Tag Archives: work in progress

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

Advertisements

Axis Mundi is Coming

Video still from rough cut for Axis Mundi

I was invited to submit a project proposal for an upcoming multi-venue exhibition curated and coordinated by Regan Rosburg, Adam Gordon, Tracy Tomko and Alvin Gregorio:

AXIS MUNDI:
The Crucial Role of the Artist in the Age of the Collapsing Global Organism

The exhibition will feature 20 artists, half of which are local to Denver (the project is part of the Biennial of the Americas)–and the other half are national and international contributors.

I am producing experimental video pieces and a suite of View-Masters for the exhibition and I’ll be sharing process, ideas and project shots here on my blog. The other artists are working in photography, video, full-length film, painting, sculpture, recycled plastics, bioluminescent algae, DNA, petroleum distillates, deceased animals, public murals, and natural objects. I can’t wait to see each artist’s response to the project’s conceptual framework.

A little background on the exhibition/project (from the prospectus):

Despite the brevity of our lifespans, humans collectively are changing the face, and fate, of the planet’s species. Be it runaway pollution, our contribution to rising global temperatures, or the fervent gobbling of resources to feed our manic hunger for “progress,” we are manipulating the efficient ecological balance that took millions of years to evolve. Worldwide, the scientists unite in agreement on the causes of climate change. Humans witness changes in their backyards, while millions of voiceless plants and animals succumb to changes beyond their evolved adaptability.

As the situation progresses, clearly the term “climate change” is not large enough to encapsulate the multi-dimensional and far-reaching impacts of humans on Earth. James Lovelock created the hypothesis of Gaia: that the living and non-living components of Earth function as a single living organism. The organism self-regulates in order to maintain a healthy balance, suitable for sustaining its life. In essence, all actions on Earth (no matter how small) can affect the organism as a whole.

If Lovelock’s hypothesis is applied to the calamities of today, Gaia is sick. Her immune system is compromised. Her body is shaking and whipping about with storms, fires and droughts. Her blood has filled with oil and trash, and her lungs with billowing plumes of burning fossils. Her skin crawls with machines that dig, cut, squeeze, and strangle. She resembles a child in a hallucinatory, feverous fit of delirium. In the Gaia model, humans are the mutant cells of a collective cancerous tumor that has metastasized in the global body.

What can be done? It is apparent that we have enough information, and still nothing changes. Why? What is the human psychological block that keeps us on a path towards global eco-suicide? Where does one put the pain, when the pain is relentless? What actions can be taken, when everyone knows they are partially to blame? What does it matter?

Axis Mundi addresses the psychology behind these issues. The aim is to expose hidden motivations, unspoken shame, un-mourned losses and forgotten love for our world. The aim is also to evoke awareness, personal or otherwise.

Axis Mundi will explore and expand upon three crucial, contributing, interconnected aspects of the current crisis: Environmental Melancholia, Collective Social Mania, and Biophilia.  The first two aspects are connected in a hedonic loop of capitalism and buyers remorse. The last plays a crucial role in re-establishing our instinct to protect that which we have co-evolved alongside and are genetically predisposed to love: The Earth.

 

Another still from a working video I am developing for the exhibition

For this project, the artists were asked to develop work within one of three categories: environmental melancholia, collective social mania, and BiophiliaReading the prospectus sparked a flood of ideas and I found the first two categories the most relevant and fertile for my method and methodology. The curators selected my proposal for the environmental melancholia category, so my project will be developed within this framework:

  1. Environmental Melancholia: the pathology of being melancholic about the collapse of the environment.

    This happens when “deaths” around the world (global or local) are not properly mourned because 1) time is not given to properly mourn the losses 2) the losses are abstract due to sheer enormity (example: the melting of glaciers, the collapse of bee colonies world-wide, or the massive deforestation of the Amazon), or 3) when the losses are abstract due to overlapping, continuous events (an oil spill one day, a flood the next, etc).

    When one turns on the TV or log onto the Internet, the amount of horrific and saddening images he sees make him have an emotional response of overwhelming, unarticulated sadness. When the dead bodies, so to speak, are not buried, he or she has no symbolic release of those he or she has lost. Essentially, those deaths cannot be mourned, so the person becomes melancholic. Conversely, if he or she has a symbol or symbolic action that can represent that loss, and is able to grieve, then this allows for healthy mourning.

    Artworks in this section must address melancholia and/or mourning. For more information on this topic, please read “Environmental Melancholia” or “The Myth of Apathy” by Renee Lertzman.

Our world is on fire… video still from rough cut in progress

 

Excerpts from my project proposal:

Background: The Absurd (Necessity) of Mediating Grief

Mourning is a complicated, abstract process, no matter the focus. Even grappling with the passage of individuals presents a nearly insurmountable gulf—the distance between specific loss, ongoing post-loss reality, and our ability to process such loss effectively.  In our attempts to mediate the space of grief—flowers, cards, and condolences become the trappings of a cultural process of mourning, often our only recourse in dealing with the unexplained.

How then do we address environmental grief? That permeating sense of awareness and enormity, blended with feelings of helplessness, complicity, confusion? As vast swaths of our living world collapse into infirmity, dying slowly, dying suddenly—we are surrounded by a seemingly endless cycle of “before” and “after,” one great loss after another. It’s an overwhelming cascade, causing cultural and personal paralysis. Without processing, how can we possibly move beyond the paralytic and into a space where we have the confidence and mobility to arrest the next wave of global disaster?

How do we begin to process such vastness? Do we, in futility, send a card to Gaia?

In Poppy Transitory/Receding (recent work), I investigated the sincere absurdity of processing “small-scale” loss with decorative memorials, themselves transitory tokens of grief. I sourced shapes from the clothing and desert location where my sister Cindy Adams and family friend Gram Parsons died, developing a visual language that applied to their specific moment. For Axis Mundi, I will again develop a visual vocabulary drawn from the “source material” of passage—imagery that supplies specificity, immensity, and the mediated erosion of the real.

My videos are layers of glitch, experimental photography and noise.

Approach: Television as Accidental Eyewitness

As most of my work deals with the literal, visual and conceptual impact of televisual media on our sense of self and location, I turned to television to investigate this elusive, yet pervasive, space of mourning.

Media influence our daily lives. The ubiquity of televisual media impacts our process of self-shaping and our understanding of relational space-place, even serving as a surrogate experience for the physical world; some people only “know” the Grand Canyon through media (for example).

If we construct an understanding of our world through media (Henry Jenkins) and this media is often used to escape from reality, while simultaneously encapsulating an undeniable record of our imprint on the planet, media becomes both intentioned forgetting and accidental historian; the perfect source material for a language of mourning. Television itself plays a central role in disseminating the paralyzing information about what’s been destroyed—even as it provides a zombie platform for the proliferation of politics that encourage or dismiss these same global catastrophes.

Television becomes both method of escape and unintentional, archival monument. Cold War programming itself even functions as an early form of Google Street View; a proto-virtual database of environments ‘caught’ tangentially on tape. The actual footage becomes a semi-documentary—an ‘archive’ of our former landscape exists within the very media we use for avoidance.

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 episodes reinforces both the fleeting, non-central representation of landscape in their original context, and the notion of environment as “accessory” to human story.

Using this language, I will construct a looping video of found landscape material, as if recalling the image in perpetuity can somehow undo the seemingly unstoppable avalanche of global changes resulting from human impact; a vain attempt to hunt, save, preserve and present—a digital gesture of condolence.

Unable to completely divorce itself from collective social mania, my video shrine will be a quagmire of paralysis and anxiety, highlighting locations that have been lost (or will be lost), or those forever altered due to “progress,” but which remain filed in now-fading media, itself actively losing ground and relevance. 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.

The earth, the landscape–all captured as secondary to the humans and the story; television becomes an accidental eyewitness

I’ve begin work on several video sections and View-Master reels, with this overall structure in mind:

What: Physical Output

  • Looping video played on a television
  • Probably silent, but may experiment with droning noise or natural sounds
  • Imagery is layered, disturbing, melancholic, distant, failing, uncertain
  • Imagery will be created with experimental photography and glitch, in order to suggest the missing, the incomplete, the partially preserved and the mostly lost. This should emphasize the distance between the real state of loss and our abstraction of it through media
  • Video will be composed of re-animated, glitched, mutated stills extracted from television, using my preferred method of obsessive excavating with a commonplace camera (cell phone)
  • Rather than using active footage, which would suggest the still-living, still-vital, I will reanimate stills that are obviously frozen and separated from both nature and their original filmed source. This reanimation appropriates life, after the landscape has died. Thus, stills become a melancholic suggestion of life, rather than the continuous movement of the living.
  • The flat void of the television screen is a fitting metaphor for the swallowed-whole destruction of our real environment
  • An eroded, unstable video suggests both destruction of the site, and the eventual decay of the media that preserved an accidental memory of the site’s existence

When the earth is lost, guess who else gets swallowed by oblivion

Before, After (Part 2 of 2)

2016-05-08 21.25.28-1

Before the machine is tripped and Larry’s chance is lost. From Channeling.

Transformation, Transition and the Song of Myself

In Part 1, I referenced how an experimentation with selfies and the reflexive psychology spent reviewing them led to several new series: Whitespace-Bluespace, Poppy Transitory (formerly Wheel of Fortune) and Channeling.

The selfies are not themselves a new series, nor were they the only impetus behind my new projects, but they did lead into further philosophical exploration of image-making, serialization and methods of re-orienting my idea of “self” and “other” (and self presented as other). They formed the outset of deeper methodology for these new bodies of work, distinct but interlaced, each emergent from The Cascade- Moments in the Televisual Desert and Desert (Loss).

I have always delighted in being a very analytical, even impersonal, artist. I’ve focused on philosophical and social-theoretical contexts, even when the core idea emerged from a secret, personal impetus. I have avoided the self-indulgent biographical–partly out of defiance, partly out of disinterest–denying how fiercely personal many artists can be about their work. But I see things changing. I am allowing more of the personal to guide the conceptual. While this essay reveals much that appears biographical and terribly personal, and I find myself conflating the personal with the public more often in this year’s work, there is still a distance between the private language and the outward manifestation. In other words, I outline the personal-historical here to help support my bigger-than-the-self concepts, though I now adroitly nod to my own participation in the “self.”

In moving through this territory, I also embraced the meditatively self-ascendant Whitman–adopting an aware position of the self, a poetic system of “selfies,” an expansion of self into non-self, and a recognition of our selves oriented within the flow of language and image, thought and word, event and recollection, place and displacement.

2016-07-06 21.25.09-1

“My Life is not Better than yours,” 2016. From “Whitespace-Bluespace.” Manual glitch (experimental cell phone photography). Size variable.

I sing myself.

The landscape sings itself, sings the self of my re-invented heroes, of my self re-engaging material from my past. My far past. My recent past. My soon-to-be-past in the delicious present.

I sing the association and connections of myself, within myself, within that unique, time-stamped moment that fascinated Charles Baudelaire—that for all of the sameness one moment to the next, there is something vital and undeniable about our presence in our unique moment in time, with our whirl of knowledge and histories, influences, memories and locations; “for almost all our originality comes from the seal which time imprints on our sensations.”

I am a product. A production.

I am a result of the weird, Hollywood-desert-Mojave; an abstract of my parents and friends, memories and lovers (narrative and episodic), my philosophies and writing, the fullness of food and softness of body, the buzzing of screens and static of audio, the shapeshifting Lego blocks of television and music, rocks and sky–commercials and sand, politics and play, spiky Joshua trees and burned-out cars, flaming deserts and earthquake rubble. I am the dialectic of objects lost, objects gained. The childhood-internalized language of Whitman, Heller, Plato, Dostoyevsky, Mom, Dad, truck drivers and trailers, stolen pizza and scribbled poetry, space shuttles and aerospace, mine shafts and abandoned boxes. I am a product of the television narrative, strung across so many series and characters, so many enshrined decades. Those stories written in the spare spaces in old magazines, stuffed dog under my arm (the dog dad and I picked out at an arts & crafts show, from a table of handmade plushies wrapped in coffin-like plastic, in the parking lot of Antelope Valley College in 1979).

I am a side-glance of the weird, plaster King Tut bust, bought for $5 at the Four Points Swapmeet, presented by mom & future step dad, delivered proudly in a white sheet. Brady Bunch orange and ’80s electric blue. Heavy and life-sized. Grounded and cheap. I still think of how I wrapped his head again in a sheet when we had to evacuate my childhood home. He was waiting for me to return, to retrieve him, alone in the leftovers of my room, on the knobbled orange-brown carpet, nestled with my bottle collection and space shuttle, my clothes and childhood books. He waited. I never returned.

Just as the passages above moved from the abstract to the concrete, each of my new series vacillates between the almost-gained and almost-lost, straddling subtle clues and purposeful diffusion. There is a fascinating tension between the nondescript, compressed recollection of moment-as-concept, and the radiant, often fixating pulse of raw detail–of moment-as-exposition, and I try to engage this in different ways with each of these new bodies of work. The tension between specificity and obscurity is certainly the key to much of this new work. The in-between space is where it all happens…

…The space of gray within gray, the cat whose corpse crawled with worms, my foot plunged into his cavernous body, bare in the desert, and who I later buried with a garden trowel, sending his quiet form back to the sand beneath the Joshua tree (the same tree still visible on Google Street View, on David Hockney’s–my–Highway 138, Pearblossom Highway). All those stolen guitar picks I snaked from my brother’s friends when their bands rehearsed in my parent’s bedroom, also buried under the Joshua. All those stubbed toes, seed pods and firearms…

So many luscious and terrible moments, ideas, pinpoints, pinpricks.

Whatever became of my box of plastic animals? My sister’s stories, written on notebook paper and illustrated with plastic toy animals, Scotch-taped to each page as a 3D visual: cows and fences, horses and cats, creating a thick, metered book with strange pages and caverns? I felt guilty pulling the black and white dog from his place near the end of one of her stories… I played with him out of context, with my own toy animals, and his adventures continued. I did not put him back in the book.

Now all the animals are lost. And things are still just things. And whatever becomes of them? Are they lost in the tension between specificity and obscurity, like memory, like each individual held delicately in a photograph? Before they left our possession, after they were lost?

2016-05-02 21.22.36

“These things, in their places,” from Whitespace-Bluespace, 2016. Real time photographic manipulation.

What’s become of my blue bottle and tape player? Those black trash bags filled with ephemera from our old house, piled in the cracked-stucco Model A garage, alongside the single remaining grapevine?

These mundane things, the coffee cup of our daily greet, the blue toothbrush and broken-prong comb. These delightful, simple things… I sing for them in these new visual pieces. I sing for the simple associations, as much as for the grander connections to personal loss, to cultural grief.

2016-06-11 13.18.41

“In this Moment, he heard,” 2016. From Whitespace-Bluespace. Real time photographic manipulation and additional digital glitch.

I sing the song of ordinary things. Of ordinary selves folded into ordinary moments.

I sing the tones of my self-as-formality, that outlined person on off-white bond, presented and polished, distributed and structured. I was part of the first dot com boom. I’ve been an editor in chief, private investigator, copy writer, video editor, web designer, artist assistant, sheet music salesperson–you name it, from bowling alleys to amusement parks, window painting to entertainment writing. I’ve sold hot dogs and held international conference calls. I performed for the space shuttle Endeavor roll-out at Hangar 10, marched in two Rose Parades, been on TV, built websites and wrote copy, published and rejected, I’ve lectured and researched, even been a “cover girl” for a Japanese technology magazine…

2016-07-03 17.32.58-2

Currently untitled, from Whitespace-Bluespace, 2016. Real time photographic manipulation and additional digital glitch.

Are employment stats part of the song of ourselves? The linear facts of metered existence?

My resume doesn’t tell the time I was nearly stabbed and coolly disarmed the knife-bearing attacker. It doesn’t reference the summer I saved a friend from wild dogs in the desert, or the after-lunch pause where I yanked a co-worker off the street by her blouse as a bus bore down on her in muggy San Francisco. These are the socially heroic thing, but there are just as many (or more) moments of fear, confusion and longing, and even more points of quiet heroism: the process of waking up each day. Of continuing. My resume doesn’t log the times I’ve been without food and electricity, couch-surfing and family-less, washing my clothes with a neighbor’s hose in high school, when I ate leftovers from friends’ lunches; the tail-end of bananas shared by my friend Dave, the tail-end of everything, all the time. It does not reference the time I missed the chance to meet Allen Ginsberg before he died, thanks to an anthropology final. Or the time I once found a life-sized, headless Buddha in the Mojave Desert. I’ll share the story some time, with or without the formality of our public, published selves.

What is biography but a creative, forced-linear narrative? Accentuating the colorful?

What is a resume, but a forced-linear evaluation of the concrete and ‘important’?

What is biographical artwork? How much biography is necessary (if any) to engage a piece?

Dissipated memory is itself pressed into coherence, and extraneous or negative details often airbrushed and removed, sensations bound to a host of romanticized facts or apprehensions, misaligned and finessed. Fierce details are often distilled into crystalline, prescient moments (but often unstable, unreliable). Other details are skimmed and polished, forming inanimate phrases like “parents and friends.”

What is a resume? Are we the sum of our “jobs”? Our roles and proscriptions? Are we the sum of our experiences, or our perception of those same encounters?

2016-06-21 23.05.01-2

“The Extended Agony of Finding out (after),” 2016. From Whitespace-Bluespace. Manual glitch experimental photography with digital glitch and manipulation.

Enter the song of my characters, another song of my extended self.

A friend’s large-scale figurative paintings frequently make use of his own “self” as the body-subject, though I am not certain he would consider them “self portraits” in a literal or traditional sense. There is certainly a self-portrait aspect (or else he would have enrolled other male models), and these “self” portraits speak as metaphoric modernity, becoming selfless in their representation of cultural and philosophical typologies, and are themselves headless, homogenized, repetitious, dulled in the face of the antithetic machine. Just as my discussion of the resume and the uncomfortable tension between personal detail and the airbrushed, presented self are in disharmony, the men in his paintings are rendered with sensitive realism, such exquisite specificity that blemishes are elevated to the divine, concrete.

But his figures are denied the specificity of identity, yet they possess a peculiar level of detail that would render the nude, fragile and exposed men utterly recognizable to me, if I happened upon them. There’s a tension here between the face-as-identity and the body as identifier. Quite unlike most selfies, actually, where the map of the body, in its fierce detail, is in contrast to the headless erasure of implied, conceptual decapitation. His “selves” are disconcertingly anchored in predictable normalcy, yet denied any identity through the recognizable face, any ability to communicate or understand.

My selfies are so heavily based on the “face” that they become repetitive and dulled, inseparable and blended. A monotonous stream of the same essential form and set of colors, providing a different kind of tension in the weighted specificity of features. As my friend’s work has moved to embrace first a more complete image of a headed figure (after its early headlessness)–again allowing the face to enter–a kind of non-self-portrait rooted in the self,  it now engages an emptied sense of space. The figure has been, or will be, present, but is not located within the represented moment.

My earliest Cascade works were more focused on that kind of recently emptied, but obviously occupied, urban environment, or lived space. I suggested that figures had recently passed through, left imprints, littered the environment with their stats and biographies. Slowly, vehicles snuck into the landscape, then figures emerged, oddly embraced by my formerly all-abstract eye. The tail end of my MFA work, then, allowed figures to be fully present, but the landscape was potentially more vital than the characters, a division I now find upended. Just as my friend’s work naturally moved into new territory, I bring my characters forward now, into several new phases–and the figures are more crucial than the lived space they inhabit.

My friend’s work was thus an important and direct influence on Whitespace-Bluespace and Channeling.

2016-06-21 23.05.14-2

“The Extended Agony of Finding out (during),” 2016. From Whitespace-Bluespace. Manual glitch experimental photography with digital glitch and manipulation.

The face and the body are the matrix upon which we exchange and interchange, the space others identify, a literal and conceptual anchor of placement, within place, within culture.  As two of the three new series are filled with figures, these bodies are a curated response to myself, to my insecurities and questions, to my isolation, dignity and indignity–and as I am not particularly an emotional or very personal artist (though these last few articles might suggest otherwise), these new series are allowing me to indulge a bit in the very idea of self.

This move toward the character, the self as other, and the time-distorted whirl of indeterminate events allows me to abandon some of the ties to regional specificity I’ve been focused on (though the ties remain, if less prominent). The character as being, as figure, as selfie, as referent and referrer, has become fascinating to me. The desert, Hollywood, California, all undercarriage, superstructure now.

The de-centered and de-structured heroes are moving into new territory, allowed to be whole and present in a sense. I grant them access to the previously abstract picture plane, just as I once allowed vehicles to enter the empty expanse. My friend Pam, a fellow printmaker, says “I don’t like the ones with the people,” preferring instead the more abstract environments. The abstraction, for me, is only one variable. I have not abandoned the abstract stills, but now they offer vital tension for the panes with people. I see myself in the people. I’ve seen myself even in the flimsy posters and watery re-reruns, the action figures and advertising.

Two of the three series are centered on men, my ultimate self-as-other (like The Cascade…) More on this gender tension in a future post.

I will also fully flesh out each of these new bodies of work in separate posts of their own, but here’s a taste:

2016-04-15 21.45.13-1

Whitespace-Bluespace

This is my biggie. My solo exhibition and beyond.

I spent 8 months doing real-time, photographic capture-manipulations of the Miami Vice television show, which is currently airing each weekday evening, 9-10 pm MST on Cozi TV. As with all my media work, I had watched Miami Vice in its original run, in a particular time-and-place context. More on that below.

Each night, for an hour, I did experimental photographic “monotypes” right from the television screen, making good use of the show’s one-hour time slot and its watery, softened, broadcast form. I set rigid parameters for my manipulation times and methods. I could have easily watched it all in a week or two, binge-style, and done my work in this manner, but there was something about slowing down, about restricting the raw manipulations to an hour each day, preventing me from being out, from doing other things, tying me to the TV screen each night–sometimes against my will. Slowing down put me in a different headspace. Different events, moods, daily affects–these all impacted the way I engaged the televisual language on a given evening.

Limiting myself to an hour of generating imagery created both tension and frustration–some nights I was energized, wanting more and more! Other nights, my life-circumstances bogged me and the project was dogged, nagging, relentless. That’s how I knew I was on to something. When I felt like doing more, I curated and glitched selected moments, rather than finding a way to gather more raw imagery.

As always, I used my cell phone. On my knees, in front of the TV. I’ve gotten so that I can manipulate and shift color, form, focus and distortion in fluid ways, and I worked my little iPhone 4S so hard, I killed it.

The project was all-consuming. Gathering became an intense daily ritual that lengthened the scope of the project, requiring focused introspection and systematic gathering. After gathering, I also put some of the stills through additional glitch manipulation, to purposefully lose, obscure and erode key information that might have provided clarity and resolution. I watched the series through twice, researching and taking notes, then on the third time through, one hour each day, I extracted particular kinds of imagery–one season at a time.

The result is a 23,000 + image archive, composed of the original, real-time manual glitch / experimental photographic pieces and digital glitch images. This in itself has a stark relevancy I’m still unpacking. It makes prolific use of the “before” and “after” I describe in Before, After – Part 1, and the characters are trapped in a terrible cycle, suspended within an indeterminate space of the impending and the retreating. Some of the experiemental photographs, rather like monotypes in their single-shot pull from the screen, are left raw. These don’t undergo more manipulation after the fact, and are prescient, alive. Others, as I mentioned above, receive glitch treatment for conceptual reasons I’ll explain in a future post.

Whitespace-Bluespace – Project Statement

Life is a rush of contingencies. The wonderful, terrible sublime of “before” and “after,” a strange and delicate dance of relativity. As we commit experience to memory, details become blurred, lost, remixed—fact folded with sensation, sequencing lost to the abyss of recollection. Over time, we may even embellish, or crystallize moments, often losing more than we retain.

Memory formation relates to the way we engage television—we grab bits and pieces of information about characters and situations, often by viewing episodes out of order. We understand events by assembling a sensitive web of memories, culled, even appropriated, from different seasons. Like episodic TV viewing, we construct a mosaic by assembling clues extracted from the media flow—from our life experiences—allowing us to “know” people, places, and events by collating often disparate pieces of data, much of it reframed (often misunderstood).

Using cell phone photography in a real-time system of manipulation, I spent 8 months capturing digital “monotypes” from the TV screen, generating an archive of 23,000+ experimental images. These image-cells were mined from a personally poignant television series—Miami Vice, which I watched in its original context, during a time of personal loss and disruption. Using an obsessive, ritual system of watching and extracting, combined with manual and digital glitch, I suggest the imperfection of memory and our incomplete understanding of situations. These suspended moments are seemingly extracted from the “before” and “after” of an unclear, yet disturbing, system of events that vacillate between the almost-gained and almost-lost.

The characters, like memory, are composed of fragmented, episodic information, sampled and informed by our own recollection of other images in the installation. The viewer might begin to understand, but true clarity is denied. There is a tense passage of moment into moment, an endless catastrophe of “instants” presented as passive works on paper, active video and intimate View-Master spaces.  My eroded heroes are denied resolution, forever stuck in transition, their lives suspended as frozen, oddly linked moments—undermined, human, uncertain, temporary.

Why Miami Vice?

My engagement with the televisual language of the program is tied to a distinct sequence of “before” and “after” life-moments of personal impact. As I mentioned in the first half of the essay, I watched Miami Vice on our little TV (when we had electricity), recorded at a friend’s house on a watery VHS tape because we couldn’t afford a VHF antenna, watched and re-watched because it was a precious capture. The process of borrowing and remixing media via tape, and savoring each chance I got to watch it, was tied into my parents’ impending divorce, and the downward spiral of homelessness, distancing and confusion that resulted.

The characters seemed so strong at the time, I longed to be both of the male heroes in alternation.

I reacquainted myself with the series quite by accident, just after my thesis work, which also dealt with the impact of televisual media on concepts of self and place. Stumbling across it on Cozi TV also coincided with tumult in other parts of my life, and at first it was a welcome, aesthetically compelling refuge.

After only an episode, I found it stirred a lot of surprising sensations within me–from gushing philosophy to raw emotion, adding fuel to my media-mind. I found a fascinating, compelling thread running through each episode–the male heroes often faced loss, destruction of the self, a terrible sense of distancing–the deaths of loved ones, failure to complete missions, subjugation by terrible enemies, denial of closure–in episodic tenacity. They were rarely successful in an iconic fashion, instead suffering loss and resistance at every turn. Resolutions were complicated, problematic, and even when things tipped in their favor, it rarely resolved the way they expected (or hoped). There were no ridiculously triumphant heroes here.

I had rediscovered heroes already plagued by a strange tension between the appearance of success and the corrosion of endless defeat. A progression that unsettles and warps the main characters, with Sonny in particular emergent as a jaded, unwilling participant. As I mentioned above, I watched the series several times through, savoring each moment as I had in my youth, while realizing I was simultaneously tipping over into a new body of work, with new territory. It’s funny how that happens.

It’s so easy for many artists (and people in general) to deride “old” TV, as if by the very nature of its context, it epitomizes failure and deserves ridicule because it is from the time “before.” You, dear readers, know me by now. I never deride. Each media-moment is vital, worth refreshing and revisiting, or revitalizing in the present moment. I never judge the programs that compel me for being simply themselves. How could I?

 

IMG_4116_l_smaller

Poppy Transitory

You can read more about Poppy Transitory in this blog post, as I went into greater depth about the now completed series.

Artist Statement

Poppy Transitory investigates the sincere absurdity of processing loss with decorative memorials, themselves transitory tokens of grief. Based in a fiercely personal, yet oddly abstract pain, the series considers the story-infused space of mourning—colorful, obsessive layers behave like memory extracts.

Conflating the mysterious Mojave Desert deaths of my sister Cindy Adams (1972) and musician Gram Parsons (1973), I ask what it means to “know” someone through location-tied story; to “understand” events via embellished clues, just as I “knew” both individuals through family narrative. What does it mean to assuage loss through well-meaning transference? Do gifts for the dead resolve our perplexity?

To engage this, I use transparent layers to suggest recalled memory, story cycles, and the deluge of tokens posthumously offered to Cindy and Gram. I deconstruct and reframe the language of the Mojave Desert, the visual vocabulary of memorial shrines, and personal iconography from Cindy and Gram’s clothing, whirling them into a sensitive system of overlaid shapes. The desert they loved represents and consumes them.

Aware of its own artificiality, the work earnestly embraces our candy-colored attempts to mediate the space of grief with flowers, cards, and condolences—the physical trappings of a cultural process of mourning, often our only recourse in grappling with the unexplained. Poppy Transitory is itself a fragile, momentary monument to the passage of imprints, the trace of Cindy and Gram, and to our moment, an undeniable passage of its own.

2016-07-27 18.51.15-2

Channeling

The most undeveloped of the new series, I see Channeling as a project destined for excavation in fall and winter, bleeding into 2017, just as the seasons echo an appropriate, often monstrous shift in perception and place.

I watched a lot of movies and TV growing up. Obviously. Hell, all of my work in maturity grapples with this, my “self” intricately connected to media. I recorded sounds, voices, music, from the TV screen and remixed them with portable tape players. I took pictures of the screen long before I knew it could ever be “art,” ever be socially relevant in any way. I understood the world, the interactions of people through media, parallel to my own physical dealings in the “real” world, through media.

Thus, I experienced a lot of films broadcast on TV, scrunched and reformatted for the mosaic mass audience. Of particular interest to me were the Universal films with tragic, despairing heroes like the Wolfman–monsters more human than the humans who attempted to subjugate them. Lon Chaney Jr. was a recurrent figure, and my familiarity with his form,  his voice, is tied to an experiential window that speaks to me both of childhood, and of survival-as-desperation; his characters are nearly always haunted, ineffectual. His lifespan nearly echoes my grandfather’s,  born the same year,  died three years after grandfather, before I was born, but after Cindy had died. Another fascinating shuffle of before, after tied to the other two series.

Each time I watched a reprised film, it reactivated the media in the present moment. Each time I watch one now, it’s like raising the media-material from the dead–revitalizing it in the present. Film supercedes mortality in a sense, both the original recording and in the re-engagement of older films… as if the characters, the actors, the movie sets and lived spaces, the flora and landscapes, are all reborn in perpetuity because of media.

I see this work dealing with living memory, re-emergence and the transitional states of bodies (and images) that are positioned between manifestation and death, between the archive and the actively engaged. Watching the performance of before, after, watching the performance of dead performers in lived, current space, is, in essence, a method of summoning. Channeling. Not unlike the Wolfman, who rises from death when hit by moonlight, the act of engaging material in the present moment reinvigorates it, reinforces its presence, its existence. It returns to vitality what has been lost.

Then there’s the added lore of film still impacting living memory. My memories of watching the films years ago–my new memories and connections, made when revisiting each film, when discussing and viewing, capturing and renewing–channeling the before into the after. This will be developed in the series. Artists Renee Green and Douglas Gordon deal deftly with this in different ways, and I am also turning again to their work for dialgoue.

Television as medium becomes, in itself, a medium (think spirit medium) spanning lived memory, experience and the inheritance of media culture as cultural and personal memory. Is watching a film akin to attending a media seance?

2016-06-04 20.45.36

 

With Channeling, I also see there is something in this utter, diligent sense of despair… recognition and denial, submission and resistance found in Lon Chaney Jr.’s character panoply.

Is it the curse of modernity? The desire to find a place within the chaos?

The deliciousness of silence, each image and its mutations are a recorded, but experiential point—there was the point lived by the actors and creators, the viewers and me as the manipulator, the literal time in which I am photographing and working with the raw digital bytes. The literal time it took to film and cut the original footage. This is the experiential point of both subject and manipulator, mortality and immortality.

 

The Cascade(s)

Second_Los_Angeles_Aqueduct_Cascades,_Sylmar

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.

Onward!

The Cascade(s) in Situ, Emergency!

The Cascade(s) in Situ, Emergency!

Remix and the Celestial Jukebox – The Contemporary Artist as Cultural DJ

elevator6Research Paper 1
Peter Rostovsky – Advisor
Fall, 2014

Remix and the Celestial Jukebox – The Contemporary Artist as Cultural DJ

EXCERPT – These are only the first two paragraphs, plus related footnotes!
To read the entire paper, please download or open the complete PDF File: RP 1 2.0_Web

We live in the age of remix. Not just an appropriative phase, but an era of remix as cultural mediation—where recombination is a fundamental approach to cultural exchange (Manovich 1). Remix is the language of the Information Age[1], the coinage of Post-Postmodernism[2], rooted in long-developing systems of commercialism and communication. The very fiber of our social connectivity rests in an endless rewrite of materials, mashups,[3] pastiche and database sensibilities, intrinsically tied to everything from Google searches to language, television, art and text.

Remix is a manipulation and integration of cultural space, wherein the author-reader generates (and regenerates) moments in a self-curated, postproduction world. The resulting experiential theater is populated by fragments drawn from diverse sources, spinning elements with a cross-cultural, archival impulse that is both eclipsing and fragmentary.[4] Remix in contemporary art is the ‘appropriation’[5] of the 21st century, no longer the re-photography of Richard Prince, but a mutable landscape that uses a vast media-archive of memory and material: referred to here as the Celestial Jukebox.[6] It is a manifestation of the filter bubble’s[7] “parallel but separate universes” and the ghost-in-the-machine of convergence culture (Pariser 5).[8] Remix is bigger than the art world, bigger than commerciality—an invisible, increasingly normalized framework that provides strategies for communication and interaction. Conscious use of remix allows contemporary artists like Jennifer & Kevin McCoy and Anthony Discenza to build an interrogative, self-reflective investigation of the Information Age itself. The artist becomes a cultural DJ, a manipulator of archival compulsions that leads to “a kind of hunter-gatherer milieu…” (Miller). Such artists draw from the Celestial Jukebox, remixing, mashing and re-contextualizing material—providing a “systematic reworking of a source,” grounding individual perspective in a de-centering of authorship (Manovich 3).  Investigating contemporary recombination also critically anchors my own body of video work, where remix and manipulation open dialogue about the nature of televisual space-time, recollection and iconographic culture.


To read the entire paper, please download or open the complete article as a PDF File: RP 1 2.0_Web

Footnotes

[1] Recognized as the period in human technological history following the Space Age and associated with the Digital Revolution.

[2] The period immediately following Postmodernism. Theorist Alan Kirby considers Post-Postmodernism, or Digimodernism, a paradigm shift that ruptures existing cultural relationships: “Digimodernism identifies as the critical event in contemporary culture the profound and shattering encounter between computerization and the text. Its most recognizable form is a new kind of digitized textuality—onward, haphazard and evanescent—that disrupts traditional ideas about authorship and reading…” (“Successor States…” Kirby). I would argue that it erodes the broader concept of ‘text’ itself, re-orienting the idea of the original.

[3] Common in music, a ‘mashup’ is a combination of elements, often overlaid, which results in a new composition that may retain recognizable elements of the sampled material. To cite a form of remix culture at its most ubiquitous, today’s ‘mashup’ page on Wikipedia defines the process as: “a song or composition created by blending two or more pre-recorded songs, usually by overlaying the vocal track of one song seamlessly over the instrumental track of another. To the extent that such works are “transformative” of original content, they may find protection from copyright claims under the “fair use” doctrine of copyright law.” The term ‘remix’ and ‘mashup’ are sometimes used interchangeably, though ‘remix’ offers are more complex description of the variability of appropriation, recombination and transmutation of elements than ‘mashup.’ ‘Mashups’ can also refer to hybrid, overlaid apps and programs (Manovich 1).

[4] DJ Spooky suggests that “our semantic web is a remix of all available information… the result is an immense repository—an archive of almost anything that has ever been recorded” (Miller).

[5] ‘Appropriation’ is the preferred art world descriptor, in place of  ‘remix,’ ‘mashup’ and ‘rewrite’—bound in part to cultural notions of ‘remix’ as copyright violation. ‘Appropriation’ grants a sense of acceptability. Theorist Lev Manovich believes “…‘remixing’ is a better term [than appropriation] because it suggests a systematic re-working of a source, the meaning which ‘appropriation’ does not have” (“What Comes After…” Manovich 4). When we remix, we rework previously existing cultural works (“What Comes After…” Manovich 2).

[6] “Celestial Jukebox” stems from a 1995 US Government white paper concerning media flow and consumer access. The paper “invoked the image of a technology-packed satellite orbiting thousands of miles above earth, awaiting a subscriber’s order—like a nickel in the old jukebox, and the punch of a button to connect him to a vast storehouse of entertainment and information through a home or office receiver combining the powers of a television, radio, CD and DVD player, telephone, fax, and personal computer” (Goldstein 187). Since then, theorists like Paul Goldstein and Lawrence Lessig have broadened this idea, adapting it to suit its obvious relationship to data pooling (Wasow). It describes not only services like Netflix or Hulu, but also the Internet, and the ‘Cloud.’ It encompasses an entire database—a universe—of information, images, sounds, video, experiences… it describes the Information Age itself, not an idealistic subscription-based service. It is Manovich’s cultural database (“What Comes After…” 5).

[7] Social theorist Eli Pariser refers to the “unique universe of information for each of us” (9), which are “parallel but separate” (5) as we navigate and extrapolate information and experience from the filtered digital experience. Search engines and websites use algorithms that constantly filter and adjust what we see, denying the idea of a free, democratic web, while simultaneously allowing us to completely privatize and customize our knowledge base.

[8]   ‘Convergence Culture’ is a concept developed by Henry Jenkins which describes a fundamental, information-age paradigm shift (243): “Convergence represents a cultural shift as consumers are encouraged to seek out new information and make connections among dispersed media content… spectators perform in the new media system” (Jenkins 3). It also recognizes a new kind of participatory culture, the fractured nature of parallel but separate realities and data streams (not unlike theorist Fredric Jameson’s recognition of language privatization) and the ability of culture recipients to “construct [their] own personal mythologies” from a stream of information (Jenkins 3). Convergence culture relates to an integration of media, data formats, art and styles—“convergence thinking is like interdisciplinary thinking” (Jenkins 12).

August Update

IMG_1304

The sun is rapidly setting on August and the light in New Mexico has shifted. Time to take inventory of my late-summer work.

I’ve been reading heaps of television and new media theory, continuing investigation into remix culture, appropriation, cultural structure and  theories of memory while also honing my video production skills. It seems I’ve been reading more this semester than any previous, which is saying something, as I’m always a prolific reader. My first research paper for the semester is centered on remix and the role of artist as cultural DJ (will share it soon).

I’ve also been developing a more final, conceptual outline of why my thesis contains three distinct elements that alternately access a related core. It’s connected to notions of television experience as a virtual mosaic, to Minkowski’s graph of space-time and to Lev Manovich’s three-screen theory. Too much to go into in this update, but it’s rapidly taking shape.

elevator8

Still from “Elevator (Finding a Way out of Here, I Hope)”

My studio work has been centered on developing videos, including massive back-end sampling, altering, generating and “painting” with moving media. So I Asked… and Elevator (Finding a Way Out of Here, I Hope) were developed during July and completed in August.

Many hours go into the scouting, capping and video remix process. Over the course of July and August I completed an obscene amount of tele-viewing time, scouring all 122 episodes of The Rockford Files, re-watching 78 episodes of Adam-12, 129 episodes of Emergency!, 7 episodes of Columbo, 4 episodes of Knight Rider, 22 episodes of The Greatest American Hero and 59 episodes of Simon & Simon. I say “obscene” simply because of the dismissive attitude television-viewing tends to invite. That’s a lot of TV (not even counting the episodes that were repeatedly scoured, broken down and disassembled).

Sound crazy? Research is always a little borderline, anyway. At least borderline obsessive for me. The television deluge served to reveal a bigger image of televisual structure, the function of television as mosaic (and as an extension of oral tradition) and as compositional flow. After a while, you see segments as painted moments in a longer, cyclical turn. This is very useful to the way I’m working with the painting and video.

Still from "So I Asked..."

Still from “So I Asked…”

The videos include layers of manipulated stills, altered footage, digital painting and sound that’s been sampled, mixed, remixed and composed using Audacity. I combined remixed television sound footage with my own sampled audio taken with a Zoom Microtrack recorder.

I’ve also generated hundreds of new screen caps and I’ve just started work on the second 38″ x 50″ painting.

I also experimented with contrasting present-day Google Street Views with show clips and discovered they lead in the wrong visual-physical direction for my 2015 thesis project, but are still fascinating on an urban archaeological level. During my research, I also found devoted fan bases, like the folks at the Official Dwight Schultz Fansite (A-Team Filming Locations), who do footwork to combine video stills with Google Street Views (and actual street shots the fans carve out on their own time), not unlike my experiments earlier this semester. However, their work is a collaborative effort, making use of crowd-sourced skills and knowledge–a compelling turn, and a confirmation that the iceberg revealed by my contrast experiment is meant for another project.

The overall concept behind the fansite research, however, is highly relevant to my thesis– a reminder that fictionalized, pop cultural narratives happened in real space. And here, the landscape becomes a site of activation, a catalyst for decade-spanning personal, regional and cultural interactions. Fans work with space-place memories, track down the actual locations, build new associations with the urban-archaeological discovery (and again, new memories and experiences), then share them as part of a collaborative digital space.

elevator7

Still from “Elevator…”

My mentor is also finalized–with thanks to Peter Rostovsky. I’ll be working with Kevin McCoy this Fall (of the collaborative duo, Jennifer & Kevin McCoy).

And here is a preview of the new painting, in its early-early phase.

IMG_3605---Copy

Final Mentor Meeting

IMG_2856

Leslie and I had our final in-person mentor meeting on Friday, May 23–and we really wrapped up a productive semester. Leslie’s help was pivotal. She asked incredibly important, relevant, often philosophical questions, allowing me to arrive naturally at fruitful answers, without ever feeling disarmed or pressured.  I was able to be myself, with expert guidance, and I’m hugely appreciative of her incredible wisdom and open-minded approach.

Since we had spent so many hours analyzing the digital stills this semester, we talked less about them as individual units this time and more as an overall, blended language.

We referred back to the set of stills as we talked about other developments, however.
Especially this one:

IMG_2857

 

The big painting is about 3/4 of the way complete and Leslie was excited about it.  My primary question was whether this was an avenue worth investigating, to which Leslie answered a resounding YES!

The painting started as a mutation of a side exercise Leslie had suggested during our very first meeting. Like the digital Cascade, it took on a life of its own and rapidly moved from exercise to breakthrough.

We talked about ways in which the painting spoke to digitality, without simply performing as a static copy of a digital printout. We also discussed line, color palette, the ambiguous, elastic-space environment and other formal and conceptual considerations. Leslie did an intense micro/macro reading of the painting surface, analyzing everything from moment-to-moment passages and color shifts to the language of mark-making and individual transitions–then we dug into its method of communicating the ambiguity of physical and social space so important to both the transitional television stills and my bigger body of work.

Overall, she was intrigued by its ability to stand up to reading both near and far, and by its fresh interpretation of the digital as counterpoint.

We could see a series of these shown in relation to video projection and digital stills–various expressions of the Cascade with different dialects, thus offering different avenues of analysis without being repetitious.

We also dug deeply into what seems the most important aspect of the painting: how it radically changed the way I work in paint.

I’m normally a fast painter, owing to my quick, responsive engagement with the content. I strategize the whole and attack. I know what needs to be done and I work to complete it as a continuous drive.

For example, we spoke about this older still life I had in the studio:

martin

 

For rendering the study above, I conceptualized the whole and dug in. It was a matter of fleshing out a complete idea where most of the planning and discovery takes place off-canvas.

What’s different with this new painting is my approach to resolving the image. Of course the style and purpose of these two works are different, but that’s not the point I’m making. In fact, Leslie pointed out that my treatment of the seemingly flat areas in the fruit study (especially the lower right, just beneath the right pomegranate) resemble the moment-to-moment shifts in the large painting (and the digital work). So, *I* am still very much doing what I have always done–just cracking it open and freshening it up.

For this new painting, I am combining three different Cascade stills, themselves already multi-layer combinations of other stills, drawings and prints.

Rather than combine them in Photoshop, print it out and copy in paint–I am mixing them in real time on paper. Deejaying, in a way. Sampling bits from each and whirling them together. I have an overall intention, but as I work into the painting surface, I am responding to each individual moment, to each brush stroke, to each passage in a new way.

I am no longer diving in to simply fulfill an expressive objective.

Instead, this painting is a process. It’s 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. 

It’s taking me much longer than painted works in the past, because it’s telling its own story as the story unravels.

IMG_2845

 

Leslie was thrilled. I seem to have made an important breakthrough which allowed me to apply my digital and printmaking way of thinking to the immediacy of paint.

It takes me out of my plan-ahead strategist brain and puts me in a new, adapt-as-you-go-within-a-bigger-plan method, a la The Art of War. So I paradoxically have a plan blueprint, but my movements change from hour to hour.

Taking away the rigidity of the finite plan in execution allowed the painting to open up, to speak to digitality, to speak to the concept–and Leslie and I both felt it’s an important avenue of investigation.

IMG_2858

We also talked about some of the first output Horizons (above). They came out way too dark, but Leslie encouraged me to let go of my dissatisfaction with the printing process and to look at them for what they are, for their scale, their internal nature and their “happy accident” color palette.

We analyzed them for a while, with Leslie suggesting what might happen if they were selectively excavated. Would a smaller snippet still speak to the whole? This is kind of like the micro zooms idea.

The long, desert-evoking horizontality is important in these and I’ll be printing a couple more to take with me to gauge interest. Leslie also suggested she liked multiple horizons stacked, just as Conor had mentioned last week.

IMG_2859

We covered a lot of ground, went back over many of our earlier discussion points from other meetings and Leslie rounded it all out by taking a personal interest in my preparation level for the residency. We tackled any concerns had for the upcoming trip and we discussed the nuts and bolts of getting the most out of even the most problematic critiques.

She genuinely cares about how confident I feel and how capable, equipped and ready I feel for the Fall semester and offered to meet again if I need it during the final week of May. I will be sending her updates on the videos I’m reworking, as well as the painting, but I think she prepared me well. Thanks, Leslie!