Site-specific, human-scale works illuminating terrain and vegetation with planes of light
The intersection works involve the construction of geometrically shaped beams of light, most commonly planes, and the collision or intersection of these hard geometric constructs with naturally occurring forms in the landscape including vegetation such as plants and trees as well as terrain. These site-specific works are located outdoors and are intended to be viewed at night. The works are entitled "Intersections" in that the planes of light act as a selection process, allowing visibility of only that portion of the object which lies within the plane(s). The works visually manifest the intersection of the two shapes, in the mathematical set theory sense. Only those portions of the object which lie within the light beam are visible. Harmless, low-power, laser diodes, commonly found in measuring equipment, are used to form the light beams. Lasers are used in order to take advantage of the coherence of that light source, which allows the beam shape to more closely approach the geometric ideal.

Curator Marco Antonini has recently written about this work. view excerpt

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Orthogonal Planes Angular Intersection: Pinyon Pine

A 3 meter high Pinyon Pine is intersected by two orthogonal planes arrayed as in a crosshair. The planes penetrate the tree from below and outside the canopy at about a 30 degree angle from the horizontal. Due to the denser structure of the Pinyon, the beams are almost completely absorbed by the time they reach the trunk of the tree. The piece is designed to be viewed from all sides by walking around the tree, with the dense structure of the tree itself concealing most of the intersection from the back side.

4 x 4 Vertical Planar Intersection: Ponderosa Pine

A 4 by 4 orthogonal grid of vertical planes is arrayed intersecting with a 10 meter tall Ponderosa Pine from below. The piece is designed to be viewed from all angles on the ground. As viewers walk around the base of the tree the planes of light create a image which undulates between the chaotic internal structure of the cross-sections of the tree when the planes are viewed at an angle, to an almost continuous smooth sheet of light when the planes are viewed on edge. The sparse structure of the Ponderosa Pine allows the planes to be visible for the entire height of the tree. As with all of these pieces, the presence of wind moving the tree creates a second and very different version of the piece.

Sweeping Planar Intersection: Dormant Apple Tree

This piece involves a single horizontal plane of light which is in motion. The plane sweeps from the base of the 3 meter tall tree to the tops of the upper limbs, then darkens and continually repeats the sweep, beginning each time at the base of the tree. The duration of each sweep is approximately 10 seconds. At the base of the tree the beam simply illuminates the trunk but as it rises up the tree the simple branching of the main limbs quickly multiples into hundreds of intersections of every limb, displaying the three dimensional cross-section through the tree, then gradually tapering off into smaller and fewer intersections as the beam reaches the top of the canopy. The piece is designed to be viewed by a stationary observer, standing behind the source of the beam.

Dual Horizontal Planar Intersection: Prairie Grasses

A area of 100 square meters is illuminated from one side by two parallel horizontal planes, angled slightly downward beginning about a half a meter above the ground, at that point at which the prairie grasses provide only a few percent of cross section. The intersection of the planes of the beams with the tops of the grasses provides a uniform palpable intersection which appears almost continuous but mesh-like. The piece is designed to be interacted with by viewers who are encouraged to walk within the area. The visual effect is almost like wading in shallow, opaque water of that depth, but also very different. The experience also suggests the impression of being suspended above a grass fire at night. The presence of wind can prove almost disorienting, with the mesh of the plane of intersection constantly in motion and appearing very liquid-like.

Quad Horizontal Planar Intersection: Arroyo Cliff Wall

Four horizontal planes are projected at a slightly oblique angle along the 5 meter high mud cliff wall of an arroyo. The cliff wall contains scattered vegetation. The planes create a grid of parallel lines on the solid mass of the cliff wall itself, while the protruding vegetation produces a very different filiform intersection, emphasizing the structural disparity between the mass of the terrain and the delicate and sparse lattice of the vegetation. The geometry of the cliff appears most clearly when viewed near the cliff face, while the structure of the vegetation is revealed from within the intersection area. The area of the intersection is approximately 50 meters long and is intended to be viewed along the length of the cliff from within the arroyo.

Some Theory

These pieces reprise the genres of '60s and '70s tech art and land art. The intent is to combine them to form a new, hopefully critical combination of the two, as opposed to simply exploiting the historical forms. These pieces move tech art out of the lab and the gallery and into the out-of-doors, expanding it to address some of the concerns of land and environmental art and also giving it a rare involvement with organic subjects. Conversely, land art acquires a technological component, expanding its historical use of materials to include electrons and photons. The use of lasers repurposes a vulgar medium of the spectacle, a mainstay of rock shows and planetarium extravaganzas, and redeploys them on an intimate human scale to encourage a reflective perception of the structure of landscape and vegetation. To this extent these pieces attempt to preempt, or at least subvert the spectacle.

The works are in a sense a collision and also a sectioning. The harsh technologically structured light configurations collide with the organic natural forms with a relentless geometric rigor. This rigor results in a sectioning of the "subject", almost like a CAT scan, but paradoxically, the sectioning process serves to reveal concealed or deeper organic and topographic structure that is not visible in normal illumination. The result is often described as beautiful by viewers and has an ornamental component, but it is also vaguely threatening, like a dissection.

In viewing these pieces, there is also a sense of burning or of the "subject" being consumed at the point of intersection. This is enhanced by the use of red laser light. This links the pieces to some of the concerns of the Fire Line series of prescribed burning. In this case, the burning is implied or inferred, but serves to highlight the inevitability of disruption or even consumption in the act of viewing, a concept which ranges in scale from overuse of the National Parks to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle of modern physics. The more extensive the act of observation, the greater the disruption to that being observed.

These works also to some extent evoke the biblical image of the burning bush, but in a critical context. Like other of the companion large scale works, these pieces refute oracular or divine intervention, instead conjuring a purely technological phenomena. A further liturgical relationship is evoked by the laser arrays themselves which remind some viewers of the rows of red vigil lights in a Catholic church.


click to view an MPEG-1 (.17M) view with Quicktime or Windows Media Player

click to view an MPEG-1 (.46M) view with Quicktime or Windows Media Player
4 x 4 Vertical Planar Intersection: Ponderosa Pine (study) stills from video clip
Short Video Clips

Documentation of the pieces is difficult due to the low light levels, fine structure, and the importance of spatial depth. The works are best perceived by a viewer in motion. They would be excellent candidates for a stereo presentation. These video clips attempt to impart the dynamic experience of the works. Try sliding the video position cursor back and forth to get a sense of the structure of the intersections.

12/21/04, 3/6/05, 5/23-27/05
Estancia, NM