I was using, why I used them, and which would be allowed to participate in The Cascade (see mentor report: https://renadamsmfa.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/first-mentor-meeting/ and https://renadamsmfa.wordpress.com/2014/09/24/major-decisions-the-narrow-way/.I laid out ground rules for the incorporation process:

1.) They had to be filmed in Los Angeles County during the 1960s, 1970s or 1980s (the heyday of LA County as the seat of American television).

2.) They had to be programs I had originally watched in their first (or partial first) run, or in syndication during those same decades (in-context viewing).

3.) They had to offer some kind of iconographic contribution to the project; the “paramedics” or the “detectives,” yellows or blues, etc…

4.) They had to be dramas (I excised sitcoms, cowboy serials and other programs early on, as the language is quite different–though I can see returning to investigate these genres in the future).

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.

6.) It had to be a distilled, representative array, including highly recognizable works paired with obscure memory-traces (a la Douglas Gordon, Renee Green).

  • I finalized the interactive format: stereoscopy / View-Master, which folds nicely into the commodification of television and landscape, and also functions as a sufficient interactive, digital-bridging element.
    • I also have a backup, in the event response at the residency does not find the View-Masters compelling. Digital images can alternately be shown as looping, semi-static sequences on digital frames.
  • I finalized/narrowed video art format
    • The videos are sticking to a 1-6 minute time frame (most are 2:30, the average length of a television drama lead-in before the credits).
    • Videos are to be presented on television screens, with one screen per video. In the event of space limitation, the display can be limited to 1-3 televisions, cycling through the videos as if displaying timed programming.
      • The video display has been narrowed down from a wild list of on-site projections, digital photo frames, and room-filling environmental shifts to a single monitor or system of multiple monitors which play the videos with out-loud audio on the main display. During the last residency I found viewers were split 50/50 on reception of the videos on a large scale or more intimate size. The larger scale referenced the black box of cinema and filmic language. The smaller scale referenced television. While it would be interesting to construct an enter-able televisual space, with multiple projections in a darkened room, I found that referencing television via the televisual screen makes the most sense, especially the more I’ve dug in to the differences between television theory and cinematic theory. The black box of cinema expects the viewer to sit down and focus on the language of film, much like the novel, which restrains, constrains and uses its own cultivated language–characters and locations are fully rendered in a lengthier window of time than your average television episode, yet it has a much shorter expanse in which to develop virtual relationships than a 24-episode TV season. It’s more complex than this, but in a nutshell, cinema is over-arching, encompassing. Television is episodic, fleeting, but builds a dynamic mosaic for interpretation. We engage with TV on different days, in different moods–but film is meant to be consumed in one shot, one specific length.
      • Television is a “white box” medium which co-exists in our personal, social and lived-in spaces. We don’t turn the lights down (unless we’re watching a filmic experience on television) to engage with it. Instead, TV occupies a light, lively room. We may pass in front of the box, doing chores, talking, temporarily engaging the screen, getting wrapped up in bursts of sound, snippets of dialogue… it is a medium of oral tradition, of mosaic image-memory, of fragmentary, flowing storytelling. It occupies more hours with us in our physical geographies, in our relationship to friends and family in location-situated space.

Abandoned Paths
I received a number of formatting suggestions, which informed my final choices. However, there were a few approaches that were attempted and set aside:

  • Print on large paper to test the effect of scale on the viewer’s ability to enter ambiguous space.
    • The painting satisfies the classic screen, past-present-future collapse on paper and offers a similar sense of ambiguous space. The digital images were better received as moving images or as backlit digital components, when viewed in context with the painting. I am therefore relegating digital images on paper to future versions of the project, or side projects.
  • Print many small versions of the digital images and/or try a less modest installation.
    • Will definitely do this for a future version, or adaptation of the project, but the main project is best served by addressing paint, video and digital as manipulation. The three-part installation is growing immodest already. J
  • Try displaying video on cathode TVs.
    • Tried it. Relates too directly to antique, retro or ‘old school’ considerations, making the work more specifically nostalgic or sentimental, even potentially sarcastic, as we have mostly abandoned that technology. Instead, the video art will be shown on what we currently recognize as television in our context, making the work more about re-context in the now, rather than nostalgic, or tease-worthy, retro imaging.
  • Try videos or stills in digital photo frames.
    • This is still a compelling back-up option, as it allows multiple stills to cycle effectively, but I bumped it in favor of the View-Master, which allows a level of interaction by the viewer that the frames do not. If the View-Masters are poorly received in January, I will return to this option.
  • Panoramic horizons refer to cinema, rectangles to television.
    • This was more of an observation made during the last residency, and with deeper consideration on my part, I decided to relegate the widest horizons to a future project, instead choosing to stick with television reference for conceptual reasons.


My mentor this semester was Kevin McCoy, of the new media duo, Jennifer & Kevin McCoy. Kevin was consistently helpful, providing clear, conceptual insight into the project and its realization—always able to see right to the core of the idea. He provided direction on which aspects were working and which were leading the wrong way, formally and intellectually, and his insight and familiarity with new media (and other artists I’ve been studying) was indispensable.

Kevin was pivotal in encouraging me to seriously refine and direct the video installation, pulling me out of the ‘stuck in with too many display options’ whirlpool. We worked through the details of the video pieces and the direction of the View-Master reels, philosophically, technically and conceptually. He was also a font of useful information, recommending artists, pieces and projects to consider in relation to my own work.

Since Kevin has worked with televisual material before, he was able to provide critical, experiential responses to each situation. In short, Kevin made the refinement of my multi-part thesis possible. We were able to have enriching conceptual discussions that tied nicely into the more physical aspects of the work. Kevin also took the time to keep up with my blog and to read most of my papers, which informed his response to the work.

I have detailed each of our meetings on the blog:

Meeting #1 – https://renadamsmfa.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/first-mentor-meeting/
Meeting #2 – https://renadamsmfa.wordpress.com/2014/09/24/major-decisions-the-narrow-way/
Meeting #3 – https://renadamsmfa.wordpress.com/2014/12/08/third-mentor-meeting/
Meeting #4 – will happen in December


Direction of work in Semester 4

Final Videos

As part of my thesis refinement, I drew up a blueprint of additional videos I plan to produce, to round out the virtual programming—treating each as a self-contained work of art. These videos will work with my existing sense of place, dominant iconography and televisual tropes/situations. Some of the pieces included in the timeline (working titles only): Secret Air Base, Auto Accident, Car Chase, Desert Fire, Sniper, Military Action.

Final Paintings

Had originally intended 5 paintings in the series, expecting only or two to be exhibited in the Cambridge show. I will aim for at least two more in semester 4, rounding the total to 4. The third painting has already begin, related to aerospace.

View-Master Reels

I will be digging deeply into the production of 3D reels and additional 2D reels, working with digital images and screen caps. Target number of reels currently undecided.

Topics included, but were not limited to:

The Celestial Jukebox

  • Remix, appropriation, sampling, recombination, mashups, plagiarism.
  • Remix culture and its relation to Information Age concerns.
  • Remix and database logic, open-source and collaborative remix in digital systems.
  • Relevant artists: DJ Spooky (Paul Miller), Eduardo Navas, Douglas Gordon, Jennifer & Kevin McCoy, Anthony Discenza, Claudia X. Valdes, Cory Arcangel.
  • Fan culture
  • Contemporary paradigm shift—read, write, read/write culture replacing old models of strict ownership and idea theft.

Television Theory

  • The nature of televisual language, television as medium, television as critical investigation.
  • Televisual impact on daily life, socialization of the medium, domesticity.
  • Television history (and subsequent conceptual changes).
  • White box medium. Fundamental differences between cinema and television.
  • Television as oral tradition, mosaic, montage.
  • 1970s and 1980s television – common tropes, heroism of middle class and underdogs, valorization of civil servants. Television formula, structure.
  • Nature of channel surfing, commercial breaks and program shifts as form of remix, rapid-fire editing, pause and re-context.
  • Televisual impact on memory, cultural history, social roles and understanding.
  • Television as vital component of 20th century thought and as transitional 21st century medium embodying Postmodern and Information Age collaborative flux.
  • America packaged, presented, distributed to the world (and itself) via television.
  • Understanding or constructing knowledge and mythology of place by televisual viewing.
  • Fan culture as expression of subjugated ‘other.’ Fan culture collaborative research.

Video Structure

  • Loops, patterns, anti-narrative, semi-narrative in video art
  • Semantic webs
  • Using stills within motion
  • The “third meaning” and its application to video art (Barthes)
  • Relevant artists: Zbigniew Rybczyński, Dziga Vertov, Anthony Discenza, Len Lye, Maya Deren, Tamás Waliczky, Cory Arcangel, Chris Marker.


  • Critical modes of memory. Process of memorization and recall.
  • Scientific and psychological understanding.
  • Memory as abstract attachment, method of processing.
  • Memory as incomplete, truncated, montaged, mosaic, relational form.
  • Memory through media, memory of television (and cinema) blended with memories of the ‘real,’ deeper considerations of whether memory of fictional media is real in itself—questions of the real, artificial, experienced and implied.
  • Mediated memory and cultural, personal, historical understanding.
  • Cultural memory, social memory, regional collaborative memory.
  • Televisual memory carried within television programming itself, television cannibalizing its own past. Re-runs, remakes, revisitations.
  • Déjà vu. Haunting, specters, information and media haunting. Re-enactment, re-enactors.


I continued research into this broad category by digging into sub-categories like:

  • landscape and memory
  • landscape and cultural identity, political power, social leverage
  • landscape as identity, nationalist ideal
  • 16th century landscape paintings

New Media

I continued investigation into new media and interdisciplinary modes of thinking. Additional sub-categories included digital imaging and questions of remix and authenticity, new media installations, web objects, games and music videos.

Individual Programs

I also did specific research into individual television programs, including documentary material related to filming locations, personal accounts of media impact, etc.
Visual Research Archive


Semester Summary – Spring, 2014



Ren Adams
Lynne Cooke – Advisor
Semester 2 Summary – Spring, 2014


My digital hybrid investigation, The Cascade, marked an important pivot point in my work—significantly changing my method and methodology. It grew from a sideline experiment into my core thesis, which examines the transient nature of virtual, social geography and the time-stripped environment of digital elastic-space. My work this semester was therefore centered on a deeper investigation of this breakthrough, including the hard logistics of its final, physical (or immaterial) form(s).

Studio Work

My studio production was prolific, forward-looking and experimental (with a focused core), spanning digital manipulation, video, animation, painting and mixed media. I made tremendous headway in serialization, image accumulation and conceptual investigation, resolving a firm, intellectual standpoint for the Cascade project.

After much cross-analysis and discussion, I also determined the Cascade will be interdisciplinary, with some aspects cast as digital projections and others providing counterpoint as stills on paper, paintings or as LED displays. Previously, I had been working to resolve a single point of output for the project—limiting its potential.




Feedback from the residency encouraged me to try different output methods for the digital work, and I was able to investigate most of the recommendations this semester. These included:

  • Physical output on paper (smaller/larger formats than previous)
  • Digital video animations and projection of video sequences on wall
  • Projection of non-animated stills on wall.
  • Computer screen animations and video sequences (intimate format)
  • Output on transparency sheets – not a good option. Performs the same as digital imaging, with no particular reason for output.
  • Output on photo papers, rice papers
  • Additional surface manipulations – minimal and subtle were best.

Working with a tight budget this semester initially presented a problem, as I could not afford most of the physical output I originally envisioned. My mentor and I talked about this limitation as a positive curatorial situation. With an unlimited budget, I may have printed everything, then weeded through reams for a final selection, never considering which pieces worked best as light-cast digital forms.

Leslie suggested that I look at my financial restriction as a point of refinement, a pivot for concept. With a tiny budget, I had to use an extra-sharp curatorial eye to choose exactly which stills were allowed to “live” in the physical world and which performed better, ultimately, as projections or on-screen images. I turned a problem of logistics into a conceptual filter—in line with several articles I read this semester, including works by Annette Weintraub, where the breakdown between traditional art forms, new media and the white-box museum space presents a challenge to artists whose work can’t easily be pegged, hung, or pedestal-ed.

Is it even necessary to output digital work on paper, or do artists often feel institutionally compelled (or required?) to make physical versions of virtual pieces? Asking these questions led to a breakthrough in analyzing individual stills and how their form best served the delivery of intent.

Digital Work

My studio work centered on digital production and hybrid mixed media.

I examined qualities inherent to digital media and their relationship to my thesis. The malleable nature of digital art allowed me to emphasize the moment where the literal and conceptual landscape of Southern California is remixed and reframed as part of a narrative-resistant, unfinished sequence. I constructed moments of deep, digital space—a kind of virtual elastic-space loaded with ambiguous gravity and uncertain time. The collision of geography, culture, personal recollection and historicity opened entirely new sequences of imagery.

I worked closely with the following considerations:

  • Macro and micro storied detail –the image surface invites multiple levels of connection, as well as literal changes in visual information when viewed near and far.
  • Re-contextualization and meta-cycles, where works reference themselves (and larger conditions), across the span of individual pieces.
  • Color palette mutation! I combined my former, earth-toned/lotus color palette with the new intrusion of video blue. Resulting works were the most successful of the bunch; a marked improvement over the video-only palette.
  • Scale shifts / increase in the variety of visual elements.
  • Shifting, breaking and disrupting perspective, reliable space and environment—tying this instability to the concept.
  • Exploring the contingency of time, perspective and distance in digital geography.
  • Allowing “television” to remain, without being literal or sarcastic.
  • Allowing figures, vehicles and buildings to “live” in the elastic-space, a turn from my original intent to excise them in favor of a neutral desert landscape. The figures became characters in a non-linear universe.
  • Finding new ways to emphasize elasticity, uniting physical and virtual.
  •  Investigating the function of constructed landscape as a conceptual engagement of space-place.
  • Working with the loaded term “landscape” (capable of describing everything from panoramas to political divisions). The digital methods allowed me to grapple with the complexity of landscape’s many states of being, articulating intricacies in time and spatial relationships through the compositing of digital material.
  • Breaking out of TV-screen dimensions, into wide horizons and micro zooms.
  • Sorting the Cascade into typologies—vritual gallery-constellations that reveal congruences and tangents.
  • Working on micro zooms that hone in on specific moments.
  • Producing paintings which speak to digitality, without serving as a painted copy. Large-scale, real-time combination of digital stills done as a reactive work.


Areas of Research

  • Digital art and new media (art historical, aesthetic, theoretical and social/cultural concerns).
  • Contemporary and recent digital and new media artists and their impact on contemporary art.
  • Cubism, Dada and Futurism and their relation to digitality.
  • Appropriation, remix, and sampling (artists, ethics, concepts, evolution).
  • Postmodernism, Post-Postmodernism.
  • Methods of digital output, video development, software and other logistics for the physical creation of digital work and Processing (programming language).
  • Space/place and concepts of location, social and physical geography.
  • Issues of showing digital and new media work in the “white box” museum model.
  • Immateriality
  • Constructed digital space and its context, physicality, politics, artifacts and artifice.
  • Space/place – personal, social, geographical associations with both physical and conceptual geography
  • Memory, recollection (personal and cultural).

Digital Research

I also gathered material via Pinterest. The resulting smorgasbord allowed me to spot rhythmic relationships and was helpful in generating new ideas for formal investigation: Research Board 2: http://www.pinterest.com/renadamsart/research-board-residency-2/


My mentor, Leslie Ann Holland, and I had an incredibly inspirational, productive and dynamic relationship this semester. She provided expert guidance, while allowing me to break new ground on my own. Last semester I felt compelled to make work to please my mentor’s sensibilities and expectation of workload. This semester, my mentor was absolutely pivotal—providing the perfect, open-minded framework for discovery and refinement.


  • Pieces allow for micro and macro readings (detail and concept)—which is important.
  • Push a few pieces until they break—know (and explore) the limits.
  • It’s entirely plausible to have output 2D works (static) shown congruently with video projection (active)–more than one output method can be used simultaneously to complete the project.
  • Scale is incredibly important and pieces with scale variation within the virtual space behaved most effectively.
  • Radically edit, trash, destroy, rebuild and reorient work—especially since digital gives me license to destroy and hit “reset.”
  • Make lots of drafts of the same image, push and pull the resulting meta-sequence.
  • Pieces deal heavily with environment, space and place. Emphasized when people are present.
  • Work reads as an intersection of editing—therefore transition is important.
  • Work also deals with memory, geography, mystery.
  • There is play between the known and unknown, near and far, stable and unstable, movement and stillness, high fi and low fi.
  • Some elements are polished, others loose and rough. There is a sense of hovering vs. a strong sense of line, slick vs. organic, line work vs. boxy-ness., deep vs. shallow, angular vs. curvy. These dichotomies are interesting and form important paradoxes.
  • Experiment with the “objectness” of the digital and learn which pieces need physical bodies and which perform their best when they remain projections of light.
  • Color palette is key and my semester-long investigation (and integration) of my dominant palette and the new video blue is important, successful and necessary.
  • Play with pattern, repetition, scale, texture and transition.
  • The work has an elusive, or denied, narrative, which heightens viewer reception and keeps the work fresh.
  • A few of the surface manipulations were not as successful as the video versions because they pushed the project in the wrong direction. Stills became focused on the hand, and not enough remained of the core concept. In this case, stills with subtle or minimal manipulation were most successful.
  • Zoom in and extract individual moments. Investigate.
  • The painting marks a major breakthrough. It speaks to digitality, without simply performing as a copy of a digital still. I am no longer diving in to simply fulfill an expressive objective. Instead, it functions as a process of reactive discovery–an archaeological dig of moments that reveal themselves, shift, change, and reveal new encounters. It is behaving like a digital or printmaking process, allowing me to adapt and respond, analyze and uncover.

Two side exercises Leslie suggested had a tremendous impact on the work:

1.)    Archive experiment – Group all of the existing stills into typologies. Figure out what the types are (more painterly, more literal, etc.), then build them into gallery-archives to see images in new ways. What emerges when things are grouped? What is different? Which aspects need to get left behind for progress?

This was congruent with a mini project I conceptualized in my Critical Theory II class during the residency and it led to a completely new manner of viewing my own work. Thanks to this suggestion, I sorted the hundreds of Cascade stills into a cross-referenced, revealing archive. It narrows down specific branches of visual language and  several distinct image constellations emerged, which form a larger whole. These constellations also led to specific video animations.
2.)    Micro Zooms – Do some detail zoom-ins of selected moments from existing stills. Are they able to convey the same feeling as the whole, without the rest of the image? Do they become something new? Do they help me think about constructing new wholes?

They did all of the above. They became a new mini-body of work, they might get blown back up, large scale, and they allowed me to consider ways of constructing new images that convey the same kind of impact as the little moments. In some cases, they did tell the same story as their larger source. In other cases, they were appendices.
Leslie feels I’m on the right track–and that I naturally unravel troubling situations as I work through them. The sheer volume of work I produce allows me to explore side-tracks, then return to the center with a resolution, combining spontaneity with calculation. She is excited about my progress, my range of experimentation–and the work I’ve done sorting through the massive Cascade archive.


Future Work

I’m interested in gauging response to the outputs and various conceptual and material changes. I’m especially interested in feedback on the video animations and painting—and I suspect I will develop (or abandon) responses accordingly.

I am now focused on the development of thesis work: producing, manipulating and outputting digital hybrid stills, creating new video projections and potentially developing a series of 50” paintings in response to the digital elastic-space. I feel my core thesis is established and future studio work will be geared toward a tighter form of investigation, rather than bust-out experimentation across wild medium changes.

Large-format image outputs are still on the to-do list (50+ inches), as are room-sized projections. I’ll also experiment with a smaller, intimate viewing experience (think View Master), as well as digital LED/LCD screen frames with moving images.


Exhibitions Attended

Urban/Suburban – Etchings by Nicholas Hudak
New Grounds Print Workshop and Gallery
Feb. 7, 2014

Etchings by Takahiko Hayashi, Japanese printmaker
The Matrix Gallery
Feb. 7, 2014

Etchings by Ando Shinji, Japanese Printmaker
The Matrix Gallery
Feb. 7, 2014

Print, Printed, Printing III – Printmaking Exhibition
New Mexico Highlands University Gallery
February 21, 2014

Chroma – Etchings by Pamela Wesolek
New Grounds Print Workshop and Gallery
March, 2014

400 Years of Remembering and Forgetting: The Graphic Art of Floyd Solomon
UNM Art Museum
May, 2014

Melanie Yazzie: Geographies of Memory
UNM Art Museum – Main Gallery
May, 2014

The Blinding Light of History – Genia Chef, Ilya Kabokov, and Oleg Vassiliev
Russian Paintings and Drawings from the Collection of Wayne F. Yakes, MD.
Clinton Adams Gallery – UNM Art Museum
Mat, 2014



Artist Talks Attended

February 21, 2014  (Artist Talk Series)
Tod Christensen, Jacob Meders, Abigail Felber, Kristen Martincic, Mark Ritchie, Cerese Vaden, Frol Boundin, Sam Cikauskas, Katie Killian-Stokes, Chris Blume, Matthew Rangel, Tim Van Ginkel.


Studio Visits / Critiques (outside of Mentor Critiques)

Josie Lopez, PhD Candidate in Art History- 2/8/14 and 5/31/14.
Conor Peterson, MFA – 5/15/14


Conferences / Conventions Attended

Print, Printed, Printing III – Highlands University Printmaking Conference
Feb. 21 – 22, 2014


Artist Talks, Guest Lectures, Demos Given 

Introduction to Printmaking (Making a Mark) – Guest lecture presentation for the Rio Rancho Art Association, Feb. 12, 2014.
Watercolor Monotype Demo at RRAA, Feb. 12, 2014.
Lithography: Fine Line Etching  Demo, Print, Printed, Printing III Printmaking Conference, Feb. 21, 2014.
Artist Talk – NM Highlands University, Feb. 21, 2014.
Intro to Serigraphy, New Grounds Print Workshop, February, 2014.
Serigraphy II, New Grounds Print Workshop, April, 2014.



Classes and Demos Attended

Alternative Methods for Making Book Cloth – Feb. 21
Alternative Methods in Subtractive Stone Lithography – Feb. 21
Research Mapping: Digital to Analog – Feb. 21
Smart Plate Lithography by Hand – Feb. 21
Harnessing the Wild: Bringing the Immediate Mark to the Lithography Stone – Feb. 22
Quick Book (Bookmaking with Serigraphy) – Feb. 22
Magic Black: An Etching Recipe for the Dark Side (Pseudo-Mezzotint) – Feb. 22
Penny Pinching Rubylith Alternative and Serigraph Toner Washes – Feb. 22
Multiple Woodblock and Stencil – Feb. 22
Digital Collagraph Demo  – Feb. 22


Exhibitions and Events Featuring my Work

Exposed – Contemporary Gravure (Upcoming) – New Grounds Print Workshop and Gallery, Albuquerque, NM. July.

Emerge Boston – MAC (Menino Arts Center). Hyde Park, MA. May.

Marked: 1st Drawing Annual Group Show. Unframed Gallery, Las Cruces, NM. March.

Printmaking Exhibition, Esther Bone Memorial Library. Rio Rancho, NM. Nov. 8, 2013 – Jan. 8, 2014.

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


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 –

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.


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.


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.


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


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.