Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Bigger on the Inside

"Protosystems" installed at Transformer.
After a couple of months of non-stop research, experimentation, and late nights in the studio (also, countless carafes of coffee), my new piece "Protosystems" is installed at Transformer in DC and is on view November 2 to November 30, 2013. With the help of a timer, the motorized installation is running 8am to midnight, Tuesday through Saturday.

At the time I was invited to create work for the gallery's storefront window space, I was reading about asteroids and the variety of efforts, scientific and commercial, to capture an asteroid and bring it closer to Earth. It occurred to me to imagine the possibility of an asteroid being captured for artistic purposes. I wondered, "What if Transformer acquired an asteroid?" That thought led me to imagine a visual narrative, inspired by science-fiction films, that I could then take apart and reconstruct.

In reading about asteroids, I noticed how we can talk about them as if they are "objects" to be acquired and as if they are "worlds" to be explored. They are just the right size to straddle the concepts of "object" and "world"; it is as if a person could simultaneously stand outside and inside of an asteroid.  I tried to present this ambiguous scale relationship by including a large-ish asteroid in the piece (it is roughly 2 cubic feet). Seen inside Transformer's storefront, it is presented as though the gallery acquired the object from outer space and brought it down to Earth for passersby to see. I also made a small, scale model of the gallery (about an inch tall) and placed it on the sculpted asteroid with one of the piece's cameras pointed at it.  It can be seen on the third television monitor from the left, sitting under a transparent dome as if it were the first art gallery in outer space. ART. IN. SPAAAAACE! (Sorry, that had to be done.)
Work in progress documentation of the Transformer model.
One of my goals with Protosystems was to create an opportunity for visitors to project themselves into space. Stephanie Booth, a DC based artist who is a friend and fellow GMU graduate, was kind enough to write about this aspect of my piece on her blog perstef. In the post, she writes that the installation"... plays with (the) possibility of infinite space while in confinement." I find it very helpful to hear others' words about my artwork (and, of course, I am always deeply grateful when someone takes the time to respond to the things I make) because they can provide a fresh perspective, identify problem areas, or spark a fresh approach. In this case, the words succinctly sum up a theme that I try to articulate myself: the attempt to use the imagination to create a vast world within the confines of a small physical space. In other words, I am trying to make something bigger on the inside than on the outside. Perhaps the most captivating presentation of this idea is found in the time-space machines used by the Gallifreyans in the British science fiction television series "Doctor Who", which, as you may have guessed, I grew up watching.