My new installation is a very subtle and complex work of art. Many who visited the opening were confused and did not understand the meanings in the work. It was very common for people to rush in and out, only spending a short time looking at the installation. There was often a lack of serious consideration given to the artwork, rarely was any time taken to just experience the environment, taking in the entire installation, absorbing the myriad of sensory stimuli in the space. I was often asked, “What’s it about?” as the visitor just wanted the quick answer, for me to simply tell them my ideas. To do that would defeat the making of the art, the delivery of my ideas through beautiful environments. When I create an installation, I compose the entire environment, directing the visitor’s experience, so it is somewhat disrespectful when a visitor does not take the time to actually look at what I’ve done. Why are you here? I do not understand this mentality, this lack of attention. I assume these are folks out on the First Friday Art Walk, so they must be interested in art. They may just be unfamiliar with, or unaware of, how to look at art. It appears that there is a lack of motivation to investigate, to explore, engage and enjoy strange or confusing artworks. Where is the creative curiosity? Perhaps a person’s ego is bruised by this confusion, experiencing a feeling of stupidity because they do not understand, and this puts them off. But, do not make the mistake of confusing the subtlety of the work as some high brow, over intellectualized “art-speak”. My ideas behind the work are persistent human emotions, issues and conditions common to all, and if the viewer would only take the time to experience the work, in its entirety, they would arrive at the answers themselves. Any work of art, will, of course, always be an individual experience, so my ideas are not necessarily the ones the viewer will arrive at, but once an installation is truly experienced, the messages and emotions and thoughts created in the viewer become valid as well. Being in the west, in the lesser populated heartland of our country, there is a bit of a disconnect with the rest of the contemporary art scene found in major cities (NYC, LA, Chicago), so the reactions of my public does not surprise me. It is confounding though. (I will digress here no further, for more discussions see other &/ future posts.) So, to aid in the reception of my work, I will explain it, in an attempt to educate my audience, and perhaps, some will be intrigued enough to want to see it (again).
Moving Pictures, Take Two
The space is small, sparsely furnished, with minimalistic objects and sensory stimuli. There is an intimate feel of an alter space, with the dramatic black curtains on each side of a white cloth panel in which the short film is playing in a loop. The white cloth cascades out into the small room in a wrinkled watery stroke. A small battery operated candle flickers artificially in the middle of this ‘stream of cloth’. The edges are defined with two white ‘columns’, haphazardly leaning against the walls. Opposite the video is a sterling silver necklace with a baby shoe charm, and upon further inspection, it is revealed to contain the artist’s blood. This small object is lit with a spotlight to accentuate its importance in the installation, its placement opposite the video purposefully used to contrast the ready made object with the created object. There is also a small table with a simple tin tray with bread and small cups filled with wine. There is a small didactic, similar in size to a prayer book, listing the installation materials*, and stating to “please use reverence” if one is going to imbibe in the proffered bread and wine as a sacred sacrament. This is the single sign directing the visitor to the importance of their interaction with the work, or not, as the case may be, and to be aware of the reasons behind their choice.
The short film is a digital collage made with an iPhone camera, using an 8mm film application, and has a vintage feel, being black and white, dust scattered through out and a jumpy, frame skipping look. This artificial aged feel is purposeful, used to instill a sense of nostalgia in the work, a timelessness, and something coming from long ago, giving the work the appearance of traveling through time, yet actually being a false indicator, made as is was with a modern device. The 3 minute film begins with a blank shot, a rhythmic beating of shadows against a white background, really bringing again, the artificial aging, and digital creation, with its ‘dust’ and ‘projector’ noise to the viewers attention. The image is what one might see upon waking in the room, opening the eyes, beginning the day, the bare ceiling filling the entire frame, with only a bit of the wall grounding the imagery like a landscape. The next scene is a quiet shot of a stark and empty table and chair, cast with a dramatic black shadow, cutting the round table not quite in half. This could feel like a lonely time, but my intention was one more of reflection, and meditation (thus the name, Meditation 2012, part of the Moving Pictures series). The round lines in the chair and table contrast with the sharp straight line created by the shadow on the table. There is an interrupting triangle of another shadow, just breaking the edge of the frame, with other straight shapes distracting the viewer. The stillness and length of the shot, the slight, slow movement in a circle, all are commentaries on the quietness of the moment, perhaps a morning ritual, or a time ‘at the table’, a place for sustenance. The last shot of this scene is one from a distance, and we see the doorway, and the intersection lines forming a cross in the reflections on the French door. The doorknob a round point in the frame, moving slowly in and out to draw the viewer’s attentions, foreshadowing what’s to come.
Midway through the film the scene cuts to a shot looking out the window, now the dominant shape is the square, the strong white lines creating multiple crosses, the ‘outside’ is introduced, as the view looks out the window. There is a very subtle, slow drawing in and out, almost peering out, but then drawing away, moving forward and back, like a breath; it is a preparation of sorts, a conscious change of thought from the previous scene at the table, one of the ‘self’, and now is shifting to thoughts of the ‘other’. This is continued in the next scene shift, taking the viewer on a slow progressive journey from inside the home, out into the community. However, there is a reluctance, a hesitancy, even as the pace of the film begins to pick up. The scene is that of a closed door, with its fairly uninviting feel, shot from the distance as it is, and the noise taking on a low volume roar of space. The stagnation is broken in the last 30 seconds of the film by a dramatically different scene with movement, as the viewer is ‘walked’ out of the courtyard. We see again the windows, but from the outside now, and only in passing glances. The strong white lines of the columns as they pass by are symbolic of the daily duties, and responsibilities of daily life, the scene ending with a pan to the sky, a symbolic ‘going out into the world', and finally the film culminates in a final still view of the portico of a church, linear columns holding up gently curved archways, and a reverent statue of St. Francis barely discernible in the shadows, signifying an arrival, a finding of ones place, a relaxing celebration with the first obvious sounds heard, those of birds, and with it, a peaceful feeling of freedom finally arriving, as the film washes out.
The overtly religious symbols I use in the film are there to direct the viewer to spirituality, but it need not be necessarily Christian; it can be any sort of spiritualism. The work was opened on Good Friday, probably the holiest day in the Christian faith. I reference the Christian story of God’s giving of the Son with the repeated use of the iconic visual symbols, the cross, and communion cups, accentuating the sacrifices that were made for the sins of humankind, and the forgiveness that is given through God’s gesture. The ritualistic re-enactment through communion, is highlighted with the objects associated with that ritual, also offered as sustenance and refreshment, and an offering to the visitor. The white cloth on the floor is a symbolic of the parturition, and Mary's sacrifices she was required to make. I wanted to spotlight the sacrifices we all make, and as a symbolic gesture of my own, drew my own blood for the work. Another message in the work is also one of forgiveness, something everyone needs, even giving grace to ones self. We are all lost children, who suffer through our own sins and mistakes. We all sacrifice ourselves as adults for our own children, or others, spilling our own blood. These things I touch on through the purposeful use of the particular objects in the space. I also point out that this is not a holy space, though the obvious artificiality of some of the objects. The fake old style modern technology used to make the film, the candle not being a real candle and the columns not really there, all remind the viewer that it is a work of art and not a sacred place, as it can be anywhere. It is offered as an opportunity to be used as a spiritual space, but more importantly I want the viewer to take away enlightenment within themselves, about sacrifice, forgiveness, and finally acceptance and peace.
3 minute 7 second looped black and white video
Black and white cloths
Bread and wine offering
Silver necklace with baby shoe charm
The artist's blood