In “cleaning” his forest/river backyard in Three Rivers, CA for our party last weekend, Mike collected stuff that was strewn about. He found a bunch of pickaxe heads. He found a bunch of chop saw wheels. With the pickaxes he made this totemic sculpture. He gave me the used chop saw wheels and invited me to make something.
Me, make an Object?
Strictly speaking, I do have an MFA in Sculpture (Intermedia). The thing about grad school is that you really shouldn’t go if you really like what you’re doing now. The process of critique, introspection, and discovery almost necessarily means that you’ll come out doing different work than you went in doing. It’s not that they strap you down and make you change. No Malcom McDowell in A Clockwork Orange or anything. It’s just that all that reading and critiquing and making tends to make your work evolve. Probably more so than if you’d just been making a lot of work over the same time period.
Before grad school I painted. During grad school I made robots and video installations. Today I play with identity in cyberspace. I thought I’d done my last of object production. Not because I think it’s bankrupt or enslaved to global capitalism, but more because New Media is New and I’m excited to explore new roads.
Still, it was exciting to have a bunch of circular elements (the kids called them “CD’s”) in an environment as rich and inspiring as Mike’s backyard with it’s forest ambiance and finger of the South Fork of the Kaweah River flowing past. I thought about involving the kids since I prefer interactive public artworks to plop art. But the logistics of the weekend made that hard. So Saturday morning I wandered to the other bank of the stream and made my small installation, partly in water and partly in dry land.
The South Fork of the Kaweah River was low both because it’s late June, and also because of the California Drought. But on Saturday June 20 Mike’s backyard stream still had a gentle flow of clear water. Since then Mike’s texted me photo updates. The stream may not have been roaring a week ago, but already 7 days later it’s totally dry. Just a bit like Spiral Jetty submerging and reappearing, but on a much shorter time-scale. Not many of us have the dynamics of a backyard stream for site-specific installations. But it is an invitation to consider how our spaces evolve or stay the same.
Doing conceptual and public works in cyberspace is fairly abstract. Lots of people don’t get it or aren’t interested. No matter how many phones a Periscoper can hold at one time, we are still tactile, corporeal beings and we do love objects. The mystery of a Cornell box, the viscerality of an Ana Mendieta performance / installation. It was nice to play with objects in meatspace again.