The Universe and You 2015 digital video, mirrors, Samsung Galaxy Centura Phone, Telescope Tripod
In a recent conversation with ICI Associates, I was asked whether there was any content in my work. In the context it was a fair question, as at the time I was discussing my practice and working methodologies in general rather than specific works. But it is a question I get a lot, perhaps partly because I don’t subscribe to the easy separation of process, form and content.
For me, the engagement with the apparatus is as much part of the content of the work as the images it mediates. I don’t think of works as messages in a bottle, a series of discrete statements directed at a receiver, nor as transparent windows on the world, like Roland Barthes’ mythical “message without a code”. Rather, I consider my practice as a sustained conceptual engagement with materials and technologies, and an exploration of the experiences that they mediate/generate. And I see this as a dynamic engagement that (hopefully) also enables a dynamic engagement for viewers.
My work often involves working against some well-established thinking about the media and technologies I engage with. These include the ‘transparent medium’ of photography, the ‘suspension of disbelief’ of narrative cinema, and the ‘immateriality’ of the digital. While this often involves foregrounding a physical/perceptual engagement with technologies and the spectacles they produce, it also means that transparency, invisibility, illusion and immateriality become critical aspects of my practice; in process, form and content.
Images from Photo Plastics, presenting the clear plastic packaging accumulated in the normal course of my practice. In this case, over the period of the residency so far.
Infinite Loop is the name of the street that circles the Apple Campus in Cupertino, California. As its name suggests, it is indeed a loop that one could, conceivably, travel forever. Like a moat it encircles the centre of the Apple empire, a site of both production and spectatorship; of everyday office work and touristic pilgrimage. While the name potentially suggests the sublime nature of the infinite, in computer programming it refers to a class of bugs that are also known as ‘unproductive loops.’ Usually created by flaws in programming that make a function dependant on a condition that can never be met, infinite loops are inexhaustible in a way that curiously echoes Michael Fried’s description of minimalist art: ‘one never feels that one has come to the end of it; it is inexhaustible [..] because there is nothing there to exhaust. It is endless the way a road might be, if it were circular, for example.’
The camera obscura is perhaps an example of a visual apparatus at its most basic. The principles of the camera obscura shaped the scientific understanding of light and optics in the work of people like Alhazen, Kepler, Huygens, Newton and Goethe. The device was used as a tool by artists and influenced the development of photography, with modified camera obscuras often serving as early photographic cameras for Fox Talbot and Niecephore Niepce. It provided a model for consciousness in the work of philosophers as diverse as Descartes, Locke and Marx. It is also something of a novelty, and this Giant Camera stands as the sole remainder from San Francisco amusement park Playland at the Beach. Originally built in 1948, it was remodelled to (vaguely) resemble a photographic camera in the 1960s. The Giant Camera features a rotating lens and mirror that reflects the projected image downward, to be caught in a parabolic dish, animating and giving duration to the spectacle of the apparatus in action.
Las Vegas is both a city that never sleeps and a city of lights- most of them incessantly blinking and flashing. As noted by Brown, Izenour and Venturi in Learning from Las Vegas, it is also the city of ‘architecture as sign,’ not only in semiotic or symbolic senses, but in the sense that the architecture of Las Vegas operates as, and inhabits, signage. It is a city of the world, a one-stop shop for iconic landmarks from around the globe, its architecture suggesting that simulation is the sincerest form of flattery. Las Vegas offers an experience that you have to be there to have, while paradoxically offering experiences of other places as well, without the need to travel.