OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Miatta Kawinzi

Yield, 2016. Digital Photograph. Dimensions Variable

Interdisciplinary artist MIATTA KAWINZI gives thoughtful attention to rhythm, cadence and metaphor, delving into human malleability and responsiveness to time, language, physical space and sociopolitical context. She isolates, repeats and remixes sounds, words, hand gestures and whole body movements. In video, performance and photography, she reveals a universal human condition—that we all must interface with the surrounding world through our bodies—while also hinting that every-body does not have the same experience in this world. Miatta earned her BA in Interdisciplinary Art & Cultural Theory from Hampshire in 2010, and went on to earn her MFA in Studio Art at Hunter College of the City University of New York. She has been an Artist-in-Residence at Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts (Omaha, NE), Beta-Local (San Juan, Puerto Rico), Greatmore Studios (Cape Town, South Africa) and International Exchange & Studio Program (Basel, Switzerland). This summer, Miatta will debut a new sound/text/video installation in Of Soil and Tongues, a group show at the Hampshire College Art Gallery (Amherst, Massachusetts). The show runs from June 1 – October 1, 2017. Miatta is based in Brooklyn, NY, where she also works as a community teaching artist and museum educator.

OtherPeoplesPixels: In looking at your work in a variety of media—video, performance, sculpture, installation, text and photography—all together, I would describe it as poetic because of its attention to rhythm, cadence, repetition and metaphor. What does that word mean to you? Is that how you think about your own practice?

Miatta Kawinzi: I am definitely working within a framework of poetics. I am interested in poetics in terms of language, structure and conceptualization, which I think you’re picking up on. Words are line, language is a dwelling place, a phrase can be a journey with starts and stops. In my work, I play with spatially orienting thought in new ways. Poet Nathaniel Mackey wrote, "I tend to pursue resonance rather than resolution.” I have always felt affinity with this idea: to not be naively in search of easy answers to deal with the magnitude of the upside-down world, but to instead be willing to follow various strains of thought and feeling down different paths to perhaps uncover alternate ways of seeing and being. I also think about Audre Lorde stating that “poetry is not a luxury," and the ways in which, throughout my experience, words have consistently been a balm and salve for me in the face of sometimes harsh socioeconomic realities. The poetic becomes the through-line, the way to string things together and highlight points of connection.

In my work, I think about the rhythms of life, the repetition of history, how one thing can become something else. All of these notions for me are related to poetic impulses and poetry's ability to allow us to re-imagine our selves and our situations.


Star Spangz, 2013. HD Color Video, Sound.16:9, 04:12 min.

OPP: I was really struck by the visual imagery of language in Clay (2014), especially the (raffia?—not sure exactly what that is) dyed the same color as your lipstick. The chewing of it, the casual tossing away, the stuffing of it back into the mouth and then the spreading out and offering of it toward the camera. And then of course the connection—and disconnection—between language that comes directly from the mouth and language that comes from the fingers. Can you talk about language as it relates to sound and written text, both of which you use in your work?

MK: The blue material is indeed raffia! One thing I am invested in is tracing the way in which language can manifest in both verbal and non-verbal forms. How can language be embedded into other kinds of materiality, and how does communication take place through means other than verbal speech? In Clay, I was really interested in putting these different forms of communication alongside one another, all on the same plane. The kalimba as a musical instrument references a musical way of communicating, with roots in a certain African diasporic tradition. The fingers texting on an iPhone represent this other kind of digital communication, a way in which many people around the globe keep in touch in the contemporary moment. And there is spoken text in the video that is semi-audible and semi-obscured. Then the raffia references this physical manifestation of verbal language, making it tangible, able to be extended, able to become involved in a kind of dance with the body emanating from the mouth. Here and elsewhere I am constantly engaged in a dance between different forms of language as they originate from the body, from words, from place, from material.


Clay, 2014. HD Color Video, Sound. 16:9, 03:25 min.

OPP: You made this video while in residence at Greatmore Studios in Capetown, South Africa. How did the location, so far from home, feed into this piece?

MK: There are eleven official languages of South Africa, and many people are multilingual, so the location sparked new angles of consideration for ideas I explored in this piece. Cape Town is a very beautiful, dynamic and vibrant city, yet there are also these ongoing inequalities, and I am thinking about that tension in placing myself in front of the barbed wire in the video.

Regarding the audio, one of the ways through which I use sound in my work—my own vocalization, improvisation, analog/digital instrumentation, and remixing—has to do with my interest in the potency of wordlessness that nonetheless carries an emotional import. Often my work in sound goes in and out of legibility which relates to my interest in illuminating different kinds of knowledge, some of which can be mysterious or even unconscious, yet still resonant. I am also invested in exploring the act of remixing as a way of enacting alternative temporalities. . . to move beyond linear time, to stretch time, to hold time in different ways. It’s a way of working with the materiality of time.


But I Dreamt We Was All Beautiful&Strong, 2015. Color Video Projection & Sound on Loop in Corner. Dimensions Variable.

OPP: Last year, at another residency at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, you created Push & Pull, a “performative photography series.” Tell us what inspired this work and how it directly responded to the space.

MK: I was very excited to be granted a residency at Bemis. I went there from Brooklyn at a moment in which I had no physical studio space and very little space otherwise to make or think in. Upon arrival there, I immediately felt a sense of bodily unfolding through my access to a sizable private studio and large shared spaces, which directly inspired that photography series. I was thinking also about how there is a politic to all of this, to something as basic as having enough space to stretch in, and I wanted to utilize this access—while I had it—to explore the geometry of my body in relation to this open space. I was reading a book by Michio Kaku called Physics of the Impossible, and in the book Kaku was highlighting the ways in which things like teleportation could become possible under the right conditions. From there I began thinking about these ideas of possibility/impossibility not only in relation to the laws of science and theoretical physics, but also in terms of how they may relate conceptually to pushing against sociopolitical limits. The performative actions in the series are meant to embody this through bodily metaphor. 


Rhombus, 2016. Digital Photograph. Dimensions Variable

OPP: Can you address the fact that this is a series of photographs, not a live performance and not a performative video?

MK: I actually also created a live performance that explored these same ideas and created the series afterwards based on that performance. For me, it is quite difficult to capture the energy of live performance through documentation, so the photographs were a way through which that work could take on another life to be shared in a different way beyond the initial audience.


OPP: I’ve been thinking about the creation of these frozen movements as dance. . . but are they frozen moments from a fluid action or poses? What’s your relationship to dance, both in your art practice and in your life outside art?

MK: They are a mixture of both. I don’t necessarily consider myself to be a dancer because I never studied dance, but I do use terms like ‘embodiment’ and ‘movement’ to describe my approach to such work. I am very conscious of how much can be expressed through the body both in my art practice and daily life.


gatherin’ space, 2016. Color Video Projection & Sound on Loop, Aluminum Foil; Acrylic Paint & Oil Pastel on Wood Panel. 128 x 163 x 249 in.

OPP: Could you talk about the variety of hand gestures—reaching, drumming, climbing, worship and hands up, don’t shoot, to name just a few—in gatherin’ space (2016)?

MK: gatherin’ space is a meditation on ideas of containment and expansion as expressed through the language of hand gesture. I am thinking about the hands as bodily extensions through which we shape, make, feel, sense, probe, praise, labor, surrender, assert, resist. I wanted to bring all of these different connotations together on the same plane because they all exist together in the lexicon of the body. So much of how I experience the world emanates from the hands—to touch, to write, to grasp, to lift. It’s also a way of abstracting the body, of resting in that place of multiplicity. The hands have the potential to shape space and reality, too.


La Tercera Raíz, 2015. HD Color Video, Sound. 16:9, 9:22 min.

OPP: “the strength in yielding, in taking on the shape of that which sits stoically, to then regain one’s form.” This text, which comes from your video La Tercera Raíz (2015), is a beautiful articulation of a range of themes that run through your work: the power of fluidity, responsiveness, malleability, shape-shifting. How do these themes and the metaphor of water relate to how you think about the diasporic condition and cultural identity? 


MK: I think about diaspora as an active process of exchange, as a gesture, as a reaching towards. My mom is Liberian and my father is Kenyan, and I grew up in the U.S. South navigating multiple cultural and linguistic worlds, which informs my work. I have found power in being adaptable. I am also interested in how cultural identification is an ongoing, shifting context-based negotiation. This is part of why travel is important to me; it is a form of drawing in space, a mode through which to find and explore connections between place and culture, and to try to stretch the arms to skillfully balance both the similar and the disparate.

La Tercera Raíz arose out of my research into the history and presence of the African diaspora in Mexico during my participation in the 2015 SOMA Summer program in Mexico City. Research often goes into my work, and then there is a process of abstraction through which I generate writing that becomes another way of considering an idea, of opening it up through poetics and finding a more personal relationship to the topic at hand.

Toni Morrison wrote about how water has a memory and I am interested in this idea of material memory, in the sea as a bridge between worlds. I think we have so much to learn from the elements and how they exist in and interact with the world. Water bears so much, has such a consistent and deep presence, yet the sea also teaches me that weight is conditional. I can float in it and be suspended, held, weightless. Something becomes something else.

To see more of Miatta's work, please visit mkawstudio.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2011-2012 Artist-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include
shows at Siena Heights University (2013), Heaven Gallery (2014), the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (2014) and Witness, an evolving, durational installation at The Stolbun Collection (Chicago 2017), that could only be viewed via a live broadcast through a Nestcam. Now that the installation is complete, you can watch it via time lapse. Her upcoming solo show Sacred Secular will open in August 2017 at Indianapolis Art Center.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Snow Yunxue Fu

Still
2016
Video Installation, Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology

SNOW YUNXUE FU’s experimental animation and installations explore the digital Sublime, liminality and multidimensionality. She moves her viewers through virtual space, which has the capacity to be both gargantuan or minuscule in size, complicating our perception of physical space. She simultaneously grounds them in the tangible world by combining animation and architectural interventions in the gallery. Snow holds two BFAs, one from Southeast Missouri State University, Cape Girardeau, Missouri (2009) and the other from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2011). She also earned a BA from Sichuan Normal University, Chengdu, China and went on to earn her MFA in Film, Video, New Media and Animation from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2014), where she is currently a lecturer. Her solo exhibitions include Tunnel at Mana Contemporary (Chicago, 2015) and Still at Yellow Peril Gallery (Providence, Rhode Island, 2015). Most recently, her work was included in Abstract Mind: the International Exhibition on Abstract Art (CICA Museum, South Korea, 2016) and Group Format at Logan Square Arts Festival (Chicago, 2016). Through September 30, 2016, her work is on view in Vision and Perspective: Chinese-American Art Faculty Exhibition at Hongli Cheng Art Museum in Guizhou, Guiyang, China. Snow lives and works in Chicago.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Tell us about your background in Painting.

Snow Yunxue Fu: I grew up with two art educators as parents and a grandfather who was a well-known Chinese traditional painter and sculptor. I was painting as long as I can remember. I worked with Chinese ink painting, acrylic and oil pastel throughout my childhood, painting anything from abstraction to figurative. As a child, that was very much part of my life. Art is how I reflected what I saw during the day and processed things I experienced.

However, there was a break from art in my teenage years, mostly because of the heavy load of Chinese academic work from school. Plus, I had a bit of a rebellious period where, due to family pressure to continue the trade and become an art star, I resented the idea and focused on English. This actually paid off, since I came full circle in the States. It was not until I came to America for college that I started to paint again (on my own terms) and finally majored in oil painting. In my many undergraduate years, I was mainly a painter, but also had a multidisciplinary background in sculpture and photography before making the leap into Experimental 3D and installation.

Ray 1
April 2016

OPP: What led to that leap?

SYF: On a whim, I took this intro to Experimental 3D course at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. It was very different from my normal practice, but I found myself relating to it. What I had been hoping to express and explore in painting seemed to suddenly be freed and made possible through the limitlessness of virtual reality. It was like a light coming on or a door opening, and I never looked back. However, I brought with me a painter’s sensibility and process. I quickly replaced my canvas and paintbrushes with software like Maya and Realflow, and moved more and more into intentional abstraction. 

The main conversations in the painting world were not so connected to what I was trying to explore conceptually. Painting seemed burdened by always carrying around centuries of conversation and baggage. One would almost have to choose to fully carry that baggage or find a way to creatively dismiss it all to explore what one wished. Yet, when I came to 3D experimental animation, it was like a sudden discovery of a better language.

It was definitely a younger medium and virtual reality had yet to be explored in the art world. The conversation was more energetic. I think the painter in me will never die, but, as in my real life, one language may work better than another to express myself. With each language you learn, new perspectives are available to you to explore. Some languages seem naturally related to one another, and the language of installation was a natural progression from 3D work, as it is often projected into architectural space.

Figment
Experimental 3D Animation
July 2016

OPP: When looking at your work, I definitely bring the associations of non-art uses of 3D animation that I’ve encountered: scientific illustrations of the Big Bang and planetary movement, representations of the microscopic goings-on in our bodies, video games, CGI in Sci-fi movies. Do these references support or distract from your “Kantian quest to capture the experience of the sublime through the limited means of human consciousness especially within the contexts of the multi-faceted contemporary technological society”?

SYF: That is a really good question, and one that I have wrestled with. If I am talking to someone even slightly out of contemporary art circles, when I say I work with 3D animation, nine times out of ten, their response is, “Oh yah! Like Pixar and Toy Story, right?”  In contemporary art making, one has to take into consideration the commercial context of the medium they work with, especially with a medium so widely used in mainstream culture. By selecting 3D animation as an artistic tool, mainstream’s perception of it is unavoidable, but I actually do welcome that, especially as a starting point for conversation.

Some of the earliest comments of my work were, “It looks sci-fi,” and that the color choices were commercial – bright and beautiful. I like the notion that aspects of what is familiar in the mainstream become abstracted aspects in my work. I like John Chamberlain and the Pop artists, who used relatable images or objects in an abstracted way to draw viewers into greater perceptions and awareness beyond their mainstream selves.

Still
2016
Video Installation, Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology

OPP: In your recent installation Still (2016) at the Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology at Connecticut College, viewers were confronted by a floor-to-ceiling rift in the gallery wall, through which they could watch an animated video. Viewers could both peer directly into this rift or step back to experience how light and color from the video affected the atmosphere in the gallery. A rift can be dangerous, but it can also provide a new point of view. Could you talk about how you think about the rift?

SYF: A rift or gap to me is a starting point. It indicates new possibilities.

Still, as an architectural video installation project, finds Edwin Abbott’s novel, Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, as a primary inspiration. The story centers on a 2D geometric character, Mr. Square, who lives in a land of flatness. Through a series of encounters with a three-dimensional being, known as Sphere, he discovers a greater reality outside of his own 2D perception. Through some considerable yet considerate prodding from Sphere, Mr. Square begins to explore 3D space, and learns to adjust his perspective of himself.

In my installations, as for Mr. Square, the seemingly infinite world within virtual reality has to be made into something we can relate to in our world. I found the relationship between the infinite virtual world and the need for scale to be ripe with symbolism for our physical selves in relation to new perspectives, the infinite, and the sublime. To bring moving images into space, where the physicality of the images (size, ratio, brightness, and depth) have a relationship with the viewer’s body. The size of the viewer’s body becomes their basis for relating to the infinite virtual world, where the limitation of their height and the distance of their vantage point become rulers, which they measure the infinite realm suggested in the projections or screens.

Rift
April 2016
Experimental 3D animation for single-channel projection

OPP: Is it a metaphor?

SYF: My work offers a metaphor for the human being’s existential relationship to the larger world. Extending out from the pictorial and expanding into the land of virtual reality. The projections and installations become metaphors for the human physical perception, by which the quality of the sublime is framed, inviting the viewer to physically and mentally enter into a liminal Gordon Matta Clark-like interior within a digitally constructed space.

In the same way abstract work can at times appear cosmic yet microscopic, the experience of the viewer encountering the liminal space can be a metaphor for our perceptions related to our practical relationships with each other, not just our cosmic existential relationship to all of reality. Like Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, we have to choose to accept our limitations to grasp realities beyond them. This, to me, is something very relevant today. For example, with the racial strife happening in the U.S. right now, both sides have to strive and choose to move beyond perceptions they were born into and arrive at a greater understanding, one that celebrates their uniqueness, but moves into a new and greater realization of what they need to do to end the problem. Approaching and exploring such rifts can be dangerous, but it is necessary. To acknowledge the rift, and to begin exploring its untold wonder, is to acknowledge we are on the other side. Like in the cave, people can resist this vehemently, but for those who reach, they begin a process of discovery that we need in contemporary global culture.

Access
Experimental 3D Animation
September 2012

OPP: How do you approach sound in your work? Some animations have it and others don’t.

SYF: As a former painter, sound was not an immediate concern going into 3D. Now it is quite obvious. Sound continues to be an area of exploration for me. My process is quite intuitive, so there are times sound seems to be a natural extension of the work and other times not. Like with mainstream viewers’ perception of 3D animation, media natives that have experienced digital media and sound from near birth, tend to expect sound when they see a moving image. Whether sound is or is not used, its presence or absence can help viewers arrive at a particular awareness of themselves in relation to the work.

When I do use sound, I usually start with recording environmental sound or I use recordings from various sources and then edit them on software like Logic. I find there is a draw for my work to combine sounds at opposite ends of the spectrum – sound based in the environment and sound that is fully synthetic. And that relates somehow to the experience I want my viewers to have: either fully immersed in the visual and audible elements of my work, or stopping to explore why there is not sound and how it relates.

Solid 4
Experimental 3D animation still
January 2015

OPP: Does your exploration of an abstracted “digital realm” have implications for the way digital technologies are embedded in our everyday lives?

SYF: Definitely. The majority of digital technology has practical uses in our daily routines. How can I do this efficiently? How can I get this information the fastest? How can I connect with this group of people? These questions are often answered by “looking down”, focused on a specific place in time, a screen, an app, a watch. It very much reflects a western capitalist consumerism, though, in my work, I am more fascinated with the idea of conjuring an experience of the infinite in nature – like what happened when you saw the ocean for the first time or climbed to the top of a peak. These experiences reflect the questions we face when our finite selves meet the infinite. The digital virtual world parallels this stage. Everything in the virtual world is made up of singular finite 0’s and 1’s, yet they grant the virtual world infiniteness, as in Maya where the X, Y, and Z axes extend forever. The digital realm, therefore, is an excellent platform to hold conversations about the significance of our personal/interpersonal and existential/everyday selves.

To see more of Snow's work, please visit snowyunxuefu.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Form Unbound, a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, closed in December 2015 at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL). In March 2016, Stacia created a brand new site-responsive installation for SENTIENCE, a group show at The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art. Her work will be included in SHOWROOM, curated by Edra Soto, at the Chicago Artists’ Coalition as part of the ANNUAL, on view from September 16 - 29, 2016.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Michael Paulus

American Endurance (The Creep)
12 panels, approx 25" by 90" with spacing
2015

Interdisciplinary artist MICHAEL PAULUS works in video, painting drawing and sculpture. From his slow, lulling videos of repetitive phenomena to his pithy, layered drawings of the imagined skeletal systems of well-known cartoon characters, he expresses both awe at the natural world and criticism of the constant human drive to manipulate it. Michael's videos have been screened nationally in Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; and Austin, Texas and internationally in Taipei, Taiwan; London, England; Banff, Canada and Basel, Switzerland. Most recently, Wind Farm was included in the Gödöllo International Nature Film Festival (2015) in Gödöllo, Hungary. Michael is currently hard at work on a collaborative, multi-media project with Glenna Cole Allee that examines "the ghostly remains of the annexed people and township from the Hanford Reach." In 2015, he exhibited work in Obsidere, curated by MicroClimate Collective in San Francisco and had a solo show called Claimed, Found and Gifted at Oranj Studio in Portland, Oregon where he lives and works.

OtherPeoplesPixels: You work in drawing, sculpture, painting and video. What’s the underlying thread tying together all your work in various media?

Michael Paulus: I’ve never had a very disciplined studio practice, investing in technique and familiarity with a chosen medium. I’m generally restlessness with sticking with one medium. I do recall very much my foundations professor Greg Skinner at Cornish College in Seattle impressing upon me to “choose the medium to suit the vision, not the other way around.” He was a conceptual artist coming out of the post-minimalist 60s.  Actually, I came back to visual art about 15 years ago after burning out on the two-dimensional image and the limitations of illusion, which brought me to sculpture after a couple-year-long hiatus, during which I was more concerned with creating audio compositions. 

The mediums do differ throughout, and the work tends to be motivated by a respect of this natural world, as well as a critical view of the awkward attempts we humans make to define and control it.

Tweety
Fig. 7

OPP: You’ve drawn the imagined skeletons of 22 well-known cartoon characters in Character Study. Does personal fandom play into how you selected your subjects or is it more about the bodies themselves? Can you also talk a bit about the urge to deconstruct childhood icons?

MP: The cartoon skeletons were really an exploration and experiment to deconstruct iconic figures from my childhood. In their day, these characters were stand-ins and figureheads for many. Actually, I never had much interest in comics, and I really do not like the act of drawing, so that project was a bit of a challenge for me. I had the notion to do somewhat literal drawings of their very physical bodies (skeletons in this case) in a kind of medical or devinci-esque rendition and apply a hinged, translucent digital overlay of the flat and colorful cartoon image over the top, intentionally retaining the pixilation and artifacts that came with them when pulling the figures off internet searches. The intent was to have an onion skinning, transparent layer with the drawing underneath, like the anatomy books I paged through as a youngster with the various Mylar layers of circulatory, nervous, cardiovascular systems, till finally one is left with an opaque skeletal system, which cannot be denied.

I chose Charlie Brown and Hello Kitty first, as they were both very iconic and grotesquely distorted from the original human or animal from which they were derived. For the rest of the series I did the same. I retained the general skeletal system of whatever their actual origins were, regardless of how anthropomorphically derivative of a cutesy human they were with speaking mouths and huge eye sockets.

Vertical Migration
HD video
4min, 15 sec.
2014

OPP: It seems you’ve been focusing on video work in the last few years. Videos like Vertical Migration (2014), Wind Farm (2014) and Dip (2013) all have a slow, contemplative quality. To me, they are all about the value of slowing down to look at what we might be missing and the beauty of cyclical repetition. Earlier videos like The Journal of John Magillicutty or: The Time Afforded To One Lucky Enough To Be Living Comfortably (2006) and The Preoccupied Occupant (2009) have all those same qualities plus humor and a little absurdity. Thoughts?  

MP: Well, I suppose I tend to look at this life a bit distanced. Both critical and amazed at what it is all about.  And I certainly like combining contrasts and the marriage of opposing elements,  kind of a ‘more than the sum of the parts’ kind of thing. 

So, yes, there are some outright absurd and comical elements in contrast to and as a kind of veil over the profound. It’s possible that I’m self-consciously masking spiritual leanings I have or constructing a retainer in case I stray too far. I grew up with contrasts in a family of Catholic faith but where science and logic was king. I am conscious of this instinct to manipulate and control the world around us: designed dog breeds, damned rivers, foie gras, binary codes. The cyclical repetition is a result of this constant. I suppose, it’s a kind of a meditative response in the face of absurdity or incomprehension.

General paranoia in our culture and surveillance flavor my recent work. I am currently working on a couple projects examining the paranoid undercurrent. One is a small but ongoing attempt to finish a video where I am matching shot for shot the opening sequence from the ubiquitous movie The Shining. I am matching the locations and the blocking of the movie’s ominous, helicopter eye in the sky intro sequence as it looks down, following the subjects as they wind up the mountain. . . but in this case looking back up at it. 

Another very multi-media project is working with artist Glenna Cole Allee on an interactive piece that examines the ghostly remains of the annexed people and township from the Hanford Reach in what became The Manhattan Project’s plutonium-producing mega-site in the scablands of Washington state—now also the notorious Superfund cleanup site. It’s a large undertaking incorporating massive stills, video, projected audio elements spoken from natives and some sculptural constructions.

Grasping Right and Grasping Left: Hands of Abraham
Watercolor on rag paper
2015

OPP: Please tell us about your most recent body of work Claimed, Found and Gifted. What’s the significance of the blades of grass your drawn versions of the hands on the Lincoln Memorial? Why have you revisited Abraham Lincoln again after a decade?

MP: Well, I was offered an opportunity to exhibit some new work along with existing pieces so I decided to explore where my head was at 10 years prior in a show I did titled The Stars and Abraham. I found myself a bit perplexed in how I had merged the myth and popular vestige of Abraham Lincoln with astrology and its arbitrary symbolism. More to the point, of how they relate in Americana folklore and institutions for the faithful believers in both. I certainly held Mr. Lincoln in high regard since childhood for his virtue and fortitude. Most of this was drilled into children in grade school it seems.

Honestly, it was a bit of an awkward exercise with that association between the two; comparing Lincoln’s vacillation between right and wrong, this and that with the union and slavery. Anyways, I borrowed from Lincoln again. In addition to the cascading stovepipe hats upon pretzels and hotdogs, I inserted blades of very suburban, green grass clenched in the Lincoln memorial hands—just more Americana from a child’s backyard looking up at the sky. And, as a counterpoint to the somewhat austere and critical renditions involving Abraham, I created large, rag-paper fans in full, saturated, color from fabric dye as a celebration of his sensual and feminine counterpart, Mary Todd. . . or, my creation of her into this complement to him.

The exhibition title Claimed, Found and Gifted refers to the idea of American expansionism westward, manifest destiny and eminent domain. One piece, the broken and elongated pop American tchotchke black panther titled American Endurance—(the Creep) is basically the title piece.

Rorschach in loft foyer
96 Blots with designer and artist Trish Grantham.

OPP: Your painted walls resemble wallpaper in their repeated patterns of flowers and Rorschach blots, but each image is uniquely hand painting. Some are the interiors of private homes; others are in bars and restaurants. Did these folks seek you out or did you bid for the jobs? Can you offer any practical advice for artists who want to do commissioned work?

MP: I have been doing work like this for a while. I first began with commercial work in a more corporate environment, designing and building permanent art installations for the offices and conference rooms of a large company.  The patterned “wall paper” painting began really with Angle Face bar in Portland, Oregon, owned by John Taboada and Giovanna Parolari. It’s kind of a tweak on the current trend of wallpaper and repeat patterns, but with an application by hand so that each motif is unique.

Local designer Trish Grantham conceived the Rorschach blots. The Rorschach blot-inspired work I particularly like in that the context—often a residence—plays into the reception of the work. One peripherally ‘feels’ a delicate pattern of flowers surrounding you like conventional wallpaper when entering a space and then, once taking a closer look…
 
My fine art practice and discipline as I said earlier is lacking at times and I consider myself aligned with a design instinct more than I would have appreciated when I was younger. Do I actively search out paid work like this? Not so much. That is a great benefit of the World Wide Web really, in that it is very helpful for individuals dealing in visual images.

To see more of Michael's work, please visit michaelpaulus.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Form Unbound, a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, closed in December 2015 at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL). Most recently, Stacia created a brand new site-responsive installation for SENTIENCE, a group show at The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in March 2016.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Kyle Triplett

Test Dream
Backlit Digital Print
24" x 48"
2016

Combining digital projection, wood and ceramics, KYLE TRIPLETT evokes vast, outdoor places within the confines of the gallery. The romantic, the picturesque and the artificial are foregrounded in his simulated landscapes, but each is very much a real place. His backlit digital prints, which began as documentation of his installations, capture the wistful, longing figure in relation to his created spaces. Kyle received his BFA from Southeast Missouri State University (2008), a Post-Baccalaureate certificate from Louisiana State University (2009) and his MFA from Ohio University (2013). He's been an Artist-in-Residence at Red Star Studios (2015) in Kansas City, Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts (2014) in Newcastle, Maine and Kansas State University (2013-2014). His most recent solo exhibition False River just closed in March 2016 at Yeiser Art Center in Paducah, Kentucky.  Kyle's backlit photographs are currently on view until May 21, 2016 in the group show Garden Party, alongside a collaborative sculpture with Rain Harris (also of OPP blog fame), at the Belger Art Center in Kansas City, Missouri. Kyle lives and works in Ruston, Louisiana.

OtherPeoplesPixels: In your statement, you say "I am interested in producing work that is specifically of place, as opposed to work about place. That is, asking questions and responding to the ‘virtual here and there’ rather than traditional ideas of site specificity." Could you parse this out further?

Kyle Triplett: My installation work is rooted in the desire to create place. I’m interested in using the space of the gallery as a platform to create an imagined, constructed landscape as opposed to recreating a known or remembered experience. The work is site-reactive in that the gallery only dictates the size of the piece. Other than that, the work is not about a specific site. It’s about constructing a structure that attempts to hit most of the notes that a real landscape does. I approach the work with the understanding that it’s fundamentally impossible to recreate nature, but I think there is something compelling in the attempt and failure. The number of individual elements that make up a scene is a little maddening, but again, there is something interesting in the attempt to create a landscape one single grass blade at a time as in Untitled, OH #8.

Untitled, OH. #8
Ceramic, Wood, Cloth, Projection
32ft L x 16ft W x 12ft H
2013

OPP: You employ ceramics, wood and digital projection to create immersive environments. What was your first medium and how did you come to this balanced combination of the digital and the tactile?

KT: My first experience with ceramics, like most, came through pottery. I took a ceramics class in high school and really enjoyed it. I took another ceramics class in college after three years pursuing a degree in American History and haven’t left it since. At the beginning of the last semester of undergrad, I shifted away from pots and started making ceramic-based mixed media sculpture. I started playing with digital tools shortly after starting graduate school at Ohio University in 2010. For the first batch of work, I created ceramic objects onto which I projected a digital surface. That work morphed into larger installation pieces. I can honestly say I had no interest in working this way prior to graduate school, but I deliberately chose a graduate program that was concept driven rather than anchored in a specific material in order to have more flexibility with my work. I started playing with space as a material due in large part to the spacious critique rooms available for installation-based projects and a desire to work on a larger scale..

The balance of digital and tactile is still a struggle. Because I’m interested in working on a landscape-sized scale, I’m always searching for something that feels substantial or big in the work. Sometimes that manifests as nine thousand wooden dowels with pinched clay on the end as in Once a Day or as a large projected live video feed as in Untitled, OH. #7.

In Other Fields, SD. #1
Ceramic, Video, Digital Projection, Wood
Dimensions Variable
2013

OPP: The images titled In Other Fields appear to be documentation of installations (based on how the media is designated), but they are quite evocative as photographs? Can you explain this work for those of us who have only encountered it online?

KT: While I was working on large installation pieces in graduate school, I became interested in the documentation images I was making to record the work. Those documentation images morphed into creating staged images. The first few from 2013 were both documentation images as well as specific installations designed to be photographed. They were a way to work through ideas. These projects allowed me to interact with a site as an installation and to create images of that interaction that could stand alone as independent works themselves. Since 2014, I have been creating images that are solely shown as backlit digital prints. I am attempting to do the same things with these prints as with my larger installations. The digital images portray a built environment with handmade ceramic components. Conceptually, I am interested in presenting a moment of contemplation and longing while also presenting a window in the image leading to a different place, such as an in Tulpomanie.

Once a Day (detail)
Clay, Wood, Light
48ft L x 24ft W x 6ft H
2015

OPP: Fields are visual staples in your work. They show up as video projections and as ceramics. Once a Day (2015) and Untitled, OH. #8 (2013) are examples. I'd like to hear your thoughts on fields, both how you use them in your work and how you experience them in your life.

KT: I grew up in western South Dakota: fields and open spaces are very much ingrained in me. I don't know that fields really specifically registered with me when I was younger, but I remember feeling literally and figuratively a long way away from a lot of things. 

Beyond that, a field is a single space, demarcated by use or purpose. A field is a place. I think about place as defined by three elements. First, a specific location is needed: a here and there. The second is a locale, the material setting in which social relationships take place: a wall, a road, a field. The final element is “a sense of place,” the subjective and emotional attachment a person or groups of people have to a place. This final requirement begins to function conceptually rather than as a social or graphic reality. As an artist I am interested in ways that I could construct and provoke this subjective and emotional attachment in a viewer. . . or at the least a sense of familiarity or distinctiveness.  A field is a tract of land, which makes me think about distance and time. A field as an image tends to look like everywhere and nowhere simultaneously. 

The work that is titled In Other Fields is in large part about longing or yearning to be some other place, be it in time or space. Each piece in the series presents a figure in a given place interacting with an image of someplace else. The constructed objects that make up the piece are, much like the installations, again this attempt to recreate nature or another place.

In Other Fields, KS. #1
Backlit Digital Print
24" x 48"
2013

OPP: What are you working on right now? What's on the horizon?

KT: I’ve just finished up a busy run of exhibitions. I had a solo show at the Yeiser Art Center in Paducah, Kentucky where I was able to put up a new installation. The piece was a companion to the installations Once a Day that I did last year. The new piece, titled False River, employed a similar structure as the one used in Once a Day to divide the gallery rather than fill the space completely. False River is a very long and narrow lake in South Louisiana that was once part of the Mississippi River and that has since been cut off. The name caught my attention because it describes something by what it is not, but there’s also irony behind it. It’s interesting to live in a state that has a very unique relationship between land and water. Nothing is solid, and it feels like there is water everywhere.

I teach full time at Louisiana Tech University, so summer break brings welcomed studio time. This summer I will be heading to Bechyne, Czech Republic for an international ceramic symposium in July. I am currently researching different milling methods using a CNC router setup on ceramic surfaces as a way of potential manufacture. This could open up some avenues for creating more complex pieces. Teaching at a university with a strong architecture program has also got me thinking about different ways that my work can become more public by incorporating it into interior design.

To see more of Kyle's work, please visit kyletriplett.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Form Unbound, a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, closed in December 2015 at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL). Most recently, Stacia created a brand new site-responsive installation for SENTIENCE, a group show at The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in March 2016.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Javier Carmona

Tavola Dialogue, Understudy from In the Arena
2015

JAVIER CARMONA’s photographs read like stills from motion pictures, hinting at the process of their own production. He directs and performs with actors in scripted scenes in rented apartments in far-away countries. In recent projects, he performs the character of Xavier, whose navigation of romantic relationships is an exploration of language, gesture and intimacy, both between humans and in relation to the cultural specificity of geographic locations. Javier earned his BFA from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago in 1994 and his MFA in Photography from The University of New Mexico in 1997. He has exhibited extensively throughout the United States, Mexico and Italy, and his work was most recently seen in Front and Center, the culminating show for the Center Program Residency at Hyde Park Art Center. In 2016, Javier will have solo exhibitions at Galería de Arte Contemporáneo, Secretaría de la Economía in Mexico City and The Photo-Four Gallery at South Suburban College in South Holland, Illinois. In March 2016, he will present Making a Scene: Towards an Actor’s Method for Still Photography at the National Conference of the Society for Photographic Education. Javier teaches at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois and lives in Chicago.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Could you expand on your notion of an "epic picture?"

Javier Carmona: It’s my reaction to the limitations placed on photographs by defining them as categories. There’s a part of me that loathes talking about pictures in terms of portrait, still life, landscape. Curators seem insistent on cataloging an image as a way of assigning its meaning. I don’t know how to answer the question, “Are these portraits?” I can’t bring myself to teach that way. I don’t get it.

I’d rather address the picture as a temporal phenomenon; an epic picture negotiates a narrative not bound by time. The still photograph is decontextualized time, even though we think of it as originating from a linear sensation of it. I anchor the still picture in a dialogue with the moving image. In cinema, the methodology of fusing the external world with the rehearsed intentions of a performed action is so much more of an accepted circumstance. My work brings that audience expectation of cinema to the still photograph.

Years ago, in my dissertation, I paraphrased Brecht’s idea of the Epic Theatre and began using the phrase Epic Photography; the epic picture is one which looks for a renewed, human expression of the actual and resistant world. In this sense, our phones take pictures, but they’re often obstacles to our tangible surroundings. I’ll take the sensual and the social over the virtual.

But let me be clear: it is possible to make an epic picture with a cell phone. Epic is not about scale or file size. I'm for any device that engenders contact with the external place. I'm more critical of our self-hypnosis with gadgets; our debilitated social behavior because of them. My principle camera these days is my Samsung Galaxy Note. It's the biggest cell phone they make, but still discreet. It makes the initial mark, like location scouting."

Love Streams - an Italian play > Sequence one: The Sea

OPP: Are your characters archetypes or individuals?

JC: The key word is character. Even when I perform in front of the camera, I play someone named Xavier. That simple letter change—from Xavier to Javier—allows me a conceptual distance. I can embrace an affectation other than my own.

So many of the recent projects, like In the Arena, have started with scripts in which the actors play characters. I’ve noticed my impulse to give them X names: Xoraida, Xenobia, Ximena, Xan, Xochitl. The X finds variable pronunciation; perhaps an extension of a mutable identity. It’s the mathematical unknown. It serves to exoticize these characters for an audience. Perhaps the characters approach the archetypes of audience expectation—an ethnically ambiguous visage we could call Latin.

Love Streams-an Italian Play > Sequence three: Inland
2013

OPP: As the viewer, I feel a sense of longing that I also read in the characters. I'm longing for the rest of the story—all the parts between the captured moments. . . the moments I don't get to see—and they seem to be longing for connection or belonging. I am drawn in by the intimacy and vulnerability in the images themselves. What roles do intimacy and vulnerability play in the process of making the images?

JC: I tell myself to make straight forward pictures about what I don’t understand. That requires risk and yes, I hope, emotional vulnerability. I want the characters to examine what they don’t know about each other and the circumstances of their surroundings. The scenarios are largely written that way. It’s important the characters suddenly realize they are not where they once were, that they’re on an indifferent street in Mexico City or an arresting intersection in Rome.

I had a long habit of going to Mexico to photograph, but a handful of years ago, I began renting furnished apartments to extend my stay there as long as it was sustainable. I wanted to have a resident’s intimate knowledge of the place I had been born, but only knew in brief, albeit regular intervals throughout my life. Even before I knew to articulate it, I longed to create a cinematic illusion of what that other reality might be. So the Xavier character emerged as one negotiating a romantic relationship. The series, Mexican Cinema evolved into something I called The Enamorates / Los Enamorados. I thought of Xavier’s female foils as extensions of this intimate knowledge. To know Ximena, was to broach the immediate circumstance. Do the female characters become embodiments of ideals? Maybe initially, but only as a starting point.

Love Streams-an Italian Play, my ongoing work in Italy, initially came from an opportunity to teach in Florence during the summer. There emerged a parallel search for this intimacy you’re perceiving. In this case, it was a culture that resembled my own, but different enough to pose the obstacle of language toward understanding. I liked the prospect of being a chameleon there, of being mistaken for an Italian. On the streets, I would be asked for directions as if I were a resident; inevitably this informed the Xavier character. In Italian there is no letter J. So it was easier to be Xavier.

In Italy, I really began to think mostly in gestures and physical actions. I am still hoping to get that idea right: how two people might learn to negotiate emotion, despite communication.

The in-between moments you describe are the ones in which I think photography works best—when it resists explanation and revels in ambiguity. There’s more to be learned by ambiguity than a straightforward recitation. While I have been shooting these scripted scenarios to eventually also be a proper short film, I fear the ambiguity of the still may be lost once the image begins to move and explain itself.

Bucareli Trailer, Pt. IV from Mexican Cinema
2013
OPP: I'd like to see the film because I’m ultimately curious about these characters for whom I've created my own stories. I’ve filled in the blanks, and a part of me wants to know if I’m right. On the other hand, my own longing to know and the way your still photographs resist my REALLY knowing seems to be the point. Is this related to what you meant by the “resistant world?”

JC: I'm often told, "These photographs should be films," implying this narrative speculation is not the purview of the still. I disagree. That longing you're describing, is much more indelible in a still that isn't replaced by the next moving frame. Photographs resist explanation as much as the external world resists providing the answers.

But ultimately the "resistant world" deposits the rehearsed gesture "on location," inviting an interaction with elements out of one's control, making credible what is enacted in the process. It's what I see in Cassavetes or French New Wave films made on streets, without permission and probably why they were my central influences.

Sub from In the Arena
2015

OPP:  You occasionally use subtitles, sometimes in English and sometimes in Spanish. Where does the text come from? Do you think about audience when deciding which language to use?

JC: The text is pulled directly from the scripted scenes. The sequence of stills which make up In the Arena, highlights the physical gestures being performed. In the film version I’m editing, I’ll likely have the entire narrative subtitled regardless. Very likely the text will fluctuate in language and waiver in the accuracy of its translation. It would become a second dialogue over the spoken one.

I don’t mind that the subtitles or even the titles for the images go untranslated for what is initially an English-speaking audience. If they’re interested, they’ll use the universal translator on their phones. Otherwise, it’s another layer of ambiguity. Is it mischievous to give untranslated Spanish or Italian titles to works seen mostly by an American audience? Hopefully it makes them self-conscious of their role as an audience. To me it broadens the definition of what should be a mainstream experience of art viewing. It’s asking the audience to consider more information as part of who they are.

Still from Los Enamorados
2013

OPP: Language and translation is just one part of comprehending work that bridges multiple cultures. You've exhibited throughout the United States and extensively in Mexico City. Is your work understood differently in Mexico versus the U.S.?

JC: Is the work understood differently in Mexico? Oh gods, yes! And that’s so refreshing. Having those actual conversations with different audiences is the heart of the dialogue the work is looking to engage. As if the work itself provides the pretext to interact socially with people I’d like to know further. Despite my Mexican birth or fluency in Spanish, Mexicans regard me as an American artist, with the accompanying exoticism. I’m intrigued by how I’m perceived in these different places. It feeds the character. When I started going there as a young artist, gaining social acceptance in my country of origin was an unspoken motivation; exhibiting work was a way to do that. Now I go find a community I miss enormously.

In the States, many art people go straight to gender in this work and are often unwilling to allow me the conceit of playing a fictional character. I showed Mexican Cinema to a book publisher, who felt the work was mostly about surrounding myself with beautiful women and dismissed it outright. I’m still baffled by that. I couldn’t get her to engage with the importance of location in the evolving narrative. Was she culturally intolerant or offended by a perceived sexism?

I tend to not have the work explain all these references, for fear of becoming didactic. Ambiguity is king. But it comes at a cost when the audience isn’t aware of the cultural baggage you’ve arrived with.

I exhibited a few stills from In the Arena in Mexico City recently. They got it. They were eager to have a conversation about the telenovela and how it affects the Mexican expression of emotion. There’s an acting school in Mexico City that teaches a melodrama class called Bofetada y Lagrima, which focuses on the slap and crying for the camera. I think a discussion of that in an American context would be extraordinary. 

The Reforma Rehearsals, Part I
2013
Video
13:08 minutes

OPP: What about specific geographical references that American audiences might not get, such as the Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City? How does this location add another layer of meaning in The Reforma Rehearsals, Part I and II (2013)?

JC: The Paseo de la Reforma is Mexico City’s principle artery. It’s one of the busiest—maybe ten lanes in some stretches—stitching together the many monuments of the city’s identity. To have a film, where an actor, walks as slowly as possible in real time against the current of the fastest traffic, is akin to reclaiming an individual presence in this vast city. It takes her nearly 15 minutes to cross 50 feet in the volatile context of chance occurrence. That’s epic, as I’d like to think of it; the gesture is not bound by time.

Declination Movement, 09 from Casuals of the Sea
2015

OPP: I initially read your work more literally as about intimacy and vulnerability, gender roles and possibly archetypes from the telenovela, which I had an inkling about, but didn’t feel well-versed enough to comment on. I was particularly curious about the vulnerability of the Masculine. But now, I see the romance as an allegory for cultural and geographic belonging. What I initially thought of as a longing for human connection, I now see as a more general longing for belonging. Thoughts?

JC: Belonging? That works. . . You know, you're reminding me that I've rarely felt comfortable in a room full of people where everybody looks and sounds the same. I've always felt more at ease in heterogeneous surroundings. And that alien feeling happens in Mexico, too.

At the same time, I've had an instinct to understand by infiltration. My interest in language and gesture allows me to be a chameleon. Making pictures and now studying acting exists in this context. I loved that I've been confused for an Italian or someone of Middle Eastern descent. It sets up the challenge to find a way to belong. To learn how they greet or love.

To see more of Javier's work, please visit javiercarmona.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Form Unbound, a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, runs through December 19, 2015 at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL).

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Art Vidrine

Sub ads (found intervention), 2015

Interdisciplinary artist ART VIDRINE is concerned with how we perceive the surrounding world and how our literal and metaphoric lenses affect the meanings we make. In photography, collage, sculpture and video, he modifies and destabilizes our existing cultural frameworks, calling into question individual agency through abstraction. Art earned his BA in Comparative Literature from the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) in 2002, and went on to earn his MFA in Fine Art from the School of Visual Arts (New York) in 2014. He was curated into Miami Projects in 2014. In 2015, his work has been included in Battle of the Masters at Open Gallery Space in New York and Plus One at Sideshow Gallery in Brooklyn, and in January 2016, will be included in Abstract Preferences at NIAD Art Center in Richmond, California. He is a participating panelist on an upcoming episode for TransBorder Art titled Discomfort, which will appear on public television (tentatively in December). Art is a contributing writer for ArtSlant and lives in Brooklyn.


OtherPeoplesPixels: How did your undergraduate degree in Comparative Literature set the stage for your photography, sculpture and video work? 


Art Vidrine: Before the degree, there was a love of literature, which was rooted in early childhood, much earlier than any affinity for visual art. From adolescence, I was attracted to what creative intelligence has to offer in making sense of the world: empathy, reflection and imagination. I mention this because no matter how driven by abstract ideas my art may be at times or how rationally I discuss it afterwards, my work still draws heavily from those human qualities I find in literature. Comparative Literature allowed me to explore multiple languages (and consequently multiple perspectives) and lots of theory. Undoubtedly, my obsession with certain themes was formalized in college, especially with that hobbyhorse of reader-response theories: audience agency.

Just for You, 2014
Wood, resin, paint, hot glue, spray foam, detergent, hardware, carpet, headphones, sound, black lights, Arduino
box - 48" x 48" x 48", carpet - 72" x 96"

OPP: Do you think there is a difference between textual thinking and visual thinking, from a process point of view?


AV: Yes and no. At their best, both textual and visual thinking defy conventional thought and form. The origin of that creative impetus is the same (an attitude), and the process is similar (channel that attitude into a communicable form). That being said, there is definitely a difference between the two, which manifests itself most acutely when talking about work with other artists. Some can ascend the heavens with a brushstroke or click of the shutter, and yet their tongues can barely get them off the ground. Textual and visual thinking are somewhat different skill sets with different vocabularies and differing dependencies on concepts. Both can be strengthened, but only up to a certain point. After that, talent and desire take over.

Parenthetically, I do think some artists read and relate to work differently than others. Some of my friends are painters for whom the brushiest brushstroke or the richest hue is like a conversation with God. They are transported in ways that I will never be in relationship to painting. They look for different things in those works than I do. Conversely, the cleverest conceptual project can send chills down my spine and leave them feeling cheated of a meaningful experience. If the difference is just a matter of picking up on nuances in the work (i.e. references, interesting decisions made when making the work, etc), then that is something that can be rectified over time with more exposure to art.

Durational, 2015

OPP: Could you talk about the categories— Agency, Perception, Abstraction and Surroundings—you use to organize the work on your website?
 
AV: These days, the art world prefers artists to have a “thing” – an identifiable, readily digestible and marketable focus, a singular purpose that can fit nicely into an elevator pitch embodied in press releases and talking points with board members and collectors. There is certainly value in sustaining a tunnel vision commitment to one thing in depth, whether it be a process or topic. But my interests do not coalesce so easily. In fact, the topics themselves that interest me do not play well with reductive boundaries, opting instead for cross-pollination. Abstraction, perception, and agency are interdependent. I elaborated on this in my graduate thesis, which anyone can read from my CV & Writings section if they need something to help them fall asleep at night.
 
Honestly, the categories on my website are really meant to make the constant themes that I return to more apparent for those who do not know me or my work. I see the thread, the relationships amongst the different media, forms, and subjects. That thread consists of three intertwined topics: Abstraction, Perception, and Agency. Work in one category could also exist comfortably in another. The choice of which work belonged where had a lot to do with what I saw as the predominate concern of each work.  Surroundings exists as a category for sharing my love for landscape and cityscape photography, which often have a hard time fitting into one of the other three categories. One’s environment unequivocally shapes how he or she experiences the three topics mentioned above. Sometimes, it’s hard to classify how.
 
OPP: What role do lenses, filters and screens play in your practice, literally and/or figuratively?


AV: The lens (mental and physical) with which we view the world is directly related to the three main themes my work addresses. I do not set out to emphasize lenses, filters, and screens as a material. That happens naturally as a result of my chosen themes.  They are merely the metaphorical conduit for a reflection on perception, and consequently perception’s influence on agency.

Intermediate, 2015

OPP: What was your process for creating Performative Utterances: A Symphony (2015), in which you translate political rhetoric into music? Why did you choose the particular speech that you chose? 


AV: I transformed Netanyahu’s voice into MIDI notes, multiplied those notes into different layers, and then assigned each layer a software instrument. I tweaked some notes—shifting octaves, changing a couple to a different note and extending the duration for some—but mostly kept them untouched. I adjusted the parameters for the instruments to achieve the sounds I wanted and gradually added in or removed instruments as the performance progresses. Who knew Netanyahu was so musically talented?
 
I chose this speech because of the theatrical nature of the spectacle. This is not to say that Netanyahu’s speech was not good or relevant. He has some legitimate concerns.  It’s just that the whole event felt like a night at the symphony or a rock concert, with adulating fans roaring, sea swells of standing ovations, a maestro’s swagger. There is even the analogous handshake with the first chair, the singer’s wipe of the mouth between songs. It made me wonder how much of the speech’s political content could be conveyed even without words, which then made me think about the long history of the relationship between music (the most abstract art form) and politics. This was as much about abstracting political content from speech to sound as it was about discovering a new way to build a symphony. I’m sure classically trained musicians will disagree with the distinction of this work as “a symphony,” “classical,” or even “music.” But I think it functions quite well as a kind of avant-garde symphony. Netanyahu was trumpeting an aggressive, antagonistic position, so I gave him (literally) the brass his speech (figuratively) conveyed.


Performative Utterances: A Symphony
2015

OPP: In your artist statement you say, "The cultural framework we inherit prescribes meaning and intelligibility to things." Then you ask, "But how does our relationship to the world alter as our conceptual frameworks are challenged? As our lives are increasingly mediated through technology, simulacra, and mass media, how does our physical, experiential grounding within the world evolve?" These seem to be the long-term questions of your practice. I'm wondering if you have any answers, or at least theories, yet?

AV: Hmmm. . . If I did, I don’t think I would need to make art anymore.

To see more of Art's work, please visit artvidrine.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Form Unbound, a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien,just opened at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL) and runs through December 19, 2015.


OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Jason Judd

True North
2013
Digital print (Installation view)
16" x 20"
Photograph always depicting the flight of geese as flying north in the gallery

Subtlety is a strategy in JASON JUDD's photographs, videos and sculptural arrangements. Using the contemplative space of the white cube as a context, his quiet gestures revolve around the "boring, infuriating, troublesome" experience of a natural, human longing to stop life from moving, to hold on to this moment, even as it passes away. In 2013, Jason had three solo exhibitions: Adjustments: One Through Five at Open Gallery (Nasvhille), Essays in Navigation, Baltimore at Lease Agreement (Baltimore) and Example: Compass Deviations at Gallery 215 (DeKalb, Illinois). Jason is a Co-Director of the Chicago-based art and contemporary practices website Make-Space.net and Art Editor for BITE Magazine. Along with artist Iga Puchalska, he has recently launched Public Practice, an new initiative aimed at expanding engaging art programming in Rockford, Illinois, where Jason lives and works.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Could talk about framing nature inside the gallery in works like Shooting Star, Horizon Series and True North? Are these works about the sublime?

Jason Judd: I think my work is more about the finite world than the sublime. I have read a lot on the sublime and existentialism, only to find myself knowing nothing more about it. We have many experiences in our lifetime: the sublime is probably not one of them. I am looking at the limitations of our everyday. They are boring, infuriating, troublesome and can provide a different kind of poetics than speculation of the grand.

A Roland Barthes quote in Camera Lucida has always resonated with me: “I was like that friend who turned to Photography only because it allowed him to photograph his son.” I find myself, as an artist, in the role of that friend—sharing a desperation and urgency to capture something—the metaphor of the son is, at the same time, growing closer and farther away from us. I am not skilled enough in any particular medium to make something that is “beautiful”—by beautiful, I mean capturing the essence of the subject through heightened skill of a medium—nor am I interested in being skilled. Like the friend, my skill is born only out of necessity.

The gallery is one of the few places where technical skill is not a requisite factor for judgment of quality. And yes, quality is a strange word to use while describing a sense of de-skilling of an object. But the conventions of the gallery offer a contemplative space where quality is malleable and the viewer is asked to participate. It is a place where I can say, I have personally spent some time with these images or objects, and these are the conclusions I have come to.

Genesis (a haunting)
2012
Looping video

OPP: You've used yourself and your family members as a subjects in several video works like Genesis (a haunting) (2012), Acts of Consciousness and Other Longings (2011) and Into the Son (2012), all of which emphasize the familial. More recent works involving sculpture, installation and photography center around experiences of nature in the gallery. What led to the shift in focus and means? How are these works more connected than might be assumed upon first glance?



JJ: Both bodies of work are based on the tension between longing and the tangible. In other words, what does longing look like? The videos involving me and my family were becoming very theatrical. I decided I did not want to personify my metaphor. I wanted the medium to be just as important in the metaphor as the subject and the subject not to be overtly autobiographical. If there were to be any theatrics in the new body of work, I wanted it to be made in the gallery. 

In Horizon Series, for example, I confront the space where the mountains meet the sky as metaphor for longing. I force the horizon line to be tangible by cutting it out of the large photograph. The image and medium become one entity. The image dictates the shape of the thin cuts, and the cut line reveals the tangibility of an otherwise romanticized and unattainable visual cue. With these cut pieces, I make physical and abstract decisions about how to deal with them as objects. When they are installed around the gallery, the scale is initially obscured. At first, the viewer experiences the line forming the cube at a one-to-one scale. Upon closer investigation, the immensity of what the thin line represents is revealed. The act of forming a cube with the lines is a physical manifestation of the idea of a three-dimensional illusion. The horizon line is actually something we can experience and understand only in the abstract, just as we experience a drawn cube.

Horizon Line (detail)
2012
Cut digital print of a landscape that is cut where the mountains meet the sky and installed around the gallery wall
Variable dimensions

OPP: You have your hands in a lot of pots. Aside from being a maker, you work at the Rockford Art Museum in Rockford, Illinois, you are Co-Director of and a regular contributor to Make-Space.net, as well as Art Editor for BITE Magazine. How do you balance so many different roles?

JJ: Balancing all these roles can be time consuming, but they allow me to maintain a productive and creative frame of mind. They keep me thinking rigorously and critically. Collaboration acts as motivation—others are depending on you as much as you are depending on them. It takes a lot of mutual respect, patience and vision to sustain a productive collaboration.

My other two co-directors from Make Space, Etta Sandry and Lynnette Miranda, are two of the hardest working people I know. I can truly say that I look up to both of them in many different ways. BITE is a great experimental, online collaboration because I have never met my Features Editor, Daniel Griffiths—or any of the other editors, for that matter. They live across the globe, spanning New York, London and Singapore. The Rockford Art Museum is a comfortable place for me because it is a collaborative atmosphere with passionate people. Everyone at the museum has welcomed my ideas, skills and experience that have came from these other roles. But how do I really balance all of these roles? Barely.

Movements
2014
Road brick, plaster casts of road brick
Bricks set in new formation at each exhibition

OPP: And how do these other roles relate to or inform your studio practice?


JJ: I have thought about the relationship between the projects I am involved in and my studio practice many times. Sometimes I throw up my hands in frustration and say, “I guess all of it is my practice!” But that’s not true. That is too easy—it is a simple way to avoid being critical about my interests and myself as a person.

Honestly, I believe the most important aspect of the relationship between the roles and my studio practice is the tension and flux. The very thing that inspires me is the thing that keeps me away from the studio. Visiting other artists’ studios is wonderful. Afterwards, I feel like I not only understand the artists’ work on a personal level, but it also reveals a strength or weakness in my own work. That fact is, I have learned more about what art is and what making means through conversations, interviews and studio visits than I ever have in academia.

Bird, Boat, Now (Detail)
2014
Photograph, cigarette burn
9 x 12 inches

OPP: What’s your favorite piece of your own work?

JJ: I think Boat, Bird, Now is my favorite piece, probably because it is still fresh to me. It tackles a lot of the same issues that Horizon Series does, but in a more compact, poetic way. The cigarette burn forces a connection between the boat and the bird while intersecting the horizon line. I am trying to control a beautiful image or moment in a physical way, or trying to relate to a moment that has passed but has been captured.

OPP: You've also recently launched a new initiative called Public Practice. What's your mission?

JJ: My wife Iga Puchalska and I moved to Rockford in July 2013. We immediately saw a need for more contemporary art and programming. Rockford is pigeonholed as one of the most “dangerous” or “miserable” cities in America, but it is gaining a lot of energy from creative people who are starting from the ground up.

Public Practice is not a physical site; rather it is a collection of culturally relevant, interdisciplinary projects. Our mission is to provide smart, engaging, challenging art programming to the Rockford community and beyond. These projects materialize through the collaboration between Public Practice and other organizations, spaces, businesses and artists. Each collaborator utilizes its own strengths and resources to formulate a project that is aimed at exposing the public to contemporary art with the goal of developing new social perspectives while expanding dialog between Rockford’s community and contemporary art practices.

We aim to be an educational entity, to the public as well as to the collaborators and ourselves. We invite the public to work with us, not as a means to an end, but in order to emphasize the practice of exchanging ideas through creative foundation. Iga and I are approaching Public Practice with a sense of sincerity, experimentation and resourcefulness. We are very excited because this project can have a very real impact on the community.

Parade
2013

OPP: Do you have any projects lined up yet?

JJ: We just had our first successful project called Parade on June 13, 2014. In the spirit of collaboration and public engagement in the arts, we organized an art exhibition with artist Jesus Correa and Rockford Art Deli. We considered the parade as an art medium and the floats as art objects. Parade started in the public and invited the public to participate. Local and regional artists were invited to create "floats" to accompany them during the parade, which ended at an art exhibition at Rockford Art Deli. Along with the artists, the public was encouraged to join our sidewalk parade—which they did in great numbers! We had well over 100 people in the parade, representing the very diverse Rockford community. We hope to make this a yearly occurrence.

We are also teaming up with Conveyor, a space for live storytelling, to create a programming-heavy exhibition series. Because the aim of the project is to approach the artist’s practice as transparent, invited artists will be asked to create an alternative approach to programming. This programming will act as a springboard to demystify or intensify contexts within the work that is being exhibited. We are happy to have James T. Green as our first artist!

To view more of Jason's work, please visit jasonajudd.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago. Stacia is currently looking forward to creating a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists opens on July 11, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Stephanie Patton

Meeting
2013
Vinyl, batting, muslin
55" x 86" x 17"
Photo credit: Mike Smith

Multimedia artist STEPHANIE PATTON uses humor, word play and an attention to materiality to address the universal human experiences of suffering, comfort and healing in her quilted sculptures, videos and installations. Stephanie is represented by Arthur Roger Gallery and is a member of the artist-run collective The Front, both in New Orleans. Her numerous solo exhibitions include Private Practice (2013) and Diffuse (2010) at Arthur Roger Gallery, as well as Upkeep (2012) and General Hospital (2011) at The Front. In 2013, her work was included in group exhibitions at the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art, Pepperdine University (Malibu, California), Biggin Gallery, Auburn University (Auburn, Alabama), Vox Populi (Philadelphia) and Acadiana Center for the Arts (Lafayette, Louisiana). Stephanie lives and works in Lafayette, Louisiana.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Could you talk about the relationship between pain, healing and humor in your work?

Stephanie Patton: Healing takes many forms, both physically and emotionally. Painful experiences can lead to creative expression and are often the impetus behind some of the most engaging work. What source material would a stand-up comedian have if it weren't for strange life experiences and painful moments?

I believe the same is true for many visual artists, musicians and performers. There have been many instances in my own work when I was drawn to an idea, material or image for no particular reason. Then later the relevance became clear to me. One example is Life Saver. In 2006, while in residency at the Vermont Studio Center, I kept envisioning a grid-like pattern of multiple inner tubes covered in white vinyl lying on the floor. I wasn't quite sure why this image kept entering my mind. I later realized that this was in fact my own reaction to Hurricane Katrina and the devastation that it had caused here in Louisiana. This idea was not completely resolved until 2008, when I decided to suspend the inner tubes from the ceiling instead of placing them on the floor. Instead of white vinyl, I used mattress quilting—a material that I continue to use today—for the first time because of its multiple references.

I have heard that an artist has one or two great ideas in a lifetime, and the core of my work is based on striving to empathize with and understand those afflicted with physical and mental health issues. Certainly, we are in a day and age in which mental health is a growing concern, and it is luckily not as taboo as it was in the past. I am particularly interested in how physical ailments often manifest as extreme stress and/or traumatic emotional states and vice versa. I strive to illustrate connections between physical and emotional states in my work. This is especially the case in the white vinyl pieces that I have made in recent years.

Life Saver
2008
Mattress quilting, inner tube
48" (diameter) x 15"

OPP: The patterns in pieces like Strength, Valor and Meeting in your 2013 exhibition Private Practice evoke the raked patterns in Zen gardens, and I see a connection between the handwork of quilting and the contemplative state associated with the Zen garden. Is this a visual reference for you?

SP: Zen gardens were not a direct reference for me, but I see the visual and conceptual connection. In researching visual symbols relating to the emotions, I was very drawn to the Adinkra symbols of West Africa. These symbols are very simple, yet visually powerful and could easily translate into the material of vinyl that I continue to explore. The emotions they represent are conceptually appropriate for what I was trying to convey in Private Practice. Some of the white vinyl pieces such as Strength and Valor were taken directly from the Adrinkra symbols.
 
OPP: I imagine from the shapes of these pieces that quilting vinyl is unwieldy and difficult. What is it like to work with this material? When did you make your first quilted piece?
 
SP: Yes, working with vinyl is quite a challenge. I have often described it as "wrestling alligators"!  Years ago, I first used quilted fabric pieces for various installations. Satin was my fabric of choice. I made quilted satin walls for my 1996 thesis show while I was a while a graduate student at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. These quilted walls lined a lingerie showroom which showcased fantasy lingerie products such as the Heart Filter™ and the Anxiety Guard™ by Renella®. In 2004, I used quilted satin to reconstruct the interior of a minivan for a project entitled Custom Built. Although I was still very interested in the idea of padding or cushions, I later discovered that vinyl was a more appropriate choice both in terms of its physical properties and its conceptual impact. Certainly the idea of padded walls comes into play. For me, these pieces allude to protective environments whether that is a reference to mental health and/or any soft, protective, physically-comforting space. My first stuffed, white vinyl piece, Protection (2008), hung flat against the wall. In 2011, I made Center Piece, which was more of a relief sculpture that pulled away from the wall. Today they continue to take various forms. I am interested in pushing the materials in ways that I have not yet encountered.

Private Practice
2013
Installation view
Photo credit: Mike Smith

OPP: Your videos Conquer (2013), Heal (2011) and Diffuse (2008) are embodied metaphors for emotional experiences that use language as a jumping off point. I also see a relationship to the trajectory of feminist performance art. Are you influenced by pioneers like Martha Rosler, Janine Antoni, Hannah Wilke and Marina Abromovic? If not, what has influenced you?
 
SP: Although I highly regard all of these amazing pioneers and their great contributions to performance art, I cannot say that I was directly influenced by them. I consider my main influences to have come form various musical personas such as Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn. I've also been inspired by female comedic players such as former members of the cast of Saturday Night Live including Gilda Radner, Molly Shannon, Rachel Dratch, Tina Fey and Amy Poeler. I LOVE the SNL men as well! I've been making videos since 1995 and had the opportunity to study various types of performance in NYC between 2000-2002 at the Upright Citizens Brigade, Gothum Writers Workshop and the New School. This amazing experience has informed my more recent video work.
 
Funny enough, another major source of inspiration for me was actually the mail order catalogs that my grandmother kept next to her recliner, such as Old Pueblo Traders and Dr. Leonard's. I grew up looking at these catalogs when I was bored as a child visiting her in the country. The gadgets in these catalogs inspired some of my earliest work, as in the products that I made for the lingerie showroom that I mentioned. They also led me to the idioms that I have used in my video work including "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade" and "walking on eggshells.”

Diffuse
2008
Video
17 minutes 31 seconds

OPP: Do you have a favorite piece of your own work? Is it the same as the piece you consider to be most successful?


SP: That’s a hard one! I am very attached to the white vinyl pieces at the moment. One of my favorites is Center Piece because of its visual simplicity and the discoveries that it has led me to. This piece was in fact the springboard for all of the white vinyl pieces that I am continuing to make today. A few of my other favorites are my video Diffuse and the sculptural works, Life Saver and Bronze SAS Shoes. Although it is hard for me to judge which of these would be representations of my best work, I do feel that Diffuse is one of my most successful videos. The others that I mentioned are successful to me in the sense that they are all very true to my visual and conceptual intent.



OPP: You mentioned Renella as part of your MFA work. She’s your alter ego, a country singer, who, when asked in an interview what was inspiring about her trip to the Palace of Versailles, responded, "It's all about being fancy." She doesn't appear anywhere on your artist website, but I discovered her on your Vimeo page and found that she has her own Facebook page. It looks like she's had numerous public appearances in and out of the art world. Does she still perform? How does this character relate to your more recent sculptural and video work?
 
SP: Renella is actually taking a well-deserved nap at the moment. . . she’s a character that I began to develop in 1992 when I did a performance of a fictitious wedding with fellow artist, Jack Rivas. I needed a name for the bride and Renella Rose Champagne was born! She married Junior Rivas on April 17, 1992. This was a huge collaboration for me. It involved an eight-month engagement, many traditional parties and bridal events along the way, and the wedding itself was attended by 150 guests. I have pursued several major projects and have done many performances in and out of the art world as this character including the lingerie showroom I mentioned.

In 2005, I chose to devote my creative energy to my multidisciplinary studio work. Although Renella is not visually present in the current work, there is a sense of her ongoing spirit throughout my sculptural and video work. I am certain that she will find her way more directly into my work again someday. Renella has a way of making an appearance when least expected!

To see more of Stephanie's work, please visit stephaniepatton.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibition I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) just closed, and she is currently preparing for another solo exhibition titled Everything You Need is Already Here (Heaven Gallery, Chicago) in January 2014.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Dan Solberg

REMEMBER
2012
Air mattresses, spray paint
6' x 12'

DAN SOLBERG's interdisciplinary practice "often documents or extracts portions of a natural occurrence, and through careful selection and alteration, leaves the viewer unsure of where the pure artifact ends and where [he has] intervened" (Dan Solberg, Artist Statement 2012). Most recently, his work has been exhibited at ROYGBIV in Columbus, OH. Dan has recently relocated from Washington, DC to Brooklyn, NY and is in the process of setting up a new studio.

OtherPeoplesPixels: In most of your work, you use found objects, images and footage. Tell us about your collecting process.

Dan Solberg: About half the time, the objects I use are ones that find me. In those cases, the object is something that I stumble across or come in contact with as part of an ordinary day. Those kinds of objects usually spark new ideas instead of completing existing ones. The other half of the objects I use are those "completion" ones, where I'm working on an idea already and know the sort of piece I'm looking for, but it needs something that's not quite there yet. To be honest, my process is not glamorous or thrilling. I usually search for things online or hunt around at standard retail outlets. I generally prefer to use consumer-grade materials.

9th Floor Sonata (still)
2010
Video projection
Variable dimensions
60 minutes

OPP: Videos like 9th Floor Sonata (2010), Contra Reset (2009), Glowers (2008), and Side Scroller (2008) all involve still shots with a very slight amount of motion and change over a long period of time. I see this same quality in installation pieces like Out the Window, Above the Trees (2006). For me, they are about patience, the need for stillness, the difficulty of endurance, and how anything can be an opportunity for meditation. Does that resonate with your interests? 

DS: Yes, definitely. A word I often come back to is "mesmerization." I make pieces that acknowledge the act of looking or watching needed to take them in. We're still at a point where using a sense other than sight to take in an artwork is pretty novel. Sure, there's sound that accompanies video, but I think film has pushed that forward more than art itself. As such, I make pieces that reward the act of looking (and sometimes listening) as opposed to using that action solely to push the viewer to think about a particular idea. I provide a space for that deeper consideration by the viewer, but I think it's necessary to lay ideas out on a reflective surface.

OPP: Sandstorm (2009) is a sculptural sound installation that, of course, requires listening, but it's intensely aggressive because the volume is at maximum. That's part of the piece. So, I'm not sure if listening is "rewarded." Will you talk about this piece and how viewers respond to it?

DS: If Sandstorm were a purely audio piece, I'd agree that it would come off as aggressive, but since the audio is coming out a tiny speaker, played from an even smaller mp3 player, and part of this whole sculptural space, it has other context to balance out the aggressiveness of the volume and repetition. That said, Sandstorm does reward an astute listener with its unique audio distortions (a result only achieved at maximum volume), and subtle differences, depending on where the viewer stands in proximity to its front. Many viewers name the song right away when they hear it, while others recognize it but don't know from where; this was the level of mainstreamness I was hoping for. The suspended mp3 player also gets a lot of attention since it's being held up by taut tension and I think people anthropomorphize it since it sort of looks like the cords coming out of each side could be outstretched arms.

OPP: Ah! This is definitely an example of a piece that is a lot harder to understand online. I haven't seen it in person, so I made assumptions as to what the experience of encountering it would be like. Even with your video documentation, I imagined the sound to be louder and more aggressive than it probably is in a gallery space.

DS: Yeah, I've never been totally satisfied with the documentation of that piece. Maybe a walk-around video would serve it better.

Sandstorm
2009
Wood, speaker, mp3 player, cords
3.5ʼ x 9ʼ 
Darude's song “Sandstorm” plays through the speaker on repeat at maximum volume.

OPP: Many works make use of digital noise to create abstractions, as in Night Sky: Santa Barbara 2008-01-31 04:06:50 AM – 04:22:39 AM (2008), 25% of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2007 720p HDTV by Cybermaxx.avi (2009) and of_other_spaces.pdf (2010). Are these works representations of the literal breakdown of information or metaphors for something else? 

DS: Even more so than representations, all of the pieces you mentioned are physical evidence of actual glitches and distortions that occurred without prompt. I know there is a way to alter the compression of a video file to make it look like my Sports Illustrated video, and other artists like Takeshi Murata have done fantastic work using those tools, but I was more interested in the way the systems broke themselves down. They are artworks almost entirely born out of the machine, making them the most found-object-like of all my artworks. I think this is a palette rich with metaphor, especially considering the lack of artist's hand at play.

OPP: Will you draw the metaphor or metaphors out for the readers?

DS: I'd prefer to leave concrete metaphors for viewers to determine for themselves; that's why I picked loaded topics for the subject matter of the videos. At least as far as the pieces featuring glitch aesthetics go, I'm most interested in viewers interpreting metaphor and then assigning that viewpoint to who or what made the artistic decisions that lead to that interpretation. The majority of the "artistic" process in those pieces was conducted by a machine with minimal to no human instruction. Perhaps that's a metaphor for the futility of art interpretation though.

of_other_spaces.pdf (detail)
2010
Digital inkjet prints, clip frames
11" x 14" each
Series of 18 pages spanning two Foucault essays, containing sporadic
instances of digital interference as a result of a faulty download

OPP: In 2010, you opened an art space called Craig Elmer Modern in St. Louis, MI, and had a 2-person exhibition there with Jake Cruzan. Does the gallery still exist?  

DS:  Sadly, the gallery only ended up existing for our show. We did originally have plans to host more exhibitions in the space, but I ended up moving out of town, and we were just borrowing it for free until someone came around who actually wanted to pay money to rent the space.

OPP: What did you learn about being an artist by running the space?

DS: Running the gallery was a lot of additional work, but it was great to have total control over the space and how we wanted the show to look. Before the opportunity for the gallery space came up, we were considering building walls in a storage unit we rented so we could at least get some nice install shots, but the gallery forced us out into the public a bit more, and made me step a little outside of my comfort zone.

OPP: Any plans to try your hand at being a gallerist again in the future?

DS: It's not something I'm seeking out. I'd love to do more curation, but I don't think gallery ownership is in the cards.

No Title (Middlegrounds)
2010
Digital photographic prints
30" x 20"
Part of the Middlegrounds photo series

OPP: In 2012, you've been doing more installation with found objects, like Remember, Clubs and Megaplates. What has led to this shift? 

 DS: I'd say I've been working with more "fabricated" objects than "found" ones. In contrast to my digital work, I've been intentionally buying things and manipulating them by hand. The simple answer is that I like to cycle through a variety of processes to keep any one from feeling too rote or typecasting me in a particular medium. The materials selected for an artwork are extremely important, but I don't have loyalties or allegiances to one medium over another.

OPP: Are you working on anything brand new in your studio right now?

DS: I'm working on iterating Remember and modifying Clubs, but I'd also like to put myself in another video (probably shoot it with my non-HD Handycam), and do another piece with music. I've got some awesome-looking old, blocky computer speakers that I'd like to use, but to what end, I've yet to figure out.

To see more of Dan's work, please visit dansolberg.com.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Michael Hall


BCS, FT-FC, H88
2010
Oil on canvas
60"x 72"

MICHAEL HALL’s paintings, sculpture and video are concerned with the contemporary reinterpretation of history and historical artifacts. He examines the struggle between control and protection, nostalgia and the mythic image, often using animals and objects as symbols for emotional experiences. In 2010, Hall was awarded a Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters and Sculptors Grant. He has an upcoming exhibition (Fall 2012) at Patricia Sweetow Gallery in San Francisco, CA, where he lives and teaches.

OtherPeoplesPixels: In 2009, you were in residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts in Marin, CA. Reclamation, the body of work that emerged, examines the now defunct military bunkers which dot the coastline in painting, sculpture and video. Tell us a little about how the project developed and about how the bunkers play into your interest in "the contemporary reinterpretation of history and historical artifacts."

Michael Hall: When I was at the Headlands I was looking for a way to bring together two divergent influences in my life—art and the military. I was born into a military family and grew up on bases all over the world. I had been exploring the ideas of protection and control in my work but wanted to shift to dealing explicitly with the military. I do a lot of research into my subject matter. I began to read about the history of these sites, their function, their decommissioning, etc.

At first, I constructed a replica of one of the structures and made a video where the bunkers were disappearing from the landscape. The paintings followed. The tradition of coastal landscape painting depicts a peaceful, serene and undisturbed landscape, but I wanted to inject the reality of the bunkers and their forgotten histories into those idyllic spaces. What struck me as I hiked around the Headlands and the coast was how these structures had just been left to rot and were largely forgotten about (though there are a few that have been restored and are run by the NPS.) Scattered about this picturesque California coastal landscape were these traces of two world wars, impending threat and the history of a complicated military influence. I strongly believe that if we ignore our past we wind up repeating it. I also wanted to highlight the importance of Nature in their history. These man made structures, built both in an effort to protect people and its land, will ultimately succumb to the elements, and the land will reclaim and redistribute its parts. Given time, it will be erased, and its history, if unattended, will be forgotten.

Surrogate
2010
Lumber, concrete, grass sod with sound of field recordings from the California coast
39"H x 60"W x 66"L

OPP: Several bodies of work, such as Ephemera, This is Not Your Beautiful Life, and Search Results, not only use photographs and digital images as source material for painting, but meditate on photographs and digital images as historical artifacts. I'm very interested in the way your work gives the personal history associated with photos equal footing with the collective history associated with the bunkers. It's really smart and complicates how we think about the discarded and the forgotten. Have you ever exhibited these bodies of work together?

MH: I’ve never shown them together, but I’m very glad you drew that conclusion. Most of my work is concerned with history and it’s collision with the contemporary. With the photo-based work I’ve collected old photos and the ephemera, like processing envelopes, for years. I find them at paper sales, yard sales, junk-yards and just on the street. Like the bunkers, they are often discarded and forgotten, but as you pointed out, they are far more personal in nature. I get lost in thinking about these discarded memories sometimes, imagining the lives of the people in the photos: where they are now and how whole family albums end up in the trash.

But there is also a larger significance to these photos and ephemera like the processing envelopes. They are cultural touch-points. So much can be revealed about a time or location by a single snapshot or the graphics on a local developers envelope. Despite their small and personal scale they can be monumental—more than just anthropological. Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about them as the physical objects—as relics, in a way. Chemical based photography, and to some extent printed photography, is becoming more artisan, boutique and rare—which I think is an exciting moment in the history of photography. However the antique photo, the snapshot— even those from the early 90’s—are still physically with us. They are huddled in piles at junk yards and antique paper sales or they are carefully kept by family members. I’m interested in these objects and the images and questions they bring up. Is it nostalgia, anthropology, an archive? Is it an ongoing dialogue between painting and photography? Yes.

How they stack up
2009
Oil on canvas
18" x 18"

OPP: "Bete comme un peintre," the title of one body of work based on photos, is a quote from Duchamp, right? Could you translate it for us and talk about why you chose this title?

MH: The basic translation is “Stupid like a painter.” Duchamp threw that gauntlet down in his pursuit of redefining what art could be—trying to remove the authority and hierarchy of painting in the Arts. As one who identifies largely as a painter, I’m thankful for this. It freed up painting in a lot of ways. Many were understandably insulted by this phrase (some continue to be), but it also became a badge of honor for some painters that gave importance to the emotional or intuitive response in painting. At one point, I identified with that, but when I titled that show I was also feeling very self-conscious, having just come out of graduate school. My head was full of theory and justifications, and here I was painting from my collection of old photos. It was a way to acknowledge that self-consciousness and allow myself to paint from what I was intuitively drawn to. Since that show, I’ve come to engage in a close relationship with photography. I take photos and video and use it as a tool but have found it to be a compelling subject matter for painting. There has always been a back and forth between painting and photography since photography first liberated painting from being a tool of replication. I think there is an amazing ongoing dialogue in its historical battles and dependence and the freedom both mediums share now.
Held Together
2011
Watercolor on paper
32"x 37.5"

OPP: In Embattled, a series of watercolors of humans battling animals or animals battling each other, and Banded, a series of watercolors of the process of banding birds for tracking, you explore the "dynamics of protection and control." This is a recurring theme in your work. I'd like to hear more about how the animals in these paintings become allegories for human emotional experiences.

MH: There’s a long history of giving animals anthropomorphic qualities. I’ve always been drawn to it, because it allows you a way of approaching a subject without over-explaining it. The image can become metaphorical and open. I’ve spent a lot of time observing animals. I get transfixed by them. I always had animals like dogs, horses and birds growing up and went regularly to zoos, aquariums and animal parks. Maybe because of that, I anthropomorphize human behavior with my observed behavior of animals as well. I think there is a lot of wisdom in the animal kingdom. Sometimes we just have to reframe it.

When the Sea Surrounds
2005
Oil on panel
24"x 30"

OPP: On your website, you have an archive section of older work that is visually quite different from the work you've made in the last 5-6 years. You acknowledge "Often things have a way of coming back around. Others are strong works, but from a train of thought that will not be pursued again. These works took me somewhere though and that should not be forgotten." I couldn't agree more. Could you talk about some of the themes or images that had a way of coming back around?

MH: It’s funny because I had forgotten about that section of my site, so I recently looked back over it. I think there are a lot of similar things going on, just a different approach. I was steeped in mythology when I was making that work and heavily influenced by ancient, esoteric text and imagery like Masonic symbols, Aesop’s Fabels, the I Ching, early Christian symbology, Tibetean tangka paintng, etc. What I came to realize was that I was overlaying too much and creating overly complicated fields of imagery that sometimes made it impenetrable for the viewer. They were more successful when they were simple and direct. The interest in history is still there though, but I’m really enjoying the sense of the mythic in that work now.

To see more work by Michael Hall, please visit www.michaelhallpaintings.com.