Artist, curator and designer ERIN GLEASON explores physical, psychological, cultural and mathematical space in her multidisciplinary practice, which includes installation, drawing, printmaking and photography as well as curating, writing and public art commissions. Erin earned her BA in Fine Art and in Imaging Science at the University of Pennsylvania and her MFA from the Art, Space & Nature Programme at Edinburgh College of Art in Scotland. She is the Co-Founder and former Director/Curator of the Crown Heights Film Festival, the Co-Editor/Producer of the publication FIELDWORK and the Founder/Editor of Cultural Fluency, an online forum and interview series that examines the exchange between urbanism and creative practice across disciplines. She was a 2013 Lori Ledis Curatorial Fellow at BRIC, where she curated Cultural Fluency: Engagements with Contemporary Brooklyn. Erin is currently pursuing a PhD in Philosophy, Art Theory and Aesthetics at the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts. She calls Brooklyn home.
OtherPeoplesPixels: In your artist statement, you say: “I seek
to reveal the frameworks that determine our perceptions of
space—whether that space is physical, psychological, or mathematical—and
how our relationship to space affects our behaviors, beliefs, and
judgment of aesthetics.” The intersection of physical and the
psychological—and I would add the cultural—are very present in projects
like Plane (2008), My Very Own Private Garden (2009), Stoop Series (2013). Where does the mathematical show up in your work?
Erin Gleason: I’m defining mathematical spaces as those that are conceived purely through reason—spaces that are nearly impossible for us to experience first- hand, either through our external senses or internal perceptions. Outer space is one example; virtual space is another. What is it about these borderless, infinite spaces that compel us to explore them repeatedly and even try to conquer them? When we do find ways to explore these spaces using other methods besides mathematics, what is it we hope to discover?
My ongoing series #HomemadeLandscape, for example, examines the space of Instagram and our relationship to it. Instagram functions simultaneously as a gallery, a place for art-making and as a site for communities to develop. The abstract macro-photography images, which are not Photoshopped or predetermined, capture scenes I encounter in my everyday life, yet they create emotional ties to other places, many in outer space. The images often allude to a spatial vastness, tapping into innate desires for exploration and discovery. When I began the series, each image was geo-tagged with a place the image alludes to: Atlantis, Wildcat Ridge, The Event Horizon, Trollkirka, Leda, SDSS J120136.02+300305.5c, and Venus, to name a few. This continued until Instagram stopped allowing us to make up names for geotags. Now, the places alluded to are in the title for each piece.
OPP: Can you say more about the nature of Instagram as a virtual space?
EG: Instagram can be seen as another infinite space that embraces an almost Deleuzian nomadic experience while exploring it. We create stopping points with our hashtags, geotags and Instagram groups. We embrace the rabbit hole of the browsing journey, its landscape constantly updating in real time. When we add images, we're populating what we perceive to be an empty, virtual space with everything and anything that suits our whims (as long as the image fits within the ethics of appropriateness defined by Instagram). We colonize virtual space with our fancies. Don’t we tend to colonize every type of space, ignoring what exists there by declaring it empty? Furthermore, Instagram is a contemporary form of The Society of the Spectacle, where our addiction to the image of life, of representation, is played out. That being said, it can be great fun.
Installation and Participatory Performance Event, FiveMyles Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
OPP: Could you talk about the recurring motif of the stoop in your work? How’s planning going for your in-process Mobile Stoop Project?
Stoops are one of several motifs that keep knocking on the door of my
creative process, insisting on participating and showing up in my work.
Writing, mapping, dialogue, physicality and platforms are a few others.
Stoops in particular fascinate me because of how they have transcended
the mere utilitarian to become iconic cultural spaces. A simple
architectural feature has evolved— through its innate form—to become its
own form of tactical urbanism.
To me, stoops feel alive. I believe the best art is able to spark a dialogic space, is able to hold multiplicity and, as Parker Palmer says, "hold challenging issues metaphorically where they can't devolve into the pro-or-con choices of conventional debate." Stoops, as objects and as spaces, do this naturally as communal thresholds between public and private space, between inner and outer life. Some of my works investigate what happens when trying to transport the essence of a space without the architecture that originally created it. Stoop Series, an art and performance series co-curated with poet Lynne Procope, was held on the sidewalk in front of FiveMyles Gallery in Brooklyn. We examined the cultural space and dynamics of the stoop without having the object itself present.
Mobile Stoop Project takes the question further, blurring the lines of performance, mobile architecture, space branding and objecthood in art with a site that is constantly shifting and undefinable. Currently, I’m at a bit of a production standstill while looking for venue, manufacturing and funding partners for Mobile Stoop Project. But, conceptually, the project continues to progress. I'm currently pursuing a PhD in Philosophy, Art Theory and Aesthetics at the Institute of Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts, and my research on urban place-making and aesthetics is influencing the direction of the project.
OPP: At the end of your essay Portfolio: Third Spaces, for a series hosted by Urban Omnibus,
The Architectural League's online publication dedicated to defining and
enriching the culture of citymaking, you ask a series of open-ended
questions. I’m particularly interested in one: Can a virtual space
become tangible? Do you have any examples of ways that the virtual has
indeed become tangible?
EG: I believe virtual space is already tangible in the sense that it directly affects our actions and what we do with our time. Confronting virtual space restructures our self-representation and redefines our sense of “modern” by providing a new borderless space to explore and discover. The interrelationships between the physical, psychological and virtual (or mathematical) are always at play, transforming each other. I’m repeatedly reminded of these overlaps at Stephen Yablon Architecture, where I work. I watch concepts take form through discussion, drawings, virtual environments and finally, constructed buildings. The buildings themselves take on new lives in new spaces: the psychological space of the people who use them, the cultural space of the neighborhood and the virtual space of online representation. Spaces live and evolve just like we do, whether it’s a space we construct (in our minds or physically) or a space that we can’t even conceive.
OPP: You recently held an experimental, blindfolded Dark Salon at Open Source Gallery
in order to explore how “we navigate space and conversation when our
reference point shifts from one of light to one of darkness.” While
watching the blindfolded participants talk on the Livestream feed,
I thought a lot about the Enlightenment as a point in history when
humans began to privilege the mind over the body. Over the course of the
conversation, participants seemed to shift from a more conceptual space
to a more phenomenological space. They went from saying what they
thought about light and darkness to saying how they experienced them.
What was the experience like for you?
EG: Copernican Views: Revelations Through Darkness was a grand experiment for me and also thoroughly enjoyable. The point of the Dark Salon was to try to understand what it’s like to navigate a space when our main point of reference is gone—in this instance, light—through a unique, polyphonic experience. As mediator and host, I had no visual cues to go by. I’d like to try this art activity again with more time dedicated to the discussion. It took a while for everyone to shift out of relating “darkness” to “blindness,” but once they did, we had fantastic conversations about what “darkness” means to us as individuals and as a culture. For me, this is when the salon really began. If we continued, I’m sure we would have discovered more how darkness could be an anchor point for navigation instead of light, and in a broader sense, how what we commonly perceive as emptiness can really be solid.
OPP: What new projects are you working on?
EG: In addition to continuing work on Mobile Stoop Project and #HomemadeLandscape series, I’m working on three other series of artworks. Rise of the Greenlandic Metropolis is a series of artworks based on the premise that Greenland becomes the next world superpower because fresh water is the new global currency. The first phase was a survey of the landscape and potential sites for new development for exporting arctic water; the next phase of the series focuses on an international media campaign to recruit for the new Greenlandic Military.
I’m also currently working on a not-yet-titled series of artworks that feature hand drawn QR codes in an effort to further link mathematical, psychological and physical spaces. Each artwork/QR code reveals a second, unique artwork: a photograph of the artist as a female nude, shot in a way so the female body is reminiscent of a landscape. As Laura Mulvey pointed out in her text Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, men are (self) perceived as figures in the landscape, while women are often thought of as part of the landscape, to be gazed upon. In other words, men are makers of meaning while women are bearers of meaning. These artworks aim to reveal this cultural perception while turning it on its head. As the artist, the protagonist, the figure and the woman, I can track when, where and how often the QR code is scanned. I’m now looking at you, while you're looking at me. The landscape is now the figure. The object is now the subject. Some day, the technology for QR codes will be defunct, the second figurative artwork will be “lost” in virtual space and all that will be left is the drawing of a digital landscape.
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 on view at The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art until March 27, 2016.