OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Jack O'Hearn

The Health Club, 2016. Multi-Media Installation. Approximately 1400 Sq. Ft.

JACK O'HEARN seeks to amplify the social aspects of art viewing and art-making in site-specific, interactive installations. He reinvigorates abandoned spaces through nostalgia, carpentry, make-shift decoration and social exchange. With the aid of The Birdsell Project, Jack completed The Office (2014) in an abandoned mansion and The Camper (2015), a mobile installation which has been exhibited at Art Beat (South Bend, Indiana)_, The Fuller Projects at Indiana University (Bloomington) and ArtPrize 7 (Grand Rapids, Michigan). Most recently he built The Health Club (2016), an abandoned health club turned community center. The closing reception is planned for October 15, 2016, and an additional concert is booked for November 6, 2016. Learn about upcoming events by following the The Health Club on Facebook. Jack earned his BFA (2005) from Lesley University (Cambridge, Massachusetts) and an MA (2012) and an MFA (2013) from University of Wisconsin, Madison. Jack lives and works in South Bend, Indiana.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What role does nostalgia play in your work?

Jack O’Hearn: Nostalgia has this universal quality that can work really well at breaking down social barriers because the history of interior and product design are fairly consistent across a broad demographic, at least within a given country or region. My objects and materials are chosen based on personal nostalgic experiences, and I use them to create environments that I have a longing for and that I thoroughly enjoy spending time in. At first it might seem like a longing for the past, but it actually comes from of desire for a better present. I want to create unique experiences that connect people socially, and nostalgia proves very useful for this. People relate to each other immediately upon entering a nostalgic space. I enjoy spending a lot of time at my installations, meeting people and hearing their stories.

The Office, 2014. Multi-Media Installation. 10' x 10' x 16'

OPP: There is a glaring absence of the digital in each of your installations. When technology is present, it is in the form of analog television sets of an earlier era. There are no computers and no hand-held devices. Are these installations memorials to the pre-internet era?

JO: The lack of computers or hand held devices in my work is mostly due to the era of my childhood. I’ve used televisions, VHS players, portable radios and old video games, but I’ve also used hidden mp3 & dvd players that have remained invisible and unknown to visitors. I like to see visitors using their phones to text or snap photos and consider those actions a part of the piece. I think hand-held devices are part of the social fabric of our society at this point. My newest work has an mp3 hook up so visitors can share their music on the stereo to listen or dance to.

The Camper, 2015. Multi-Media Installation.

OPP: I’m thinking about the words “salvage” and “scavenge” in relation to your practice, both as processes and as subject matter. How and where do you source the objects and materials for your installations?

JO: Home improvement stores are the most frequented. It was a good day when I discovered that most of these stores carry the same wood paneling that was so popular in the 70s and 80s. That stuff really brings me back and I’ve used it a lot. I feel very comfortable with most construction materials because I was trained as a third generation tile setter. I always enjoyed the work, but hated doing it everyday without much creativity involved. I appreciated the craft, but would often be thinking about decorating or redesigning the bathrooms and kitchens I was working in.

If I’m looking for something specific I’ll shop online. For instance, for The Office I knew I wanted the Bob James album Touchdown, which featured the theme song to the 70s sitcom Taxi. That album, which was on frequent rotation as part of the installation, really captured the mood and feeling of a home office set in the late 70s or early 80s. I also frequent estate sales. Walking into a random person’s house and seeing a piece of their life left behind is fairly similar to my experience with a work of art. It really excites my imagination, and there’s also the fun of treasure hunting that goes with it.

Contact, 2013. Mixed Media Installation. Dimensions Variable.

OPP: Looking back to earlier work, New Town and Contact were distinct spaces built within traditional galleries. Even while empty, they implied human habitation. Could people enter these installations or were they unoccupied tableaux?

JO: Yes to both. Viewers could enter but weren’t encouraged to touch anything. Contact was my first installation and my graduate thesis exhibit. It was included in a thematic show alongside a group of paintings, but it actually marked my departure from paint. That installation was still very two-dimensional and was meant to be viewed like a painting, just eliminating the window effect. A friend of mine at the time commented that I was approaching installation art as a painter because I was more focused with arranging color on the walls. I was fine with that, but was intrigued to venture into space a little more.

New Town was a four-walled enclosure with a small entrance. Visitors could enter into it, but it wasn’t interactive in any way. Everything had it’s place and I wasn’t ready to allow visitors to disrupt that. As I moved on, I became more interested in visitor interaction and letting go of the idea that a work of art needed to be precious or unalterable.

Salvage Design, 2012. Wood, Screws, and Various Objects. 60" x 72" x 36."

OPP: Can you say more about the social aspects, which seem to be growing more significant in recent installations, of the temporary spaces you make?

JO: I’m really interested in finding ways to break down barriers between the viewer/visitor and the work of art. I try to design environments that generate social interaction on their own so there isn’t a very directed course of action for visitors other than to relax and enjoy one’s self. It can be a challenge just to get visitors to accept this and feel at home in a work of art. Children do it naturally because they want to touch things and are always looking for something to play with. They’re less conscious that they’re in a work of art. If I notice an adult stopping a child from touching things, I’ll tell them that everything is meant to be used or touched. This eases a lot of the tension involved in approaching a work of art and also makes for a more communal experience, and connecting people is my main goal. There can also be more solitary experiences within a social environment, like when I’m working on a laptop with my headphones at a bar or cafe. I’m trying to create spaces where people can feel comfortable in the presence of others and I keep discovering new aspects to that. Social interaction has become just as important to me as any visual aspect. With my new work, I don’t really see its completion until the social aspects take shape.

For my latest installation, I solicited help from several community volunteers. They took part physically and creatively, learning design principles and how to safely use power tools. I hope to build on this and create more opportunities for creativity in the communities I’m working in.

The Camper, 2015. Multi-Media Installation.

OPP: What keeps you working with the Birdsell Project, a unique residency in South Bend, Indiana? Has this particular opportunity changed the direction of your practice?

JO: I first got to know the cofounders, Myles Robertson and Nalani Stolz during their first exhibition at The Birdsell Mansion. When they opened the long-abandoned mansion to the public, word spread quickly. It caught the attention of local media outlets and experienced an incredible turn out from the community. That’s when the Birdsell Project was born, with the mission of opening underutilized property to the public by hosting cultural events. I created The Office for that show, which was my fourth installation and my first time allowing unrestricted visitor interaction. Towards the end of the exhibition, Myles approached me about creating a site-specific installation with an old motorhome, which would travel to various locations. It seemed like a natural next step, and The Camper generated a lot of memorable experiences. I was able to meet and talk with such a large and diverse range of people through that project.

The three of us share fairly similar ideas about art and community, which has led to a great professional relationship as well as a close friendship. The Birdsell Project was exactly what I was looking for after graduate school, even though I was not fully aware of it. I feel very fortunate that our paths have met.

The Health Club, 2016. Multi-Media Installation. Approximately 1400 Sq. Ft.

OPP: Tell us about The Health Club, which opened in August 2016. What was your vision? And how have viewers/participants been responding?

JO: The Health Club is both an art installation and multi-purpose venue that was created for The Birdsell Project’s Summer Residency. It utilizes the men’s locker room of an abandoned health and fitness facility, which is located in the basement of an historic building in downtown South Bend. I wanted to transform the space into something functional that would be a lasting contributor to the city’s cultural activity. The vision was to create an inclusive and positive environment that promotes well being through acts of generosity, creativity and play. When visitors step inside The Health Club they’re presented with an atmosphere very similar to a children’s fort or clubhouse, although some visitors have mentioned that it brings back memories of their grandparent’s basement or attic. The point is that the nostalgia of a child’s clubhouse is much more universal than recreating a specific time period such as with my previous work. It’s something that transcends age, class and gender.

The space features a performance stage as well as an art room that’s stocked with art supplies and whose walls are painted entirely with chalkboard paint. Visitors are welcome to use the stage or make art to take home or leave behind. There is also a stockpile of board games throughout the space that visitors can play. Another feature, which has been very successful, is the donation collection bin. Visitors are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items, which are eventually transported to a local collection center.
The Birdsell Project will be able to use The Health Club indefinitely as a venue for concerts and events to help raise funds for future endeavors. I’m currently applying for grants to help expand the space to include extra rooms, a full working restroom as well as house instruments and visual/audio equipment, all of which will allow for greater capacity and versatility. As of now, it has hosted the opening reception for the Birdsell Project Residency Exhibition, weekend open hours and several community meetings.

To see more of Jack's work, please visit jackohearn.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
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, in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Stacia created site-responsive installations for two-person show Form Unbound (2015) at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL) and SENTIENCE (2016) at The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art. Her work was recently included in SHOWROOM, curated by Edra Soto, at the Chicago Artists’ Coalition. Stacia is currently preparing for a two-person show with Brent Fogt at Riverside Art Center (Riverside, Illinois) and a solo show at Indianapolis Arts Center in Indiana.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Marcelyn Bennett Carpenter


The stark, monochrome lines of MARCELYN BENNETT CARPENTER’s interactive, elastic installations are visually reminiscent of Minimalist sculpture. But these formal qualities belie the material qualities of flexibility and resilience. Her work entices viewers to become embodied participants, placing the sense of touch on par with the culturally-privileged sense of sight. Even her recent hand-woven drawings destabilize our habitual reliance on the visual by interrupting the image—a conceptual representation—with the tangible line of the warp. After earning a BA in Philosophy (Wheaton College, 1994) and a BFA in Drawing and Painting (University of Colorado at Denver, 1999),  Marcelyn went on to earn her MFA in Fiber from Cranbrook Academy of Art (Michigan, 2003). Recent exhibitions include Extreme Fibers (2016) at the Muskegon Museum of Art in Michigan and Touch, Touch, Touch (2015) at Arrowmont Gallery in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Her work has recently been featured in Essay’d, an online series of short essays that documents Detroit artists actively working around the city during this perplexing time of simultaneous ruin and generation. Her work is currently on view in Please Touch at the Target Gallery at the Torpedo Factory (Alexandria, Virgina) until July 7, 2016. Marcelyn lives and works in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Elastic plays a large role in your practice and shows up in so many different projects, including Snap, Tensions and various interactive installations. What was the first piece that used elastic?

Marcelyn Bennett Carpenter: During grad school at Cranbrook, I used elastic in an installation called Pinch Pots, in which I suspended little porcelain pots from elastic lines. I weighted the pots with sand and scented oil. People were encouraged to enter into the installation and play with the pots dangling on elastic. There were so many lines and pots that the pots jumped all over and would crash into the floor or into other pots. The sand sprayed out and the pots slowly were destroyed, but the elastic recovered. The sand and the broken pots were stepped on, creating sound and sensation on the feet. It was a really satisfying experience of destruction and discovery all at once. This interaction allowed for more of the senses to come into play, engaging the body more fully with the work.

Tensions: Yellow, Red, Blue
Elastic, Paper, Porcelain, felt, cotton, lead
60' x 20' x 20'

OPP: What have you learned about this material over the years?

MBC: Elastic is the perfect material for creating physical art work that you can feel. . . art that you touch and play with. Its main function is to move with the body. It responds to your movements, your action, and then it recovers. It holds a variety of tensions until it is released and returns back to its original form. 

I love elastic. I love how, like many textiles, we are using it almost 24/7. Our underwear, our bra straps, our pajamas, our swimming suits, our exercise clothing, our pants, skirts, hair ties all stay with us because of elastic’s ability to respond and hold tight while our bodies are constantly moving through space throughout the day. It is really hard to break elastic.

fitting: Coral #2

OPP: Can you talk about interactivity versus performance with your elastic installations? You’ve allowed for both.

MBC: I am still learning and experimenting with interactivity, performance and even non-interaction. There are many possibilities for how the work can behave in the world. I knew the work could lend itself to rigorous interactions with dancers, so when opportunities arose to collaborate, I took them. The only way to find out was to research it  and try it.

I see interaction more as the audience playing with the work. This exists when viewers physically handle the work or when they simply move around it. When someone looks up, bends down, or cranes the neck for a different view, they are moving with the work. They are physically engaged. When they dare to touch the work and manipulate it with their hands or body, I have gotten to a whole other area of the brain for them. The more sensations the work gives them, the richer the aesthetic experience, and the more they will remember, think and feel about the work.  

Three Loves
10' x 5' x 18'

OPP: I assume Pick-ups are meant to picked up by the viewer. How difficult or easy is it to get viewers to overcome the convention of not touching art?

MBC: I have always thought of getting people to touch the work as a design problem. How can I get the object to inherently communicate to the viewer to touch it. Fiber and ceramics lend themselves to touch naturally, and those are the main materials I work in. Half the battle is won. But the socialization to not touch in a gallery or museum is pretty strong, so often I resort to giving permission to touch on the signage. 

Luckily, I have been involved in two shows lately where all the work in the show was intended to be touchable. The title of the exhibitions were Touch, Touch, Touch and Please Touch.  I also curated a show called Handle with Care. This was a great way to go about it, and the spirit in the gallery is just terrific when people are playing and exploring art in this way.

There are other design problems: How do I allow for touch to happen and protect the work from damage? Do I control the way a viewer touches the work? Or do I allow for the destruction of the work through the interaction like in the wear and tear in my Pinch Pot installation. I have had an installation totally destroyed by dancers who didn’t understand the work’s limitations. In retrospect, I would have insisted on more practice time with the work before the performance. But work does get damaged, and I often struggle with whether I should fix it or should I let its disintegration be a part of it.

Porcelain, Stretch netting, and glass
24" x 48" x 40"

OPP: Is it harder with small objects than installations?

MBC: For me, the large scale installations are more satisfying because they are more open-ended and engage the whole body, but the smaller works like the Pick Ups and Snaps! are fun for the fingers and create a lot of visual pleasure too! I also don’t underestimate what the imagination can fill in. One reaction I often get from the Pick Ups is that people want to taste them! It is much better for them to imagine the taste than to actually taste stretch netting and porcelain!

Tamarack (detail)
Handwoven Drawing
4' x 6'

OPP: I see a formal connection between the warp of your hand-woven drawings and the taut vertical lines in Tensions and various interactive elastic installations. But the weavings are so static and discreet compared to the other projects, at least for the viewer. Is there an underlying conceptual thread between these two seemingly disparate bodies of work?

MBC: I think you hit the nail on the head. It’s all about the warp! I came to weaving after I had been creating my interactive installations for many years. I teach weaving and fiber arts full time at the Kingswood Weaving Studio at Cranbrook Schools. The verticality of the warp and the tension held by the loom were visually the same as my elastic installations! I quickly became immersed in figuring out how weaving could be integrated into my own work. My BFA is in drawing and painting, so I have been playing with how can I bring a more spontaneous, quick way of drawing and almost graffiti effect into weaving. Nothing in weaving is quick, but I found the handwoven drawings to be quicker and super satisfying for me. I am coordinating all these elements: the drawing, the string, the colors, the density of the strings. Once it is off the loom, I work back into the surface of the handwoven drawing with paint, stickers, and even embroidery. 

These works are pretty new for me; it’s been just a year. I am really intrigued by how I can draw on the wood slats, then veil the drawing in the warp. It reminds me of how my installations optically transform and even veil space. The warp does the same to the drawings. The warp appears and disappears, adding incredible depth and texture. If you look at the handwoven drawings from the side, you only see the warp threads and not the drawing. I also suspend the weavings out from the wall and paint the backs in bright colors, so there is a glow that surrounds the piece from behind. Shadows of light through the handwoven drawings are pretty incredible too. Even though space is treated two-dimensionally in the handwoven drawings, it is still about space and maybe that space is more inward than outward.

Abandon: Kingswood Parking Lot
Pencil and ink
42" x 36"

OPP: Please talk about the imagery in your most recent Abandon drawings. Will these become weavings?

MBC: The imagery in Abandon is very similar formally to the psychological Rorschach ink blot tests. I built upon these tests, though, by mirroring abandoned homes and locating the psychology in the home. One of the main indicators of abandonment is the foliage around the house, which takes over almost like a creature or unstoppable “destructive” force reclaiming the space back for nature. I also thought a lot about what it means to walk away from a home, to abandon it. So many memories, relationships, so much dysfunction, as well as familial, social and financial security are held in a house. So many of our psychological experiences occur in the space of a home. I flattened and ghosted out the houses and the surrounding foliage to abstract them and allow for a more imaginative interpretation. 

For the large weavings, I have used only the tree and foliage imagery so far. I really enjoy trying to give a tree personality and employing some of the textile design structures like repeating motifs and borders as in rugs, but these structures are not woven. They are drawn and then woven. Like I said, they are pretty new works, so I won’t eliminate the possibility of the houses working their way into them in the future. 

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 Emily Biondo

Touch Me
A collaboration with Bradford Barr
LEDs, custom electronic boards, 2 gloves, plastic sheeting, bamboo

EMILY BIONDO explores "the awkward interstices of language, presence and human relationships." Her interactive installations, which employ light, sound and touch, often require more than one viewer to activate them, while her audio sculptures crocheted from speaker wire allow the viewer to listen in on intimate, private conversations. Emily received her MFA from American University (2011), where she received the Mellon Grant and the Catharina Baart Biddle Art Award. She has exhibited widely in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, including exhibitions at the Arlington Arts Center, Smith Center for Healing and the Arts, Blackrock Center for the Arts and The Athenaeum. Most recently, she exhibited in Gawker, a three-person show of interactive media at Harford Community College in Bel Air, Maryland, and Touch Me, a collaborative installation with Bradford Barr at Flashpoint Gallery, which included an artist talk at the Luce Foundation Center in the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Emily lives and works in Washington, DC.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Your interactive installations and sculptures use sight, sound and touch to explore connection and clashes in human communication. Do taste and smell relate to communication as well? Might these senses ever make it into your work?

Emily Biondo: Taste and smell certainly communicate, but they have more to do with memory than dialogue. When I constructed Proustian Fortunate Moment, I was obsessed with Proust's famous account of eating a madeleine and being immediately transported back to a vivid memory of his childhood. But that piece was more a visualization of his experience than a utilization of its sensory ideas. I'd LOVE to use taste and smell. I have always admired how Ernesto Neto uses fragrances to great effect in creating an experience, but I haven't yet exhausted the other senses in my work. When I do reach that point, however, smell will be the next sense I use.

Proustian Fortunate Moment
Crocheted monofilament, high-intensity lightbulb

OPP: When did you first learn to crochet and what associations did you bring to it?

EB: I associate it with my family, particularly the female members on my maternal side. I also think of the intersection of craft and comfort in the sense of doing something over and over again so familiarly that it is effortless. I learned to crochet from my great-grandmother when I was about nine. My very first crocheted piece was supposed to be a red square, and because of the erratic stitch length, ended up looking like a tiny mutilated bonnet. I learned that you could add to a crocheted piece anywhere and with any stitch, so I'd end up with elaborate free form pieces based upon my own whims. I'd end up with blankets, bikinis, cuffs, hats, etc. all without a pattern because it was easy to guess how a stitch would form a shape and layer stitches to create those forms. Years later in grad school, I'd practice layering by making complex shapes like coral, a wedding dress or a penis. Until my speaker wire pieces, the layering was used in a more utilitarian way than a visual metaphor. It helped sculpt the structure of the work.

Two Young Modern Women on a Car Trip (detail)
Audio sculpture with crocheted speaker wire

OPP: When did you first begin to crochet with speaker wire? What are the practical challenges of this material?

EB: During grad school, I had a dream that I was back in undergrad and panicking at the end of the semester. I needed one more work to complete my portfolio. After much thought, I decided to make a large, crocheted wall hanging out of speaker wire AND a cyclone out of marbles. It was such a vivid dream and I was so confident in my ideas that when I woke up, I immediately got materials to make both pieces. The marble cyclone was a (slightly messy) disaster, but the speaker wire was a raging success.

Speaker wire is a great faux-yarn because plastic is not so different from certain polyester/acrylic blends. I use a wire gauge (thickness) that is similar in weight to a strand of thick yarn and usually crochet with a whole roll of wire at hand. Downsides include the exorbitant cost of my favorite clear-coated copper, the smell, the sometimes waxy coating used to keep the wire from sticking, the heavy weight of some pieces and the logistics of wiring 100-1000 feet of speaker wire to circuits.

Two Middle Aged Sisters with Children
1800 ft of speaker wire, audio
22 x 9 x 9 in

OPP: How does crochet inform the audio components in sculptures like Bridal Shower (2010), Shrouded (Prayer Shawl) (2011) and Two Young Modern Women on a Car Trip (2010)?

EB: So for me, crochet was always an intricately layered web. As I got to college, I realized that my conception of communication had always been a palimpsest of words layered in one's mind. Crochet visually completes this metaphor. It is an actual example of the layering of words and phrases that travel in a circuitous strand to complete a monologue/dialogue, which ultimately completes the artwork.

My original plan was to simply crochet with nontraditional materials. But then I realized how speaker wire relates to text and communication, and I had to add audio into the works. Monologues/dialogues are not only metaphorically formed by the wire but electronically passed through the layered crocheted web.

Prison visitation booth, two telephones, viewing window, stools
6 x 3 x 5 ft

OPP: Painful narratives are shared through interactive installations in What I Never Said (2011), Pick Up the Phone (2011) and Lift the Seat (2011). The video Wind up (2012) also gets at one-sidedness in relationships. For me, these pieces are about how technology sometimes aids and sometimes obstructs communication and connection between human beings. What are your thoughts on technology and communication?

EB: I believe that technology IS communication. Historically, humans have always used innovations to augment communication: horn blasts, carrier pigeons, mail systems, morse code, telephones, etc. These inventions and improvements shaped the way we see, talk to and understand one another. Technology shapes our culture and defines certain generational properties of dialogue (colloquialisms, length/number of pauses, touching/no touching, eye contact, MIScommunication). Those properties have always existed in communication—it just depends on the time period and technologies present to define exactly what they are. Because of this, I find technology and communication inextricably linked and will not produce artwork about communication without using and commenting on technology as well.

Millennial translation of the following text from Russian Poetry:
"Beautiful boy, like a faun here in loneliness roaming, who art thou?
Surely no child of the woods: thine is too prideful a face.
Music that moves in thy gait, the wrought grace of thy sumptuous sandal
Tell thou art son to the gods, or high offspring of kings."

OPP: It's easy to blame new trends in communication technology—for example, texting, twitter and Facebook—for all that's wrong in the world: "kids today!" Your recent installation Headspace (2014) reveals both the disconnect and the continuity between the past and the present. Can you explain the piece to our readers?

EB: Headspace is one of my favorites. Like any creative work, books are a huge indicator of language and communication in any time period and culture. I like the idea that the millennial slang used today would be considered similar to the language used in classic literature at their respective time.

In Headspace, there is a glove attached to a pair of headphones. Each glove contains  an RFID reader and microcontroller used to “read” the book electronically. When participants swipe their hands across the classic literature installed on the wall, the headset reads an audio translation of a highlighted phrase into current 'millennial' language, including electronic slang, pop culture references and common phrases. Juxtaposing the two languages through technology relates even more how innovations can act as a bridge in communication.

I originally created this work for a show at a college campus because I wanted the audience to really understand and appreciate the translated language, particularly how it compares to works of literature that they probably are or have studied in school.

Millennial translation of the following text from English Literature
"Ion. I thank you for your greetings—shout no more,
But in deep silence raise your hearts to heaven,
That it may strengthen one so young and frail
As I am for the business of this hour.—
Must I sit here?"

OPP: How did they college students respond? What about professors?

EB: The students loved it, and I loved watching them. They'd timidly try on the equipment, look around shyly, then swipe the first book. The look of surprise, dawning comprehension, laughter, then eager anticipation for the next all in a period of 30 seconds was a common and fantastic thing to witness. I liked seeing them finish the installation then grab one of their friends and make them experience it while they watched their expression. There's always a personal and a voyeuristic aspect to my work that I highly appreciate as artist and viewer.

As for the professors, they thought it was clever, but didn't really enjoy it as much as the students. I make works first for the experience, then for the analysis, so I assumed (rightly) that the students would glean the most from it.

To view more of Emily's work, please visit emilybiondo.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. 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. Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, is on view at Design Cloud in Chicago from July 25 - October, 24, 2014. Beginning on November 7, 2014, Stacia will improvise When Things Fall Apart, an ongoing, collage installation in the Lillstreet Annex Gallery. Closing reception guests will be invited to help break down the piece by pulling pins out of the wall on December 5, 2014.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Sage Schmett

Fold away house
Cardboard, acrylic paint, hot glue

Using cardboard, catalogs, magazines and other recycled paper, SAGE SCHMETT returns repeatedly to the motif of the house as a repository for both loss and desire. Her uninhabited, pop-up houses are impressive in their engineering and emotionally haunting. Recently, while indulging in the pleasure of collecting as a strategy, she has turned to domestic interiors, revealing our attachment to the objects with which we share our lives. Sage earned a BFA in Fiber Arts from Massachusetts College of Art and Design in 2012. Most recently she debuted Dollhouse #1 (2013) in the group exhibition Dwellings, curated by Rachel Gloria Manley, at Center of the Commons in Harvard, Massachusetts. Sage lives and works in Boston.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Houses are recurring visual motifs in your work. Could you talk about the different manifestations of this motif and why it continues to be a staple in your work?

Sage Schmett: I've been making houses in different forms since I was a kid. Back then, I loved making dioramas, especially of little rooms and interior scenes. I also had lots of Polly Pockets (still do!), and would build dollhouses with my dad. So my fascination with building houses goes back even further than my sense of being able to know why, beyond the fact that I just enjoyed it.

By the time I came back to building them in my late teens, houses became more associated in my mind with memory, dreams and the cycle of life and death. I began to see them as imprints of personal experience or repositories of memories and desires.

Cardboard, acrylic paint

OPP: Talk about the form of the pop-up book in general and your material choices of recycled cardboard and hot glue.

SS: I like making art that requires interactivity. I want the person viewing my work to feel encouraged to explore a bit. And with pop-up books, there's an aspect to creating them that touches on engineering and other forms of logical problem-solving. I find this to be a fun challenge. Most importantly, I want the houses to stay safe and somewhat private.

The great thing about cardboard is that it's free. It's also easy to work with and easy to rework when I want to change something. The process gives me a sense of catharsis and relaxation. I like the trance-inducing nature of accumulating tons of miniature pieces, as in the Dollhouse and the repetitiveness of cutting and gluing.

Cardboard, acrylic paint, hot glue

OPP: There's something somber about the ghostly pop-up houses and their grey and creamy-white exteriors. They seem dilapidated, possibly abandoned. And yet, because they fold up, they could easily be carried with you. I read these pieces as about nostalgia and clinging to the past. Thoughts?

SS: A lot of the emotional content of the houses is rooted in my past, for sure. Growing up, we lived in apartments. I always fantasized about having my own house, mostly so I could paint my bedroom a painfully bright color and install bead curtains and other tween decor. I also remember car rides with my whole family. We would drive by impressive, old New England homes, and I'd imagine interiors that were filled with adorable nooks and secret passage ways.

After my father passed away, I rummaged through his things. I discovered a box of photographs. The pictures were all of gorgeous, unfamiliar houses. I began my Dream Home series shortly after. The pop-up books are replicas of the houses my father photographed. Building these homes helps me stay connected to him, and allows me to realize our shared dream of having a place that is ours. Going through his apartment and his belongings was such an intense, private experience; it felt like I had stepped into his own inner world. The whole thing left me with this impression of how houses can be so personal and otherworldly at the same time, even just by virtue of the stuff that's in them. Though it probably just indicates a lot about the person who inhabits it, the why and how of accumulating dreams, desires and memories in the form of stuff and clutter. These ideas have stuck with me and show up repeatedly in my work.

Dollhouse #1
Cardboard, catalogs, hot glue, acrylic paint, other collaged materials
2' 9"x 4'3"

OPP: In 2013, you shifted from focusing on the exteriors of houses in your pop-up books to the interior in Dollhouse #1. This piece has a dramatically different tone to it; it is excessively lived in. Who are the imagined occupants of this house?

SS: That shift in focus seemed natural to me at the time. My life had changed a lot. Time had passed since my dad died, and I was falling in love. I felt less vulnerable sharing things about myself in my work. I focused on exteriors before as a way of exploring architectures that my dad and I both liked. But I became interested in how houses' interiors can reflect private parts of the personality, both my own and those of people I care about. They are places to hold all the things we like, all the things we bind to our memories and dreams. I wanted to make a piece that would enliven these inanimate objects come and the space.

My process still involved architecture and kinetic, pop-up influenced elements such as a rotating toy carousel and a ringing phone. But I became much more immersed in basically "shopping" for things that appealed to me. I spent the better part of a year collecting pictures of toys, junk and clutter, mostly from free catalogs, magazines and decorating books. It's actually a rush! Once I had cut out an item and mounted it on cardboard, I felt a lot of satisfaction. It's a bit strange: I'm probably more excited to find a tiny paper version of a beloved object, than the real thing. I love the challenge of being constrained to such a specific scale when choosing an object. Outside of that, I just choose images of objects that genuinely appeal to me. The mess and clutter adds to the intimacy of the scene, but it also makes the house more alive, and it allows me to keep adding more stuff to it over time. The only occupants I can imagine living there are myself and my partner.

Dollhouse #1 (detail)
Cardboard, catalogs, hot glue, acrylic paint, other collaged materials
2' 9"x 4'3"

OPP: Could you talk about the interaction of two-dimensional and the three-dimensional in your work?

SS: This interaction has its origins in the dioramas I used to make, but it also comes naturally as a result of my interest in both architecture and collage. I like how the mixture of both elements plays with the eye in interesting ways, with a kind of push/pull effect happening between flatness and depth. I also love how it photographs, since in the right lighting it can end up looking very realistic, obscuring the true scale of the scene. In this way, it gives even more life and focus to all these flat, throwaway objects.

Past Manicures (1 year) (detail)
Nail polish, toothpicks, glue
12" x 12"

OPP: Speaking of throwaway objects, let's talk about your 2013 piece Past Manicures (1 year). I definitely see a connection to the houses by way of process: the collection of lots of tiny objects. Your earlier description of the houses—"imprints of personal experience or repositories of memories and desires"—certainly applies here, too. Is this piece a singularity or a new direction in your work?

SS: I see that piece as more of a continuation of my previous work, in that, as you mentioned, I was still collecting lots of miniature parts and trying to make them all say something when they're all together.

I took an interest in nail art about two years ago. After I would paint my nails, I found myself looking at them a lot throughout the day. When I was ready to paint my nails again, I would carefully remove the polish and save the pieces. The polish bits resembeled little jewels, and for some reason I loved them. Since the piece is a survey of a year's worth of manicures I had done, there are certain memories attached to each one. I'm not currently working on any other nail-based pieces like that one. For now, nail art is a fun hobby.

For the past six months, I've been collecting pieces for my largest house yet, and  I recently began building the structure that will contain all of them. I love the architectural side of things, but my heart is really in the collecting. Since I find that the most fun, I see it continuing to be a major part of my work in the future.

To see more of Sage's work, please visit sageschmett.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. 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 recently created a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists runs until October 12, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA. Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, is on view at Design Cloud in Chicago from July 25 - October, 24, 2014.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Brian R. Jobe

Turfside Passage (Orlando)
wood, 14" zip ties, sod

BRIAN R. JOBE's sculptures and site-specific installations explore the abstract concept of endlessness through a repetition of concrete forms. He uses common building materials such as cinder blocks, wood, roofing felt and plastic zip ties to draw in space, often creating an interactive pathway for the viewer. Brian's work is currently on view in two exhibitions: a two-person show titled Alignment 2x at the Center For Emerging Media at the University of Central Florida in Orlando (closing on February 22) and a solo installation titled Channel Modules at the Covenant College Art Gallery in Lookout Mountain, Georgia (closing on March 10). His upcoming solo show Land Overlap Wyoming opens in April 2013 at the University of Wyoming (Laramie), where he will simultaneously be a Visiting Artist. Brian lives in Knoxville, Tennessee. 

OtherPeoplesPixels: For years your most prominent recurring material has been the plastic zip tie. When did you first use this material in your work? What is it about this material that continues to be so compelling to you?

Brian R. Jobe: I first introduced plastic zip ties and loop locks into my work in 2004 during grad school and worked to utilize their material possibilities in a comprehensive way over the next seven years. My last piece that used zip ties was Turfside Passage: it served as a capstone for the material, stretching it to what I felt was its most visually resolved and public end.

I grew up drawing and always loved lines. When I started using plastic zip ties, they replaced the thread and mason’s line I was using before that time. At present, I’m interested in marking space and time by creating structural contexts. Today, linear or modular materials like wood, concrete blocks or bricks extend how zip ties have functioned in the work before. These materials provide structure and mark linear paths through repetition of form. I’m interested in pathways, corridors, highways, hallways and architectural forms that are often seen as a means to an end. But I construct them to be an end in and of themselves.

Tuft vs. Turf (Governors Island)
14" zip ties, stair railings
84" x 113" x 102"

OPP: Your ongoing series Tuft vs.Turf includes outdoor, site-specific installations and found object sculptures. Between 2007 and 2011, you've wrapped plastic zip ties around road markers, cattle guards, railings, fire escapes, as well as found objects like a watering can, a hand saw, a meat tenderizer, and a utility lamp. Could you explain the title of the series? What does the gesture of wrapping these objects and sites mean to you?

BRJ: Tuft vs.Turf concluded in 2011 when I wrapped a forklift with zip ties which sat in front of the Blue Star Contemporary Art Center in San Antonio, Texas in conjunction with my solo show Blank Tides. The name Tuft vs.Turf highlights the tension between a spatial, geographic or static context and additive, physical markings. My aim with the ties is to re-contextualize a site or object so that the viewer might see it in a fresh way, in a reclaimed and also less functional way.

OPP: I read a more pointed ecological (or maybe philosophical) message in the early site-specific installations like Tuft vs.Turf (Cattle Guard) (2007) and Tuft vs.Turf (Gate) (2008). The fact that the zip ties are manufactured, made from plastic and often neon colors highlights the intrusion of the human hand into the natural environment. It seems significant that the plastic zip tie is a particular kind of strong, but temporary binding, and that it highlights these other means (the gate and the cattle guard) of the human attempt to dominate, or bind, nature. The meaning of the human intrusion shifts when you start to bring these outdoor installations into the city, as with Tuft vs. Turf (Fire Escape) (2009) and Tuft vs.Turf (Governors Island) (2009). When I looked at these, I began to think about the permanence or impermanence of graffiti and the way it is perceived of by some people as art and others as a public nuisance. What are your thoughts on this?

BRJ: Thanks for your highly considered reading of the work. While those interpretations weren’t my original intent, I’m glad to hear your observations and how you specifically relate to the series. It is always my aim for each piece to resonate on a universal level.

The immediate, secure, auditory gratification of each zip tie’s attachment paired with the temporal flexibility of the installations informed my selection of zip ties as the primary medium for that series. My goal throughout all of the Tuft vs. Turf projects was to create fluid, repetitive marks in space in order to highlight the architectural elements being wrapped and to alter viewers’ pre-conceived expectations about the element’s functionality. The pre-fabricated quality of the zip ties echoed the fabricated quality of the gate, cattle guard and fire escape.

For the rural interventions, I saw my action primarily as a way to respond to and spotlight the structural elements of a ranch environment. Similarly, it was my intent for the urban interventions to be seen in context (i.e. at a Chelsea gallery and at an art fair) and thus eliminate any question of its legality or any potentially subversive statement it may be making.

Turfside Passage (Knoxville)
wood, 14" zip ties
84" x 28" x 288"

OPP: It looks like there was a shift in your practice around 2011, when you started to explore what you refer to as "the [innate] desire to move through corridors" in interactive sculptures like Turfside Passage (Knoxville) and in Land Overlap Tennessee #1 and #2 (2012). Is this desire a metaphor or some kind of biological imperative? Is that idea based in research or observation? Has audience interaction with Turfside Passage proven your hypothesis?

BRJ: Audience interaction with Turfside Passage has been the most dynamic I’ve witnessed. The participation ranges from the more private, personal experiences viewers have when walking through it to the delight of children running and screaming through it.

In my most recent work, I’ve reflected upon a motif that’s been recurring over the past ten years. When addressing large interior spaces, my inclination has been to create installations that require people to walk a circuit. That recurring pathway form, paired with a growing interest in architecture and public art, led me to create interactive corridors. Having an architect for a father, I’ve grown up thinking about space and material from an architectural point of view. I’ve recently decided that it’s a natural step for me to act on this tendency by building public structures. In fact, as my work shifts, I feel that I’ve only just begun my studio practice. I can finally can pair the material sensibility I’ve acquired with a clear vision towards representative and actual pathways. So, the desire to move through corridors is both metaphorical and actual. 

My research into the form of pathway has often been visual and first-hand, specifically in experiencing James Turrell’s The Light Inside at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the work of Richard Serra. Images of Richard Long’s walking pieces and by the scope of Robert Smithson’s oeuvre had a profound impact on me. I saw a terrific show last summer at Casey Kaplan in New York City of Liam Gillick’s recent projects that fired up my imagination. I also love the art of Sol LeWitt, Carl Andre, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, and Agnes Martin.

Channel Modules
basswood, paint, flagging tape
7.5" x 64" x 3"

OPP: Your artist statement begins, "repetition signals endlessness." This statement combined with your corridors leads me to think about the postulation of the tunnel to heaven that people who have had near-death experiences talk about. And I think about the repetitive process of wrapping the zip ties as potentially meditative and maybe even evocative of the rosary. Is there a spiritual component to your work?

BRJ: As a child, I used to lie awake at night contemplating what it means to live forever after death, and I used to wish that forever were a fixed, quantifiable number like 10,000 years. The thought of endlessness has always been a startling notion, and my use of repetition in the work is a way for me to process the concept of forever.

Repetitive work can certainly be and has been meditative. The view of my corridors as “tunnels to heaven” is one of many associations that viewers may bring to the work. Personally, I’m coming from a place of wrestling with my smallness before God, and I’m exploring how the organization of material in sculpture can signal the wave of time yet to come.

Meridian Angle
cinderblock, spray chalk, welding chalk, roofing felt
51" x 195" x 386"

OPP: Tell us about the work in the two exhibitions your work is in right now.

BRJ: Both shows have different goals. My work in Alignment 2x at the Center For Emerging Media at the University of Central Florida is paired with the work of sculptor Jason S. Brown, and the two of us created a new collaborative piece for the occasion. That work, Lifted Jacked, is composed of stacked troughs of gravel situated on steel posts, cinderblocks and packing foam. The piece started by considering gravel as an alternative future currency—something we may return to later on—but it became a formal, intuitive installation that suggests interstate overpasses more than bank vaults.

The work in my solo show Channel Modules at the Covenant College Art Gallery is largely new, experimental and site-specific. I created a room-sized work titled Meridian Angle. I lined the floor with roofing felt and organized a block pathway to create an interactive corridor. I addressed the non-traditional, architectural elements of the gallery and also subdivided the space in a way that challenges the viewer's expectations. In addition, there’s a repeating, stenciled form on the wall made with spray chalk over a template. On another wall is a six-foot-wide piece, titled Gravel Modules, which suggests many of the same concepts that the room-sized installation does, except in a more condensed, straightforward way. It’s probably my favorite of the new works since it is an archetype for many future concepts.

To see more of Brian's work, please visit brianjobe.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the emotional and existential significance of participating in mediated culture in her embroidery, video, sculpture and collage works. She received her MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2006), where she will begin teaching in Spring 2013, and is currently a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT Residency in Chicago. Notable exhibitions include Losing Yourself in the 21st Century (Maryland Art Place, Baltimore), MP3 (The Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago), Please Stand By: Stacia Yeapanis + Readymade (Baang & Burne Contemporary, New York), Over and Over Again (BOLT Project Space, Chicago).