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Framework

These works involve a variety of often unusual media and wildly disparate scales ranging from less than a meter to hundreds of kilometers. Most of them are ephemeral, site-specific, and not intended for a conventional gallery environment. In many cases, the only artifacts produced are studies, proposals, or documentation. The large scale works involve extensive planning and preparation which frequently includes the production of computer visualizations. These visualizations are strictly studies or proposals and are not considered to be the final form of the work.


Studies for Prescribed Burning V1.0
4 points, vertices of a square, variation 3

still from DVD, SD Video animation
 
One commonality among these works is in the use of sources of light. Nearly all of these works involve images formed by various light sources, whether they be meteors, lasers, fires, or city lights. A fascination with sources of light runs through most of this work and has been a lifelong preoccupation. As a corollary to the use of light, many of the pieces are intended to be viewed at night or in near darkness. Many of the works also involve the landscape and aerial perspective, making them in some way involved in the legacy of the Luminist Movement as well as involving some of the concerns and subject matter of the Apocalyptic Sublime.

The use of sources of light in these land art works invokes the ubiquitous use of luminous displays in new media; CRTs, LCDs, and plasma displays and projectors. These displays have become common only in the second half of the last century, but are now an increasingly dominant form of image display. This substantive shift in the display of images from reflective media (print) to luminous media has perhaps escaped the critical attention which it merits. These works in a sense remove video and electronic art from the gallery and place it in the landscape just as Smithson's work returned sculpture to the landscape. Jim Sanborn's wonderful Topographic Projections are a precedent but are static, not dynamic.

These works have several underlying concerns, among them the continued and seemingly irreversible acceleration of the commoditization of art. The ephemeral nature of most of the works compounded with site specificity make them inaccessible to commercial exchange. They may be candidates for patronage, but certainly posses marginal resale value. These works invoke the admirable objectives of many of the original earthwork artists to create art which existed outside of the gallery environment and which would prove difficult if not impossible to commodify.

One particularly disturbing aspect of the continued commoditization of art is the de facto emergence of a pluralistic "academy", a coalition of the willing in the academic and commercial worlds, with well-defined career paths from the more prestigious MFA programs directly to commercial exploitation. The increased costs of higher education have placed unprecedented pressures on recent graduates to achieve rapid financial return. In the current pluralistic environment the effects of this "academy" on the formation of art are perhaps debatable, but it is an unwelcome encumberance with menacing potential for creative freedom. It is but one of the more recent reasons to attempt to moderate the gallery system, not to mention the shackling of artists to the production of works of a nature that promotes ready commercial interchange.


Quad Horizontal Planar Intersection: Arroyo Cliff Wall, 2005,
mixed media, lasers, Arroyo de Tajique, approx 150'x30'x3O'
site photograph
 
A second concern of the works involves a refutation of virtualism as an ultimate or end form of experience. Computer visualizations are involved in the development of many of these works, but the works themselves are rooted in physical reality. In these works the proper place of virtualism is that of the study, or modeling and simulation. These works also serve to highlight the disparity between simulation and reality, model and actual event, and the difficulty, if not impossibility of fully modeling the real world. This is perhaps the fundamental shortcoming or inevitable disappointment of virtual reality. While the simulacra may sometimes be involving or even compelling, these works are not meant for the cave, but to be viewed outdoors. The virtual world, which appropriately should first reach broad consumerization in computer gaming, is deemed a reductive world. While it increasingly might serve as the model for contemporary experience, it's inherent reductive nature, despite the engrossing immersion, should not be ignored. These works are meant to be seen as they occur in physical reality.

A final concern, which is less resolved, is the relation of these works to the spectacle. The larger works attempt to create markings of a scale at which man-made markings have thus far been inadvertent. It is difficult to envision works of a scale of kilometers, or hundreds of kilometers, without invoking the spectacle. The sheer size (to appease Heizer) of the works and their luminous nature can suggest both totalitarian rallies as well as contemporary spectacular culture. This is moderated to some extent by the ephemerality of the works, and by what is almost a conservation of energy principle, in that the larger the work, the more brief the duration. But that is really an oblique response to the concern. As contemporary art becomes increasingly culturally marginalized, it seems appropriate to incorporate elements of the spectacle, both to subvert as well as comment on spectacular society. Ultimately, if it is perceived that the works refute the culture industry and spectacular society more than they support it, then the potential ambivalence will be resolved.