Artist Statement

The Mist is a 45 x 6 meter collaborative eco-art installation, stretched across Mekoos Lake in Quebec.

Short Artist Statement

I make art that amplifies how we relate to thingsourselves, and each other. I present what these relationships do, and mean for us, and are. Simple, awkward, funny, beautiful, generous, mean, and more. And not just human relationships. While I, myself, am fairly simple (ba-dum-cha), I’ve had an awkward backpack, a funny phone, a beautiful bow tie, a generous shower, a mean cup of coffee. And each impacts me, and those around me; relationships are ecological.

An ecological approach takes account of, and speculates on, materials, processes, and thoughts, together. It is concerned with how humans and non-humans, matter and concepts, things and not-yet things, politics, economics, language, and industry, past, present, and future, for example, are all actively shaped in, and as, their interrelations. There are, according to Erich Horl, ecologies in the thousands, including “ecologies of sensation, perception, cognition, desire, attention, power, values, information, participation, media, the mind, relations, practices, behavior, belonging, the social, [and] the political” to name a fraction of those already called into action.

Art has the ability to frame and highlight such ecologies – to ask us how we might better perform our relationships – through humor, discomfort, movement, perception, wonder, or other means. I consider this both an ethical and aesthetic practice. Just think about the kinds of relationships and environments we’d have if we thought more about the relationships and environments we have.

Full Artist Statement

I combine new and traditional media in installations and objects, prints, videos, sculptures, and public works that suspend and amplify our relationships to each other, and our environments. My work highlights taken for granted categories – such as body, space, nature, or culture – and works to remember each as a dynamic encounter. Here we engage with and feel the world around us. We experience and practice how concepts and matter cooperatively emerge.

For example, in Body Language (2000-2013), my suite of four interactive installations, participants perform some of the complex relationships between materiality and text. With stuttering, they use their entire bodies to touch and trigger activation points laid out in a Mondrian-styled grid. Each rectangle in the work’s projected image is not filled with primary colors, but animated text and spoken word. The saturation of these virtual buttons creates an inverse relationship: move quickly, and the piece will itself stutter in a barrage of audiovisual verbiage; move carefully, even cautiously – stutter with your body – and both meaning and bodies are substantiated. We must navigate our arms and hands, legs and feet, or neck and head, laboriously back and forth, on and off, each individual button. We slowly and carefully explore bodies, language, and space, together: like Butoh, or Thai Chi. It is an embodied listening. The piece asks, What if we performed our bodies, media, concepts, and materials with this level of care all the time? In Congress or business meetings, with our families or in nature? What could that be and do? Body Language invites an investigation of, and accountability for, how we rehearse speaking and listening, acting and writing, bodies and language. It coincides with my book, Interactive Art and Embodiment: The Implicit Body as Performance (2013, Gylphi), which takes a close look at the stakes for interactive and digital art, and their implications.

Central to my work are the feedback loops between sensation, experience, movement, and understanding. What do we sense, and how does that make sense? Where do we move, and when are we moved? What do we value, and how does that change our values? Materiality and embodiment, affect and perception, transformation and time. I want to foster greater dialogue around these complex and relational ecologies.

In my Compressionism series of prints (2006 and ongoing), I strap a desktop scanner, computing device, and custom-made battery pack to my body, and perform images into existence. I might scan in straight, long lines across tables, tie the scanner around my neck and swing over flowers, do pogo-like gestures over bricks, or just follow the wind over water lilies in a pond. The dynamism between my body, technology, and the landscape is transformed into beautiful and quirky renderings, which are then produced as archival prints. In mid-2014, I built a sub-aqueous imaging system, and produced Rippling Images: 18 prints while scuba diving on a live coral reef. Here I folded not only time and space into the work, but also the impacts of water and land, life and non-life, that we perform with every day: as individuals, as bodies, and as a people. Each image enfolds breathing and air, plastic and gravity, scratching and breakage, water, bubbles, fish, and more, as movement, change, and relation: frozen, and full of force.

Both Compressionism and my interactive works are ‘per-formed’ to challenge notions of a ‘pre-formed’ world, or sense, or meaning. By engaging the potentials of process and external influence into my art, I bring to the fore some of the many ecological agencies that play a role in continuing to make what is. ‘We’ are a always a part of intricate, interacting, and ongoing materials, processes, and thoughts; we are always more than the boundaries of what we know, or feel, or make.

performance 2 (passage), a sentimental construction

My Sentimental Constructions (2007 and ongoing) began as large-scale, site-conditioned interventions made of minimal materials and performed in public spaces. These are architectural structures made of rope, fabric, or mosquito netting, for example, built to scale and enacted with a group of collaborators. Each twists the idea of ‘public place’ by its double activation: first, through the volunteers who stretch the forms outward and around them; and second, through the communal play of the onlookers-turned-participants, who give the piece an/other performative turn. The series continues in collaboration with artist-philosopher Erin Manning as Weather Patterns (2014-2015),where, in our most recent iteration, we made several tornado machines that respond to small movements, flailing with the wind of passersby or the opening and closing of the gallery doors. The installation also included combinations of spices and kinetics that release them, fans and fabric, all moving with bodies in space. Here, as in most interactions, movement and transformation are sensed – and make a difference – but are not necessarily consciously noted in the moment of their passing.Given Time, networked installation and continuous performance

Given Time (2010) stages two permanently logged-in Second Life avatars, each forever and only seen by and through the other. These lovers are hand-drawn in subtly animated charcoal, graphite, and pastel, and hover in mid-air, gazing into one another’s interface. Viewers encounter their partnership as large-scale and facing video projections in a real world gallery. They are invited to physically walk between them, able to hear and see them breathing, witness their hair blowing in the wind, pick up faint sounds such as rushing water or birds crying out from the surrounding simulated environment. Here, an intimate exchange between dual, virtual bodies is transformed into a public meditation on human relationships, bodily mortality, and time’s inevitable flow. Love, reciprocity, and generosity are potent forces for creation and change.

Tweets in Space, networked + participatory performance

Wikipedia Art, with Scott Kildall (2009),questions structures of power and knowledge in the Age of the Internet. Here we wrote about, and then initiated, an art work composed on Wikipedia, and thus art that anyone can edit. Through a social and creative feedback loop of publish-cite-transform that I call ‘performative citations,’ the piece began as an intervention, turned into an object, and was killed and resurrected on the Wikipedia site several times over. Wikipedians, artists, critics, bloggers, geeks, and journalists debated fact, theory, and opinion via hundreds of sites and publications worldwide, each community continuously transforming what the work was and did and meant simply through their writing and talking about it. Our more recent Tweets in Space (2012) sent messages from participants worldwide towards a habitable exoplanet 22 light years away. This project appeals to wonder and curiosity, while accenting the potency of social media dialog: the shallowness of 140 characters at a time, and the depth created by thousands of users conversing all at once.

And my newest body of work, The World After Us (2018 and ongoing) wonders, What will digital media be and do, after us? What will my laptop or phone look like in a million years? How will our devices weather over time? Can we artificially weather our devices, to sense and feel this? Server Farms are, for example, computers and other technological equipment repurposed as planters. A gutted iMac, face up, where the screen and motherboard are replaced with wheat grass. A Mac Pro growing cacti and succulents, embedded in sand. A Dell filled with house plants. I may also root trees in laptops, grow molds and fungi in and around tablets, inject watches, phones, and cameras with spores and microscopic life – then let each flower, flourish, incubate, and spread. What life may spur, how might techno-minerals diffuse?

Or with Phossils, I will attempt to mimic geological time, as pressure and heat, with earth and clay – through chemical interactions or with specialized machinery – on laptops and tablets, then display where that potential lies, as petrified-like LCDs or mangled post-exploded batteries, on pedestals, and in beakers and tubes. And with Re:Cyclings, I will turn ground phones into unexpected and utilitarian supplies – for example, color for ink and pulp for paper – and put these to use in these new forms: in the cases given, as fine art prints. It is impossible for humans to truly fathom our planet on an Earth scale, or conversely from the perspective of bacteria. But we can feel such things, through art and storytelling – making our aesthetic encounters both conceptually and ethically vital toward new futures. The World After Us questions how we move, think, feel, and act with the Earth and its inhabitants, both living and otherwise. At stake, whether in our everyday interactions or on a larger scale, are the (digital) relationships between humans and the natural world on the one hand, between politics and commerce on the other.

Writing and lecturing are also integral parts of my practice as an artist. In addition to an undergraduate degree in design and Masters in studio art, I hold a hybrid humanities and engineering PhD in art and technology, and continue to write articles, books, chapters, reviews, and artist viewpoints for my blog, and various mainstream and academic publications. My newest book, Ecological Aesthetics: art encounters with humans, nature, and politics (2018, Dartmouth College Press) is a creative and scholarly collection of stories about art, artists, and their materials, which argues that ecology, aesthetics, and ethics are inherently interconnected, and together act as the cornerstone for all contemporary arts practices.

I am fundamentally a researcher, who thrives on teaching, learning, and making work as an Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, as a part of my city’s vibrant arts and community organizations, and through the various online and translocal collectives I am a part of. My writing, studios, and seminars, like my art, combine traditional art historical trajectories with contemporary understandings of relationality, participation, and media, in order to bring new insight to arts production and criticism. My work seeks to infold our unfolding relationships with the world, and with one another. I invite viewers to explore, to embody, to re-imagine, and to re-make not only what is, but what could be.

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