About Populace Fragments

    About Populace Fragments

    Wednesday, July 8, 2009 :: Closeup shot of "Populace Fragments" at Carnegie Museum of Art.


    At the time of this writing, "Populace Fragments", a sculpture comprised of aluminum, resin, wood and some paper assemblage is on view at the Carnegie Museum of Art. The work is included as part of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh 99th Annual Exhibition. The show was curated by Doryun Chong.

    I have been working on this idea of developing "construction systems" for the assembly of works using the same parts. The work, currently on display, is a recent incarnation of this concept. Throughout the year, I make castings of joints, which have been molded from a pattern. I also cut pieces of conduit and manufacture other parts. The parts are proportioned in such a way as to allow for a certain degree of flexibility in design during the installation process. Working this way affords me the possibility of indicating volume without developing a mass of material. The referent for this process is contemporary manufacturing and architectural engineering. The question of how the most stability and volume can be attained with the least amount of material, is often posited. Orchestrations in line are usually the answer. The vector typically bears much of the load in any engineering scenario. Line is (arguably) also the most efficient means of expression available to the artist, during the process of drawing.

    "Ephemeralization" is a concept that was developed by Buckminster Fuller. Basically it means that over time, more is done with less. Efforts such as recycling, ecological and environmental design use the idea of ephemeralization as a critical point of focus. Evidence of ephemeralization can be seen in the repetition of patterns in music, art and nature. Forms can be engineered to produce the most yield, in terms of their use and structural support. This concept can be applied to meanings that are often attached to forms. An example could be the way that W.A. Mozart would recycle melodies and play them backwards and upside down in other compositions or sometimes in the same piece, sometimes in different keys. "Repetition with variation is the crux of creativity" says Douglas Hofstadter.

    The process of construction is critical to my own creative practice. When learning scales or chords in music, one builds on previous knowledge. The same is true in programming or any other field. Every facet of society seems dependent on some kind of construction, be it a faulty one or a functioning one.

    "Populace Fragments" presents the viewer/user with a three-dimensional grid of constructed lines, with four zoetropes hanging amongst the negative space of the composition. The form resembles that of a large building. These constructions remind me of some of Sol LeWitt’s works, which (as he described them) were based on architectural forms in Manhattan during (I think it was) the 50’s. He stated that many of these buildings were based on the ziggurat form, implying a sense of guardianship; a separation between interior and exterior.

    Postmodern architecture can be thought of as sort of a theater of our cultural psyche. In the case of metropolitan buildings, we can see out of them, but we cannot see into them. There is also a sense of isolation leading to insanity, (Schizophrenia) brought on by the idea that one never has to leave the building during a lifetime, in order to survive. This yields the possibility that (as in solitary confinement) the only connection to the outside world, comes from a second-hand media resource. The skyscraper therefore, becomes a crucible of isolation. Three films that beautifully explore this concept are:

    • Way Down Town (directed by Gary Burns)

    • Me and You and Everyone We Know (directed by Miranda July)

    • Schizopolis (directed by Steven Soderbergh)

    A reference to this state of affairs is provided via the zoetrope elements. Some people are able to see an animated sequence using the zoetropes, and some people can’t. The obfuscating of images, in an exhibition setting can be off-putting to some viewers. If the viewer is trying to see images in this work, they have to become a user or participant in a performance. Many viewers seem inclined to interact with works of art, if they haven’t been acclimated to (or tainted by) museum exhibition rules and regulations. The sculpture transforms into a performance piece, when the viewer starts to engage the piece by trying to see images, bending over and blowing on the zoetropes and even sticking their heads inside the negative space of the work.

    What is expressed by the construct is that you have a viewer who is engaged in a work that references architecture, who may or may not be trying to view animated images therein, with varying degrees of success. It’s almost like watching the goings on in someone’s living room at night. What you have is a completely voyeuristic metaphor. The inclusion of the zoetrope can be read as a comment on the degree to which our culture is voyeuristic/exhibitionistic: the viewer is viewing and performing at the same time, whether they know it or not. Social networking technologies give us a panoptic [panopticon] view of how obsessed we are with the arcane details of our personal lives and our compulsion to share our mass stupidity with the entire world. Marketing professionals were smart enough to figure out how to capitalize on our own narcissism.

    There are 4 zoetropes in this work. Each animated sequence is a reference to the alchemical elements: fire, air, earth and water. These depictions are comments on how our society relates to these elements:

    • Fire - A gun barrell fires into the air.

    • Air - Smoke billows out of a smokestack.

    • Earth - Food flies into a subject's mouth and then is immediately excreted.

    • Water - An eye stares into space, while dark orbs crawl on a subject's forehead.

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