Tag Archives: performance

Noxiterra (large prints)

All of the above are 13 x 19″ open-edition digital prints on smooth matte-finish fine art paper, signed by the artist.

I created these prints beginning in 2008, as part of a project I did experimenting with the use of webcams for a kind of live performance. (My obsession with webcams goes back more than a decade; I also used them in my “World of World” project, and I’ll be writing about several other projects using them as well.) I also wanted to explore the boundaries of what could be meant by the term ‘virtual world’. We think of this now as something modeled in computer software— a Second Life type of virtual reality. Sometimes the term embraces old-style text-based virtualities like MOOs; sometimes it’s analogized to the parallel universes of fiction or film. But I had been thinking about the physical model worlds that conceptually preceded the virtual kind: everything from orreries and the miniature paper theaters of the 18th century about which Barbara Stafford writes so incisively, to dioramas, Victorian terrariums (also known as ‘Wardian cases’), and especially  tabletop landscapes for war games or model railroading.

For this project I set up a tabletop biome—basically a very large dirt box with plants, sculptures, and other quasi-narrative elements. This would function as my physical stage. I linked it via live webcam feed to the UpStage virtual stage for the international 080808 UpStage Festival of online performance. The key elements for each of the several performances were simple: a roving webcam in the tabletop world and a writer improvising in response to the visual stream.

In essence, I was using the tabletop set with its miniature cameras as a generative system for art and writing. I had no real idea ahead of time what the resulting images would look like. Like a filmmaker, I chose my camera angles carefully to make the world seem bigger than it really was, even boundless. But what surprised me was how difficult it is to resolve the scale of the images—some of them could be microscopic, others look like there is half a mountainside in the viewfinder.

Each of the improvisations was done under different lighting conditions, to give a sense of the passage of time, and each print consists of 9 stills taken from a single performance. Noxiterra 1.4 (stills), for instance, is from the first performance. Within each print, the images are arranged in chronological order reading from upper left to lower right.

For a companion set of small Noxiterra prints, see this page.

Posted in 2010, prints | Also tagged , , , , , |

beginning with a playground

chalk drawing We are now one week into our residency on my fall project, the new performance work “Far-Flung follows function.” The lead artist on this is Ursula Endlicher; I’ve signed on as both a general collaborator and a performer (more about that later). My longtime collaborator Robert Allen is the movement director of the piece and also a performer.

We’ve spent the last week in the Experimental Medial Performance Lab at UC Irvine working with the physical organization of the space. The xMPL has no permanently defined stage and audiences areas: it’s a big black box. So you have to begin with the basics: Where will the performers be working? Where will the set pieces go? Projectors, speakers, lights? The audience is going to be circulating freely through the space rather than seated, so that has to be borne in mind also.

Almost the first thing that happened, then, was that Ursula sketched out her floor plan with those giant pieces of tubular chalk that kids love so much. The black-painted wooden floor became a giant record of drawing and redrawing: pentimento city. At the end of the first day I took some photographs and created the digital collage above. Yet another redrawing, and far from the last—we are now slowing replacing the chalk with vinyl tape to create an abstract motherboard. More on that in a later post.

Posted in 2013, latest | Also tagged , , |

when crude tools are just what you need

As I wrote about a week ago, I’m in the midst of working on a new performance project, Galileo in America. We’re now at what may be the most awkward stage of all, long past the early, exciting phase of throwing ideas around to see what bounces highest, and not yet at the last, scary phase where it’s all about the tasks that must be completed in order to have a show at all. This is the shop floor phase, when ideas begin to take physical form and in the process reveal every possible bug, error, mismeasurement, flaw, wrong assumption, poor judgment, and half-baked aesthetic. You spend a lot of time repeating variations of “Yeah, ok, so that won’t work either. What about…”

scale model of set

scale model of set

Right now I’m working on the scheme for our projection scrims. In order to play with various possible combinations, I built a 1:40 scale model of the Experimental Media Performance Lab (xMPL),  where our performances will take place. Calling it a scale model makes it sound a good deal classier than it really is, evoking as it does miniature-gauge train sets and model car kits. My scale model is built from gatorboard (left over from another project), heavy wire (rusted from sitting around my studio so long), thin wood dowels (formerly skewers), paper, and tape.

scale model with projections

scale model with projections

These days, this kind of modeling is typically done on the computer in a CAD program. I decided not to take that route, and not just because CAD isn’t one of my areas of expertise. I wanted that immediate, physical, visceral sense of objects in space, a sense that is most directly conveyed by, well, actual objects. The crudity of my toy theater was deliberate also, a way to not get too hung up on possible solutions too early in the process. I find that this is a trap always waiting for me—maybe other artists are luckier in this regard—the temptation to start polishing up a preliminary idea before it’s ready. The lure of the finished. Computer programs are particularly deadly for me in this regard, since algorithmically generated objects turn out so neat and precise. They have a perfection that entices you to accept them even if they are in fact the wrong perfection.

So here I am surrounded by scraps of paper of all different sizes that I believe will lead me somewhere useful. The next step will be to replace the scraps of paper with fabric and look at the effects of actual light projected in various ways. What I really need is a 1:40 scale miniature data projector, but I’m guessing that doesn’t exist. Yet.

Posted in 2011, latest | Also tagged , , , |

Galileo in America 2012

I’ve just launched a fund-raising campaing on IndieGoGo for my upcoming performance project in February-March. Check it out and contribute if you feel so moved. I’ll be blogging the process a bit as we go along, since the kind of high-tech, experimental work I make is not exactly the result of a cookie-cutter mode of artmaking.

There’s also a project website with a bit more information, and you can even buy tickets online— the performances are going to be in UC Irvine’s brand-new black-box performance space. But right now, we could really use help with our fund-raising so that when rehearsals begin in mid-January we aren’t still chewing our nails to the quick.

New art for the new year— because I’m just not buying that the world is going to end in 2012.


Posted in 2011, latest | Also tagged , , , |

wallpapers then and now

study, Inn at Government House

a study, Inn at Government House

I recently came across a stash of photos I took awhile back when I was in Baltimore working on a new performance piece at the Baltimore Theatre Project. Through the BTP, we were able to stay at the Inn at Government House, a restored 19th century mansion that bills itself as the “Official Guesthouse of the City of Baltimore.” (It’s also open to the public; the guestrooms are actually in an annex and a good deal less posh than the main house, though also decorated with an assortment of period bric-a-brac.)

paneling and wallpaper details

paneling and wallpaper details

As a working artist sweating out long hours on a complex project with a crazy small budget, it was distinctly odd to have the run of a mansion in my free time. But it was also a lot of fun, like hanging out in a museum after hours.

Art Nouveau peacock border

peacock border

Finished in 1889, the Inn is an archive of the high design of its period, especially in the woodworking and wallpaper departments. The wallpaper runs to the most elaborate Art Nouveau styles, a thorough-going testimonial to horror vacui. But this same feature also made it unusually comprehensive of symbolic motifs: in just the few images shown here, there are forms that resemble pomegranates, poppies, acanthus leaves, peaches, lilies, ferns, roses, lotuses, gentians, and seed heads. I was especially taken by a border of peacocks, with its elaborate golden ferns and blue lilies. What is it about peacocks that made them one of the key symbolic motifs of the late 19th century—think of Whistler’s Peackock Room for the Leyland house, for instance (now in the Freer Gallery in Washington).  Some gut-grabbing compound of the vanity of life, beauty of nature, orientalism, and decayed Christianity?

green windows

green windows diptych

In one of the sitting rooms, I came across a set of mullioned windows through which the light came green and gold, filtered by the trees outside—you can see them in the top photo on this page. I was struck by the way the old, wavy-textured glass abstracted the trees so that the effect was no longer one of looking through a window at nature but something much closer to stained glass. The light and color seemed to be in and of the glass itself. So when I got back home, I cropped and composited a couple of my photos of these windows to create the diptych shown here. It’s proportioned to serve as that most contemporary form of wallpaper, the desktop picture or screenpaper. Feel free to grab a screen cap, or download a 1024 x 768 version here (234 kb).


Posted in 2011, latest | Also tagged , , , |