Steel Ice & Stone is a multi-media interactive installation.
Nine suspended LED panels and sensor-triggered sound create an environment for memory recall.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Mariana Cook

With less than two weeks to go and facing a mountain of obstacles pathetically mundane, I had to break my silence and begin posting again.

Another project had side-swiped me for a few months, and, while I thought I could shift gears quickly from one to to another, both projects are so intense that I had to shelve one for the moment.

So, in ten days I'm off to South America, where I will chase the life and memories of a centenarian throughout the hills and valleys of northern Colombia, the medical school in Santiago, and maybe the backstreets of Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte. The Brazil trip is a maybe because it's dependent on funds and time.

I will be gone for two months, but everything goes a lot slower in South America, and I might be held back by the technology.

In the meantime, I started amassing images and ideas; Mariana Cook comes to mind. Mariana's work fell under my eyes while I was in my last year of art school, and I've been a silent fan every since. Her portraits are magnificent, but for my purposes, her stony landscapes, so carefully considered, are sleepy storytellers, one boulder on top of the other, as if delicately building a life.

Cairns and stone walls are a staple of human existence; carefully fitting heavy, inorganic objects in the hopes they will never again move betray the intention as time passes, much as memories do.

Yet, memories do move, from different parts of our bodies and minds. They shift in outlook, sometimes needing a reminder or even a resurrection. The connection of one to another, forming a vague synapse--a hand holding--allow them to age together until rustled by another event.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Sensing Motion

A NYT article about a North Carolina professor achieving animal behavior capture through motion sensor got my attention. Scientists have been filming and recording animals in the wild for decades with remote control apparatus, however the motion sensor is a recent development.

As I embark on the new project, I considered the end result, a large projected image, and it's taking shape as an outdoor presentation. Is a motion sensor even needed?

Probably not. Motion sensors get their significance indoors for obvious reasons. Being outdoors necessarily nears something is moving.

Here I bring up the classic structural avant-guarde film, Wavelength. The 45-minute film has little motion, save for a few characters entering and exiting the film briefly in four different instances. Otherwise, it's a slow zoom toward the windows of a Bowery loft in 1967, when that side of town was decidedly raw. Years after the film was made, I was in art school up the block from there. That was the kind of place we students coveted but couldn't afford since its price had blown up a dandelion wisp of the slumming trend so loved in NYC.

The film was made by a Canadian filmmaker Michael Snow. I saw it in graduate school and loved it since, as a still photographer, it gave me the opportunity to observe the details of the film without getting wrapped up in a plot, characters or acting (movies are a difficult medium for me).

As the one beholds the room closing in, the germinating details etch themselves building the stage for the four intrusions of the characters, one of which at a point collapses dead and is discovered by others who had visited the room earlier. The film culminates with the framing of a picture of the wall of a wave in the ocean. Totally great. It's a classic.

Moving while not moving was important in SIS, and is turning into a central issue in FTS. Do memories move or are the memories precisely because they are not moving, frozen in the time space?

Friday, January 6, 2017

Projected Project

As I look to the spring, I'm ready to dive into FINDING THE SKY. A number of personal issues impeded my art-making endeavors but I've decided to turn my back on them and forge forward with my installation.

My last entry was made before the nation was turned upside down by our electing a complete moron to lead us for the next four years. I take responsibility simply because I'm an American. My fellow citizens went to the polls and made sure that the Man in the Chair would get rid of anything non-white; at least push them over the border or to the back burner.

Enough. Four, maybe eight years of who knows what. I'm tired of hearing it/thinking about it.

I was looking at the various light art festivals around the world: Glow in the Netherlands, InLight in Richmond VA, Lux in Helsinki, Festival of Lights in Berlin among many, many others. With the event of light-weight and energy efficient LED units, night festivals with zillions of lights are popping up like mushrooms.

An image from the 2016 Festival of Light in Berlin.
Finding information about this truly engaging
piece is difficult. More information is forthcoming. 
I list the four above because, after carefully combing through a good 20 of them, I sat back and cataloged what I was seeing. All the festivals above include free-standing, flat projected and 3D mapped light sculpture shows--some animated--in which images are perfectly patterned and projected onto huge government buildings. The ones above (and I haven't visited any of them yet) showed works that appear to apprise the environment in which they are in addition to offering consideration for the medium and the message it carries.

The greater majority, sadly, fall short here. The beauty is in the envisioning and innovation of truly spectacular art pieces; they're fully immersive and interactive with the audience but appear (on my computer screen in my warm, cozy apartment) vapid on emotion and correlation.

Sensational work is  to be expected when test-driving new technologies. Exploration is supposed to be a touch naive if it's to be the slightest bit charming. My issue is that most of the pieces lack two critical qualities: an artistic message--why did I do this? what am I saying (or trying to say?) AND why do I need a light sculpture the size of the Sydney Opera House to say it?

In other words, is what's being expressed related--in any way--to light, time, space, color, buildings and architecture, night time, public theatre or is this just another groovy gizmo for the tourists to bring "income to the municipality"?

The most impressive--even if a little over the top--is the 3D animated mapping at Spotlight--Bucharest International Light Festival. The video is five minutes long. 

More on this in the very near future. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Revving Up the Engines

As I empty space in the antechamber above my eyebrows, I gather information for FINDING THE SKY.

Mapping the ideas, the project manager in me keeps saying hold your horses! while the artist in me says take the plunge!

Time is so limited, however, and the desire to move this project forward is so great, that both passion and stoic organization will need to reside side by side like roommates in a studio apartment.

Tooling on the web this morning, I found a recording of the frogs in Barichara, Colombia, a region not far from where my project plans will bring me. The recording is the first step in building a sound archive. Right now, I'm gathering sound from the libraries of insects and frogs. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Random Flight

Only now do I post this, and I'm sorry I let it lapse.

On a day off (what that?) a few months back, I found myself strolling toward The Invisible Dog, an experimental art space in downtown Brooklyn. The art space is housed in a 30,000 sq-ft (2800 sq m) converted belt factory that has all the trappings of what's very much in style right now--hewn ceilings, reclaimed lumber floors, a rough but delicately designed combination of daylight, plants, books on shelves and comfy chairs.

The Gowanus Ballroom it's not--since it operates in tandem with Diptique, a purveyor of French fragrances, setting up a delightful environment for art intake. Rather than moving steel-working equipment to make way for artworks and performances, The Invisible Dog can dedicate itself to commissioning and exhibiting site-specific collaborations.

The one I stumbled on, sadly on its last day, was a huge, multi-media collaboration of a fascinating group of artists and non-artist creators, who carefully crafted, stick by stick, a fallen thorny jungle in Mesoamerica.

In ANIMA, artists Prune Nourry and Takao Shiraishi collaborate with magician Etienne Saglio, Valentine Losseau (dramatist and anthropologist), Raphel Navarro (artistic director) and Benjamin Gabri (scenographer) to create a mythical environment based on the legend of an indigenous Maya who lived decades ago.

The full story can be accessed at, but what I'd like to discuss here is the beautiful random flight of a firefly over the lake created in the installation environment.

First, the lead-up: Upon entering, the viewer walks into a long tunnel that descends quickly into total darkness. Ambient sound of birds and insects are sufficient to quell any fears of disorientation. The stay in the abyss is brief, since the path turns and opens to a rendition of an archeological ruin--the head of a Mayan figure, partially submerged, and whose reflection forms the image of the complete face, peacefully at rest.

In the middle of the lake flitters what appears to be a handkerchief with a small light within it--a firefly, and it turns randomly on itself in all elevations and directions. The image included does it no justice. [noted in red]

The firefly gives life to a remote, still chamber of the abandoned past; very much like a nuanced memory. Bouncing to and fro without pattern or path, it acts like the jump or one thought to another. 

Although I tried, I wasn't able to get in contact with the artist, so I have no details on this part of the piece--either conceptually or technically. If it ever is shown again, anywhere in the world, I will post it--since this work is the true embodiment of a fleeting awakening of the past.


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

It's Been A Year

New project on the horizon, called Finding the Sky, the story of a centenarian's memories.

I'm thinking about this project as random memory; its delivery is imagined as downloaded motion media; and the jump to video and random download will be the true experiment. Already in the throes of acquiring funding and searching for an exhibition venue, the piece is snowballing with concepts.

Starting from the beginning:

I met someone who was turning 100 years old. When someone lives to have seen a century pass by, tapping into memories becomes a different type of journey. As the day of his 100th birthday grows closer, the memories seem to coalesce.

What questions would I pose? Everything I could think of was painfully insipid:

"What do you remember as the most important event of your life?"
"What you remember most often?"
"Is there anything that happened in your life that occurred again in a different circumstance, different place?"
"Is there anyone you've known for your entire life--that you can remember?"
"Where do you remember a significant event occurring in your life?"

Note the two-layered roof to allow cool air to
enter from the top and the watery streets in front.
The front porch served as a sidewalk.

I did find out the person was born and grew up in a remote village in northern Colombia. A member of a large family, most of his siblings had lived to be over 90. Another older brother still lives with his wife in the town which has grown into a major city not far from the Panamanian border.

According to the blog from which this
image was borrowed, this house belonged
to a one of the French families of

The stories started slowly, but began weaving a web as the memories extended farther and farther into the past.

Some quick research revealed a French population in the area dating from when the Panama Canal was built--before Teddy Roosevelt and his bunch instigated the revolution that turned Panama into an independent country and the Canal Zone into US territory. Some photos show the slow plantation lives that developed from those of military or engineering tradition.

In slowly recounted tales, the man mused that
the childhood memories he cherished most were those that he no longer had access to: those of Model T's wading through the muddy streets, layered with the croak of frogs and crickets, the rustling of thick gardenia leaves in the trade winds.

All were gone with modernization, perhaps; extinct as anything too mundane to be remembered.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Shifting Priorities

"Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans". So wrote John Lennon in "Beautiful Boy", though the phrase may be borrowed from an older adage. 

Adapted to the current wave of events, I'd adjust it to "Life is what happens while you are busy making art". Not to be overly dramatic here, but the all-consuming task of getting the piece resolved carries sufficient responsibility. Add to that the craft, the operation, the promotion, through to its presentation, you've put everything on hold. Everything. And, I haven't even talked about money. 

Oh, yeah, money. Remember that? As an installation artist I'm acutely aware of the nagging need to pay bills...strongly aware that you can't sell what you do, the art you make. At best, you can give a prototype to a charitable cause and save a little on the taxes from your day job (bubbling bile). 
A little hard to see but leaning over with his sig-
nature hat and vest, Beuys, the exemplary teacher,
with students in the front yard of the Academy.

Friends who were at the Academy in Düsseldorf when Joseph Beuys taught there clung to anything that carried his fingerprint  as an investment--with the possibility to sell in the future...? I wonder if Bueys found this entertaining. I miss Germany. I really do.

Anyway, I'm in the process of finding new avenues for the work while thinking about a new installation. And, of course, putting food on the table in the ever-unstable real estate market in New York. The once-artsy-fartsy neighborhood where I live is now referred to as the Gold Coast, despite the presence of five art schools in a 10-block radius. With that, it ought to be noted, that the real art--the experimental work of all kinds--is being made in Brooklyn and spreading to the Bronx. Artists require space and public transportation to do their work. Queens still requires a car to get around most of it, so other than Ridgewood and parts of South Jamaica (both places I've lived), artists are gonna look at other options.

A colleague suggested a university gallery in the Midwest that's open to experimental works but the curator gets back in a few months. Another colleague gave me a few leads, and I'll follow them up--hoping for a chance to get the work up again. But I'm also in keen understanding that it's hard lend 1000 square feet of space to show a suspended work that comes along with sound and needs power. 

What was I thinking?

So, I'm shifting gears to pursue a public space willing to show a mere part of the installation--three or six of the nine panels (more bile). 

Dammit! The hardest part has already been done. Is this work gonna reside under my bed, too?