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LandEscape A r t Special Edition

Vestiges of Occupation, installation A work by Donald Bracken (USA)

R e v i e w


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Larry Cwik

Donald Bracken

Gabe Babcock

David JP Hooker

Josh Booth

Alfred Marseille

USA

USA

USA

USA

USA

The Netherlands

I am project-driven and work on projects for long periods of time.

My work explores combinations of painting and sculpture, light and shadow, movement, and earth and other natural materials. My view of the power of man as ultimately secondary to the power of nature has informed my art from its beginnings.

Exploring the natural world around me and focusing on my role within it, I strive to illuminate the tension between nature and humans through art. Using found materials I challenge the integrity of the materials within spatial boundaries. Whatever the material, I find myself testing it, searching for its limits with a structural balance, much like an explorer gingerly traversing a glacier in high summer.

The idea of ma-king work from direct experience came from reading Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics and Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation. At about the same time I had an artist residency in Indone-sia. While I was there I was incredibly conscious of how radically out of place I was in that culture, that environment, and I wanted to find a way to make work that expressed that.

As an artist I’m interested in creating intensely physical, disorienting environments using sound and video. Sonic and visual events are generated algorithmically based on principles of contingency and permutation.Both mediums throw off various cultural allusions -‐ from noise and underground dance genres to glitch aesthetics, retro / lo res gaming and concrete cinema.

Designer, media artist. Background in philosophy and electronic music. Working in video, sound, photography and installation art. Collaboration with poet Jan Baeke as Public Thought since 2006. Jan Baeke and Alfred Marseille create cinépoèmes, data poems, moving shorts and practice the art of speculative analysis. Their work counts among the most profilic digital poetry in the Netherlands.

Conceptually I am consistently drawn for all my projects to the themes of mystery, beauty, transfiguration, culture, and surrealism. I am not certain why but I am also consistently drawn to certain types of images. Sometimes my images are infused with sociopolitical commentary, other times not.

I think of myself as a painter, but any such designation has become unimportant.

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In this issue

Donald Bracken Lives and works in West Cornwall, USA Installation Mixed media

Djojo & Versteeg Lives and works in Rotterdam, Fine Art Photography

David JP Hooker Lives and works in Wheaton, USA Mixed media, Installation

Gabe Babcock Lives and works in Oregon, USA Mixed media, Installation

Larry Cwik

Xiaohong Zhang Amir Ahmadipour Djojo & Versteeg The Netherlands

Djojo & Versteeg consists of two young artists who formed a duo during time in art school. By combining forces, they found a way to complement each others skills. Working as a team of two, gives them the ability to create images that are completely formed by their own imagination, without the influence of anyone outside their fantasy world. Their images are theatrical, stylistic, aesthetic, imaginative and serene.

Lives and works in Portland, OR, USA Mixed media, Photography

USA / China

Iran

The discovery of new perception methods in an interactive way is in relation with our environmental ideas.There is an unlimited joy in this work and I have always been interested in sharing this interest with others. About "zeitgeist" the purpose has been the production of a sculpture with life. Such a goal led me to the use of iron. In the production process the material of iron was used without any edition or redaction and in combination with oxygen the oxidation process

Landscape painting was regarded as the highest form of Chinese painting.

Alfred Marseille Lives and works in Amsterdam Mixed media

My creative focus has been on the Traversing Medium and Reappropriating Motifs in Contemporary Art with continuous investigation of traversing traditional art form of Chinese landscape ink wash painting through the concept of contemporary western art setting.

Amir Ahmadipour Lives and works in Teheran, Iran Mixed media, Archirecture

Josh Booth Lives and works in Moscow Video, Mixed media

Xiaohong Zhang Lives and works in San Francisco, USA Mixed media, Installation

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LandEscape 40 Art Review

Night Music, roots, beaver sticks, wire , fiber optics approximately 12x 13 x13 ft


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Donald Bracken Lives and works in West Cornwall , Connecticut

An artist's statement

M

y work explores combinations of painting and sculpture, light and shadow, movement, and earth and other natural materials. My view of the power of man as ultimately secondary to the power of nature has informed my art from its beginnings.

I think of myself as a painter, but any such designation has become unimportant. The gestural movements of my

recent kinetic sculptures have strongly influenced the path of my paintings, and my paintings have made my sculpture painterly; each, in collaboration, complements the other.

Donald Bracken


LandEscape meets

Donald Bracken An interview by Dario Rutigliano, curator witht he collaboration of Katherine Williams landescape@europe.com

Donald Bracken accomplishes the difficult task of establishing an effective synergy between painting and movement, creating an area in which emotional dimension and perceptual reality coexist in a coherent unity. Unlike artists such as Carsten Höller, he does not let the viewers in the foggy area of doubt: his evocative and direct approach invites us to investigate about the relation between reality and the way we perceive it. One of the most convincing aspects of Bracken’s practice is the way he creates an area of intellectual interplay between perception and memory, contingency and immanence, that gently invites the viewers to explore the crossroad between human emotion and Nature’s power: I'm very pleased to introduce our readers to his refined artistic production. Hello, Donald, and welcome to LandEscape: To start this interview, would you like to tell us something about your background? You have a solid formal training and you hold a Bachelor of Fine Arts that you received from the prestigious University of California at Berkeley. How did these experiences influence your evolution as an artist, and how does it impact on the way you currently conceive and produce your works? Imagine going from a politically conservative fundamentalist Lutheran family, and ending up at Berkeley during the height of the ’60s

counterculture, the Vietnam conflict, war protests, and the era of drugs, sex, and rock ‘n’ roll. As much as anything, aside from purely academic pursuits, what going to Berkeley did was free me from the constraints of a religious, politically conservative life. I was involved in political activism and protests against the Vietnam war and the political establishment. And I have to say, it was there that I discovered magical realism as a way of seeing things when I create art. Part of what I learned at Berkeley was freedom to experiment with the boundaries of perception, and because of some of these experiments I began to see nature in a totally different way. So oddly enough, much of the work I do now harks back to my time at Berkeley, during which I started to contemplate the physics of life on a molecular level, and the fact that we’re composed of more space than anything else. And and like in music the most important thing is the space between the notes. At Berkeley I got a very strong background in world art history and gained a great appreciation for Asian art and ancient architecture, which continue to be strong influences on me today. I also greatly admired William Turner for his later pre-modern paintings and his philosophy of Nature as being the all-powerful force on Earth. So during that period of experimentation and observing microcosms, fractals, and repeated patterns in Nature, I largely was drawing on forms in nature as my primary influence and inspiration then, as it is now; because there is no bad form or bad color combinations in nature. I suppose you could say I became a bit of a pantheist. But I’ve never had any real desire to be part of a particular school of art; I’m more of an Juerg Luedi


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opportunistic predator of visual and auditory information, eating what I like and leaving the rest behind. Although I grew up in San Francisco and worked and later spent a great deal of time in New York City, I have spent much of the last 35 years living in rural Connecticut on the Housatonic River. I’m not fully aware of what’s going on in the contemporary art world and what other people are doing. The political atmosphere at Berkeley, along with my newfound freedom, made it hard to focus on my studies in a traditional way. In general I worked very hard at what interested me, but I was rebellious and did not paint during painting class because I wanted to free myself from the limitations of rules, so I worked at night instead. I took great pleasure in spraying silhouettes of organic objects on canvas, a process that formed the basis of my desire to incorporate organic elements that I find interesting in my art. I’ve always thought of myself as a painter, so even when I’m doing sculpture I approach it as a three-dimensional form of painting. At Berkeley I was probably most influenced by George Miyasaki, a well-known lithographer, who was my lithography teacher. He did his own work at night, too, so we would work together. I tend to paint as though I’m making prints, working with one color at a time in layer upon layer, and to me creating sculpture and mixed-media pieces entails the same process. Back then students were not taught about how to make a career—the word “networking” didn't exist. The best career advice I got from George was to learn how to live cheaply on rice and beans, and just work hard and figure it out. Music and playing guitar also became a vital influence and inspiration to me at that time and has continued to be a source of creative vision. I had Jim Melchert as a conceptual art teacher, and it is curious that at the time I was a bit dubious of its relevance, but as time goes on it has become more and more what my work is about. Now let's focus on your artistic production: I would start from Calligraphy Reclining that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article: and I would suggest to our readers to visit http://donbracken.blogspot.com in order to get detail from myFunerals, Performance


Donald Bracken

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Memorial Windows clay and acrylic on canvas on 22 panel 80''x 18'' , 27 x 23 ft


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Calligraphy Reclining grape vines ,wire and re-bar, 7.5 h x 20L x 8w

Donald Bracken


Donald Bracken

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a wider idea of your artistic production‌ In the meanwhile, would you like to tell us something about the genesis of this interesting project? What was your initial inspiration? I’m a process artist—the art of process is very important to me. One thing leads to another; often I start with an idea, and as I start to work on it, it evolves into something else and often totally different than my original idea . Calligraphy Reclining emerged from a series of evolutions in my work that I can ultimately trace all the way back to that early fascination with organic forms and materials at Berkeley. More recently, around 2007, after I started painting landscapes using earth from the fields I was painting, there was a natural progression toward incorporating other organic materials. I was particularly drawn to the bittersweet and grape vines that drape local woods with gestural, calligraphic, sometimes suggestively anthropomorphic figures. The first big vine piece I did, Floating Brain, is composed of large swirling synaptic shapes with a suspended brainlike shape floating in the middle. The piece lives on the side of a barn. But when such pieces are removed from their original context and put in another place, such as an enclosed space, they become something different entirely. In 2012 I had a show at New Arts Gallery, a cavernous barn with some ancillary rooms. I filled the space with installations of vine sculptures, beaver sticks, and clay paintings. Will You Still Love Me When I Am Gone, a large hanging vine piece suspended from a swivel that lets it spin in the ambient air currents, was installed in a smallish room. The piece had one association when it was constructed outdoors at my studio, but when put in the room with evocative lighting it spoke to me of my feelings of a dystopian isolation and the disconnection of a doomed longterm relationship. At first I incorporated vines into dirt and clay paintings, then around 2011, I started wanting to work with them as a material unto themselves, in fully three-dimensional form. I started using


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tetrahedrons made from rebar a few years ago as a means to suspend the vines so they could twist and turn in the air. Last summer I started employing repeated tetrahedrons with the idea that I could make a sculpture as long as I wanted. Calligraphy Reclining in particular is from a series of sculptures that explore what essentially amounts to scribble drawing on a canvas of air. The material itself, an abundant—and, by humans, abundantly unwanted—intruder in the local landscape, also comments on purpose and perception. I should add that the piece is installed outside my window; I am looking at it as we speak, and one aspect I like about it is how it changes with the light and how new forms are revealed in changing conditions, as when it has snow on it. As time goes on I have been increasingly documenting outdoor installations and the process of their entropic deconstruction as they sustain the effects of varying light, weather, and seasons. Since the tetrahedrons that form the base can conceivably be repeated endlessly and there seems to be no shortage of unwanted vines around where I live, at some point I plan to make a very long Calligraphy piece. A relevant feature of Frozen Moment that has particularly impacted me is the way you highlight the inner bond between Man and Nature: You invite the viewer to appreciate the intrinsic but sometimes disregarded beauty of geometrical patterns, bringing a new level of significance to the idea of landscape itself. In particular, the evolving nature of the installation offers a multilayered experience... Like Jean Tinguely’s generative works, this installation raises a question on the role of the viewers’ perception, forcing us to go beyond the common way we perceive not only the outside world, but our inner dimension... I’m personally convinced that some information is hidden, or even “encrypted” in the environment we live in, so we need to decipher it. Maybe one of the roles of an

artist could be to reveal unexpected sides of Nature, especially of our inner Nature... what’s your take on this? I would agree that one of my roles as an artist is to relate outer Nature to inner nature. In the case of Frozen Moment, from my earliest days of painting I’ve always been fascinated by things floating in the air or flying through the air. I was a pole vaulter in high school and I’ve done free-fall skydiving many times, and I’ve always liked the idea of being able to freeze something as it’s falling. I was making Frozen Moment in winter, so the piece became about death and decay and the renewal of life. The leaves have so many coats of white polymer on them that they are rubbery and look like they are made of clay. The viewer is invited to look at the leaves as they like when they are falling. They jiggle and spin but never fall, so one can exam the leaves’ shape, form , texture, contours, without touching it, from all angles, just as we could if we could freeze time and closely examine the world around us. The falling leaves and light perhaps represent death, but they show it as a transient state, embodying the paradox of life within death, because nothing is truly dead or gone as long as it is in our memory. It’s in my tradition of magic realism. It’s also another instance of process and one thing leading to another: For the Night Music installation, the mountain laurel roots are from a drained estuary created by beavers. The roots have an amazing skin quality, and the branches of the roots look like the arms of a nautilus. The idea was what if a storm or hurricane came along and uprooted the vegetation and made it all topsyturvy, flying through the air—and suddenly it stopped, leaving everything suspended for so long that the fireflies and moths and angel spirits have come back. It’s like the natural order of continuation, the cycle of life through adaptation to circumstances. I was taking photographs of the piece at night and I needed a foreground that would photograph well in the darkness, so I started painting leaves with acrylics and realized


Donald Bracken

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Will You still Love Me When I Am Gone? bittersweet vines, wire, 9x6 ft


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how beautiful they were when painted. I thought they would look great as a hanging piece, which was the genesis for Frozen Moment. It was an evolution from roots in suspended flight in the air, with leaves on the ground, to leaves being suspended in the air. Your relationship with the use of materials to create imagery is intrinsically connected to the chance of creating an area of intellectual interplay with the viewers, that are urged to evolve from the condition of a merely passive audience, as in It Takes a Village. In particular, your process of semantic restructuration of a view has reminded me of the ideas behind Thomas Demand’s works, when he stated that “nowadays art can no longer rely much on symbolic strategies and has to probe psychological narrative elements within the medium instead.” While conceiving Art could be considered a purely abstract activity, there is always a way of giving it a permanence that goes beyond the intrinsic ephemeral nature of the concepts you explore. So I would take this occasion to ask you if in your opinion personal experience is an absolutely indispensable part of a creative process… Do you think that a creative process could be disconnected from direct experience? Personal experience can absolutely imperative. The piece Night Music was originally a frozen moment of chaos inspired by Hurricane Sandy. But it became about tripping on a summer night, and by that I don’t mean drugs but rather a total body and mind experience, about being drawn into the safety of the womb of mother, nature at night. It tries to describe the direct experience of lying in the middle of a tree-lined road still warm from the hot sun of the day and watching the fireflies merge with the stars to a jazz symphony of all the night creatures jamming in intricate patterns of rhythm and sound. And for Heaven and Earth, I had the experience of working in the World Trade Center, staring out the windows, eyeing the clouds


Donald Bracken

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Frozen Moment leaves , bark , acrylic wire , fishing line, 9x 12x 3 ft


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and the view that no longer exists from that particular perspective. I walked down ninety-one flights of stairs to the lobby once when there was a storm and the elevators weren’t running, so when I watched firemen on television valiantly going into the building and finding those stairs, I knew exactly where they were. And when the towers fell I really wanted to do a piece that conveyed my direct experience of having my full sense of safety shattered, so I veiled the image of New York City in a shroud of ash and dust. However, we don’t necessarily gain information firsthand, as with certain societal issues or the horror in the Middle East; instead, we gather the information from a variety of sources and then we synthesize and evaluate it according to our individual belief system. Certain pieces of mine have definitely been influenced by this type of reprocessing or, to use your term, semantic restructuration, to become visualizations of that synthesis. I’m not homeless, poor, or disenfranchised, but not having direct experience doesn’t mean I don’t understand how it affects society or is part of a chain of events. When I see something that stimulates me, I am seeing something visually that somehow has a connection to thoughts about the world or society, and while I work on the piece it takes on a meaning, and quite often the form or the kinetic connection will have a symbiosis with the thought I’m trying to express. In the case of Vestiges of Occupation, I was drawing a large root sitting on top of a destroyed beaver hut, first because of its intrinsic value as an image, but as I drew I began to mentally investigate the connection to the meaning outside of just what I was looking at. The root was sitting on top of the mayhem of randomly scattered sticks, and I started thinking about how the root was the foundation of a tree and was necessary for sustaining its life, and the branches were part of this life form; and how this other life form, the beaver, took this tree and made it into its own— not only a home, but it created a whole ecosystem in this process, which actually created the potential for more life in that area by creating

Earth Variations polymerized clay on canvas on panels , 3.3x 30ft


Donald Bracken

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It Takes A Village clay houses, vines, wire sand 12x 14'


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new habitat. I also was thinking about the paradox tension between this life form that creates positive ecosystems and yet is considered an invasive species by the most invasive species, human beings, and was destroyed by humans despite the positive effects of the beavers as an integral part of the intricate system that is Nature. So when I did this piece, I had the root hanging and the branches hanging down from the root because I wanted the whole piece to examine the often topsy-turvy nature of man’s connection with Nature. I think the principle of magical realism takes the approach that there is something outside of our own perception. Taking the random quality of nature and putting it into a structured format to try to achieve the sense of calmness and serenity that nature possesses. I understand your comparison to Demand, and in some cases that has become the outcome of some of the things I make, or else they won’t be shown in the exact form I created them because they were made within the constraints of my studio space, but hopefully when they are photographed and are constructed or reconstructed they change and evolve over time. This is the case with It Takes a Village, a collaboration with Denise Minnerly, which is newly re-envisioned with each installation as the venues change and more houses are made and added. By the way, I think it's important to remark that It Takes a Village has been conceived and produced in collaboration with artist and educator Denise Minnerly: I do believe that interdisciplinary collaboration such as the one that you have established together is today an ever growing force in Art and that that most exciting things happen when creative minds from different fields of practice meet and collaborate on a project…could you tell us something about this effective synergy? The artist Peter Tabor once said that “collaboration is working together with another to create something as a synthesis of two practices, that alone one could not? What's your point about this? Can you explain

Looking East, polymerized clay on canvas on panels, 6.6x 1

how your work demonstrates communication between two artists? When my longtime friend and former art dealer, Denise Minnerly, came to my show and we were discussing the pieces Vestiges of Occupation, she started telling me about her concept for It Takes a Village, a community-based project where she went into homeless shelters, mental


Donald Bracken

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3.5ft

institutions, and youth groups and had participants shape from clay their concept of what a home is, with these individual clay houses coming together to form a community in the art installation. I was especially drawn to the concept of having homeless people expressing their idea of a home, which they don’t actually have, and I generally found the houses that they created

were the most compelling. I thought that if Denise and I combined where we were going with our art, I would add how nature is interconnected with the human community. My idea was to make out of vines a very interconnected structure that had no real beginning or end, a paradoxical structure representing the polarity of nature in that it could be perceived as either possibly malevolent or as a


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Vestiges of Occupation, beaver sticks, root, wire, 13x6x3 ft left, Wind Over Water, polymerized clay on canvas on panels ,6.66 x 19.5ft right, Inner Urge, vines, acrylic wood, wire, acrylic, 5x 4.2ft


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Vestiges of Occupation

Frozen Moment In Bark

beaver sticks, root, wire, 13x6x3 ft

sycamore bark,acrylics, wire, 5x3ft

nurturing life force. So the synthesis in this case really encompasses not only the collaboration and communication between two artists, but that of the community participants as well. The piece was first created in 2012, then was presented in a much different manner in 2014, and again very differently in 2015. It is planned to be an ongoing project, going into new

communities and having people make houses, and every time it’s installed it will be restructured according to the space and community involvement. Our next goal for this community-participation installation is to take it to a housing project gallery space in New York City.


Donald Bracken

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In the photo of It Takes a Village, on the left is Earth Variations, and on the right is Au Privave. Denise knows my work well and we chose those pieces because we wanted to have It Takes a Village flanked by work that used the same materials but in a different form. Earth Variations is also an excellent example of semantic restructuration: It was the first largescale piece I did, on 12 panels, using polymerized clay, a material that has its own predictably unpredictable personality and that, when I use it, I feel like it speaks and collaborates with me on how the work should progress. Earth Variations, created outside in on warm spring nights to the music of Habib Koité, inspired by the budding trees and the swirling river by my studio, was conceived as 3 panels high by 4 panels long. In the installation at NCC, the piece became 1 panel high and 12 panels long. Multidisciplinarity is a crucial aspect of your art practice, and besides kinetic installations you also produce stimulating mixed media works, as the interesting Post 9/11. You seem to be in incessant search of an organic, almost intimate symbiosis between several disciplines, taking advantage of the creative and expressive potential of colors as well as of motion: While crossing the borders of different artistic fields have you ever happened to realize that a symbiosis between different disciplines is the only way to achieve some results, to express some concepts? You know, from an early age I’ve always loved drawing. I’ve always loved painting. There was a point in my artistic career when I just felt the world didn’t need another acrylic landscape painting by me, and so in frustration I picked up a clod of dirt and smeared it on my painting. Then I discovered that I liked the dimension the soil added to the work and so I started using dirt to do landscapes, documenting the disappearing farmlands of Connecticut. I loved the colors of the

earth, and I suddenly realized that this made the work not just about the earth but of the earth. It soon became apparent to me that each geographical zone had its own different colors and types of earth that had considerably different characteristics as an artistic medium, and I realized that some earth with high clay content cracked a lot when I made it very thick. I found that there was an interplay between the vision I had for the painting and the nature of the medium, and it felt like I was doing a duet with a jazz musician, because of the medium’s inherent qualities. When I had the desire to do a 9/11 memorial piece, the intrinsic qualities of the clay inspired me to do an aerial portrait of Manhattan because I knew that the clay would give a shattered effect to the image. Around the same time I was starting these dirt paintings, I met Sheila Nevins of HBO, who was premiering the 9/11 documentary In Memoriam, and she was interested in having a panel discussion after the premier of her movie at a small theatre in Bantam, Connecticut, with the film’s director and editor. I had been an artist in residence in the World Trade Center and had had a 10,000-square-foot studio on the 91st floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center in 1997. So she wanted me to discuss my experience as an artist working in the World Trade Center and to display a video of the paintings I did in the World Trade Center and later work I did as a response to 9/11. Since I was working with earth from sites I was depicting, I wanted to do some pieces about the World Trade Center using earth from the World Trade Center. In the first piece I did, I used earth from the cemetery across from the World Trade Center. I was later able to obtain actual debris from the World Trade Center, and I made a series of pieces using this debris. In Torn Earth, I wanted to do a piece that looked like a mastectomy, a raw wound that said the earth had been violated, this country had been violated, and I felt that I could only achieve this fully by using actual debris from the site. I also used the tools of the firemen who tried


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to save people in the World Trade Center— crowbar, axe, and wrecking bar—and at the end I poured gasoline on it and set it on fire. I did this in front of my studio as a personal memoriam and performance piece while blasting a tape loop of a jazz piece by John Coltrane called “Spiritual,” recorded from a live performance of A Love Supreme. Another interesting work of yours that has particularly impacted on me and on which I would like to spend some words is entitled Vestiges of Occupation. In this work you explore the blurry boundary between collective memory and identity, investigating the psychological nature of the cinematic image: in particular, when I first happened to get to know with this work I tried to relate all the visual information and the presence of a primary element as water to a single meaning. I later realized I had to fit into the visual rhythm suggested by the work, forgetting my need for a univocal understanding of its symbolic content: in your work, rather that a conceptual interiority, I can recognize the desire to enable us to establish direct relations... Would you say that it's more of an intuitive or a systematic process? This quite often is not a conscious process, but it occurs through the process of making art, as in the piece Vestiges of Occupation. I had been collecting beaver sticks for several years because I’ve always been fascinated by beavers—they are amazing engineers and often create beautiful estuaries. The sticks sometimes look like Giacometti sculptures with the little heads and truncated arms. One rainy day I was sitting in my car drawing a large root that was sitting on top a destroyed or deconstructed beaver hut. The root interested me, so I dug it out and took it to my studio and suspended it from a high beam. After living with this flying root for a while, I decided I should make a monument to the beaver, which was killed because, although it had created an

Damascas Road, polymerized clay on panels sand, shelf:27x

estuary for birds and fish, it had also plugged up a drainage culvert and chewed on somebody’s tree, which was inconvenient for its human neighbors. So I decided to suspend the sticks from the defunct former hut, using almost invisible fishing line that makes the sticks become alive with kinetic energy. The sticks, with their arbitrary shapes and random movements, speak about the


Donald Bracken

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56x8 inches

fragility of life and the legacy we leave behind. Light and movement work in conjunction with space as the pieces sway and spin and cast everchanging shadows, again conveying the idea that even in death, life is constantly evolving and changing. The piece is a kinetic totem. It is an expression about man in conflict with nature

trying to always dominate and rule rather than live in peace and harmony. I definitively love the way you recontextualize the idea of the environment we live in, as in your World Trade Center series and especially in the interesting mixed media painting Heaven and Earth. Many


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contemporary landscape artists, such as the photographers Edward Burtynsky or Michael Light, have some form of environmental or political message in their photographs. Do you consider that your works are political in this way, or do you seek to maintain a neutral approach? Some of my work is just about beauty and love of life and love of nature, but left-wing politics is definitely part of me and some of my work clearly has a political side to it. For instance, I was involved with the NYC group shows for Art Against Apartheid. At other times I’ve made certain thought connections as a result of attempting to reconcile occurrences I think are out of place—such as while setting up my studio at the World Trade Center, I brought in several carloads of art supplies in boxes and cans. I am white, blue-eyed, and, at that time, was also blond. The mostly Middle Eastern security staff never checked my materials. I did have a photo ID, but it seemed odd that they were so casual in light of the World Trade Center terrorist bombing in 1992. It occurred to me while looking out over the city from this icon of American international financial interests that I could be in the IRA or a blond fundamentalist Muslim, but because of my race I was never checked. It seemed to me that the building was very vulnerable and that there was a real complacency by American institutions considering how many people this country has pissed off. I somewhat share Noam Chomsky’s point of view of the United States’ role in 9/11 as a ramification of its international policies. It appeared to me that there would come a day when an icon of American imperialism would be attacked and a normal means of conveyance would cause the disruption of the World Trade Center. I did two pieces on this theme while I had my studio at the World Trade Center—one was World on Fire, and the other was called Premonition of Disaster. Needless to say, I could not have conceived of the tragedy of 9/11, nor, as a pseudo New Yorker, could I have

predicted my sense of loss or that my world would be turned upside down as a result of the events of 9/11, and the chain of events that are taking place as a result of America’s reaction to 9/11. During these years your works have been extensively exhibited on several important occasions, so before taking leave from this interesting conversation I would like to pose a question about the nature of the relation with your audience: In particular, do you consider the issue of audience reception as being a crucial component of your decisionmaking process in terms of what type of language for a particular context? When I conceive a piece and am making a piece, I’m just trying to state my point of view and express some things that are difficult to express in words, and quite often I do think that I’m expressing things that other people have felt and that perhaps seeing it as an image helps them to frame the experience. In the piece Memorial Windows, which is an extension of Heaven and Earth, using panels the size of the windows in the World Trade Center set in a field, looking almost like tombstones, it almost has the feeling that the image has become headstones in a graveyard. And I hope that people will find it somewhat cathartic, just as people find a graveyard or the Vietnam memorial wall cathartic. So Heaven and Earth is recontextualized in Memorial Windows, but rather than having panels on the wall, these panels—each the size of the windows of the World Trade Center towers—are now installed in a field, and the view out a window is now become a view of the windows themselves, now no longer suspended from a building high in the sky but instead coming out the earth like gravestones. This piece is also in part a reaction to the billion-dollar 9/11 museum, which, however valid, I would have rather seen installed at another location, because it has made the site of one of our greatest national tragedies a bit like Disneyland.


Donald Bracken

LandEscape 27 Art Review

Invasive Species beaver sticks , bittersweet vines,wire, 7x6ft left: Wings Over Water,polymerized clay on canvas on panels 6.66x 4.5ft top:Frozen Moment In Bark, 5x3ft right: Fire Flies In A Grey Field, 5x 4ft


LandEscape 28

Donald Bracken

Art Review

Thanks a lot for this interesting conversation, Donald. Finally, I would like you to tell our readers something about your future projects. Anything coming up for you professionally that you would like readers to be aware of? I’m currently working on a project called Damascus Falling, which is another piece where I’m reframing the Heaven and Earth idea, except instead of having the vision of a city shattered by the traumas of two iconic buildings falling, now it’s become a vision of the total decimation of some of the many cities and regions currently being ravaged by the traumas of war—in some cases much like people lined up to be shot, in an allusion to Goya’s work about the instruments used by the Holy Inquisition, and El Greco’s painting 3rd of May 1808, of Spanish peasants being shot by the French. In the summer I’ll be doing an outdoor installation at Lionheart Gallery in Pound Ridge, New York, and I also have a planned installation of a yet-to-be-defined vine and root piece and exhibition of other work at Five Points Gallery in Torrington, Connecticut, this fall. Denise and I are currently seeking out new venues for It Takes a Village, and I’m looking for an appropriately large venue for Memorial Windows. Thank you for asking me to be in your magazine and for asking such thoughtful insightful questions

An interview by Dario Rutigliano, curator witht he collaboration of Katherine Williams landescape@europe.com


Donald Bracken

LandEscape 29 Art Review


LandEscape 40 Art Review

La Dame Lucide


LandEscape 31 Art Review

Djojo & Versteeg Live and work in Rotterdam, the Netherlands

An artist's statement

D

jojo & Versteeg consists of two young artists who formed a duo during time in art school. Rik Versteeg (25) graduated in 2013 as a photographer and Danny Djojosoedarmo (22) is a self-educated make-up artist and stylist. By combining forces, they found a way to complement each others skills. Working as a team of two, gives them the ability to create images that are completely formed by their own imagination, without the influence of anyone outside their fantasy world. While working on Rik’s graduation project the two started to develop their own style. After graduation they started working even more and quickly found their way of creating images and show the viewer a world they've never seen before.

Using multiple techniques and combining them into one, the staged photographs produced are a whole new world questioning the fine line between fiction and reality. By using this technique it is possible to integrate different materials and preserve the tactility of these materials. The images you see are actual real-life decors photographed in such a way it almost seems fake. Their images are theatrical, stylistic, aesthetic, imaginative and serene.


LandEscape meets

Danny Djojo & Rik Versteeg An interview by Dario Rutigliano, curator witht he collaboration of Katherine Williams landescape@europe.com

Rotterdam based artists Djojo & Versteeg accomplish the difficult task to capture the essence of human experience and immediately conveying it into a fantasy realm, marked out with both imagination and a though-provoking reference to real world. Their staged photographies unveil a careful process that can be considered an investigation about the liminal area in which Imagination and perceptual reality find an unexpected point of convergence, coexisting in a coherent unity. One of the most convincing aspects of Djojo & Versteeg's practice is the way they creates an area of intellectual interplay that urges the viewers to explore the unstable relationship between perception and memory in the contemporary age. We are very pleased to introduce our readers to their refined artistic production. Hello Rik and Danny, and welcome to LandEscape. To start this interview, would you like to tell us something about your background? In particular, you formed a duo during time in art school: while Rik has an academic training in Fine-Art Photography, Danny has an autodidact background as a stylist and make-up artist. I personally find extremely fascinating the convergence of formal training with a selftaught approach and I do believe that interdisciplinary collaborations -as the one that you have established together- is today an ever growing force in Art and that most Juerg Luedi


Djojo & Versteeg

LandEscape 33 Art Review

The lovebirds


LandEscape 34

Rik Versteeg & Danny Djojo

Art Review

The Forsaken from The Appearance of the Subconscious Mind series

exciting things happen when creative minds from different fields of practice meet and collaborate on a project... Have you ever happened to realize that such synergy is the only way to achieve some results, to

express specific concepts? By the way, the artist Peter Tabor once said that "collaboration is working together with another to create something as a synthesis of two practices, that alone one could not":


Djojo & Versteeg

LandEscape 35 Art Review

us realizing we were such a good team together. At the academy we started working together on random projects that happened from time to time. These projects were fashion stories most of the time. At this time Danny was just starting doing make-up! After a while we noticed that a lot of the make-up done by other artist was still very beauty related, but we wanted something more expressive and theatrical. So instead of trying to find the right artists for this, we just started doing it ourselves and that is basically how it all started. Three years later and we're still working together! We totally agree on the statement by Peter Tabor. We both share the same vision, which is always helpful when you're working together. But the most important part of our collaboration is that we can really share our abilities and learn from each other. Danny can deliver the best make-up because he knows how the lighting works, same as for Rik because he'll know how to capture the best angles to bring out the makeup and styling even more!

what's your point about this? Can you explain how your work demonstrates communication between two artists?

Well, the collaboration kind of started without

I would start to focus on your artistic production beginning from The Appearance of the Subconscious Mind, an interesting body of work featured in the introductory pages of this article: the way you explore a dream-like dimension reminds me of the idea behind Thomas Demand's works, when he states that "Nowadays art can no longer rely so much on symbolic strategies and has to probe psychological, narrative elements within the medium instead". I like the way you give to the ephemeral nature of human feeling a sense of permanence, capturing the essence of human experience. So I would take this occasion to ask you if in your opinion, personal experience is absolutely indispensable as part of the creative process? Do you think


LandEscape 36

Djojo & Versteeg

Art Review

The Ferocious Sovereign

The Malicious

from The Appearance of the Subconscious Mind series

from The Appearance of the Subconscious Mind series

that a creative process could be disconnected from direct experience?

direct experience in theory, but we wouldn't know how, because that is definitely not the way we work. Disconnecting a personal experience would be a work of it's own, but then our question would be: How do you capture that moment?

We do believe personal experience is really important as a part of the creative process. Daily experiences make you who you are and affect the way you think. We also believe that a creative process could be disconnected from

Because once you start working on it, it will


Djojo & Versteeg

LandEscape 37 Art Review

The Preserver of the Obscurity

The Ethereal Bride

from The Appearance of the Subconscious Mind series

from The Appearance of the Subconscious Mind series

ultimately be influenced by you and thus your personal experience. It's a very good question and we would love to answer it, but for now it raised more questions than answers, haha.

to much inner knowledge of our own nature, providing the viewers of an Ariadne's Thread, inviting them to challenge the common way we relate ourselves with the outside world... By the way, I'm sort of convinced that some informations & ideas are hidden, or even "encrypted" in the environment we live in, so we need -in a way-

The Appearance of the Subconscious Mind can be considered as a refined investigation that unveils that nature itself holds the key


LandEscape 38

Djojo & Versteeg

Art Review

The Celestial Goddess

The Venomous Vixen

from The Appearance of the Subconscious Mind series

from The Appearance of the Subconscious Mind series

to decipher them. Maybe that one of the roles of an artist could be to reveal unexpected sides of Nature, especially of our inner Nature... what's your point about this?

subconscious world. Most of our inspiration is coming from theories, myths, technology and the way the human being is able to relate to it. We don’t think it is important for every single artist to reveil the inner nature, but in a way every artist is influenced by something that inspires them from their daily live. Most of the

In our own work one of the most important issues we can relate to is searching for a way to show the viewer an undiscovered and


Rik Versteeg & Danny Djojo

LandEscape 42 Art Review

The Terrestrial Paladin from The Appearance of the Subconscious Mind series


LandEscape 40 Art Review

The Red Indulgence from The Masquerade Ball series

Djojo & Versteeg


Djojo & Versteeg

LandEscape 41 Art Review

time we react to issues we see in our own lives and project this in an image whether it’s a statement or by showing our research on a subject. It goes without saying that your photographs are the result of a lot of planning and thought, but at the same time they convey a sense of ironic spontaneity that is a hallmark of your style. One of the things that I have mostly appreciated of your approach is that you seem to be wanting to move beyond standard representation: I like the direction you are taking. Creating what at first appears to be a photographic image but subverting its compositional elements, making the viewer realize that your work has a different message. What has influenced your style?

When we started working as a duo our first series and images were very fashion related. In the early stage of our work as u duo we used clothing from renewed or upcoming designers and most of the time the designs were our starting point for creating an image. After a while we realized that our concepts and ideas did not always show through with the designs we used to capture the idea with. At this point, our main focus was to really get our statement right by using only objects and fabric to get the concept perfectly aligned with what is in the image. Every detail is staged, like in fashion, and we love it. Your approach seems to stimulates the viewer’s psyche and consequently works on both a subconscious and a conscious level. How did you decide to focus on this form of photography? And in particular, do you conceive this in an instinctive way or do you rather structure your process in order to reach the right balance?

With Rik having a fashion photography


LandEscape 42

Djojo & Versteeg

Art Review

The Veiled Temptress

Daughter of Deception

from The Masquerade Ball series

from The Masquerade Ball series

background and Danny fine arts, the decision was made the moment we started working together. We were really missing the conceptual aspects of photography, because fashion is a really fast industry. Back then, the images shot were really evolving on set or even in the editing phase, but after a while it wasn't really satisfying anymore. Before we start

shooting the actual image now, preparations can take up to a week or more. So it is really a structured process, but anything can happen on set! Another interesting project of yours that has had particular impact on me and about which I would like to dedicate some words is entitled "The Masquerade Ball". What most


Djojo & Versteeg

LandEscape 43 Art Review

The Fortress of Liquid Gold

The Invitation

from The Masquerade Ball series

from The Masquerade Ball series

impressed me in this project is the way your analysis of mundane situations shows a point of convergence between a rigorous investigation about the liminal area in which fiction and reality blends together and autonomous aesthetics on a formal aspect. As most of your works, this piece is open to various interpretations: in particular, it

communicates me a process of deconstruction, recontextualization and assemblage. What is it specifically about deconstruction which fascinates you and make you want to center your artistic style around it?

What fascinates us about deconstruction is the


LandEscape 14 Art Review

From Sculpture to Body, video

Rik Versteeg & Danny Djojo


Rik Versteeg & Danny Djojo

LandEscape 42 Art Review


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Djojo & Versteeg

Art Review

fact that you have the ability to rip a twodimensional concept apart and layer it, creating a new twisted way to look at it. Like all of our images, at first, it seems as you are looking at a regular, slightly weird, image. But if you pay closer attention the smallest detail can influence your whole idea of the concept, which is already open to interpretation. Besides the stimulating series that we have been discussing so far, you also produced an interesting short entitled From Sculpture to Body that our readers can view at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8GQkdQ 1DvY#t=77. By definition video is rhythm and movement, gesture and continuity. You have create a time-based work that induce the viewer to abandon himself to his associations, looking at time in spatial terms and I daresay, rethinking the concept of space in such a static way: this seems to remove any historic gaze from the reality you refer to, offering to the viewers the chance to perceive in a more atemporal form. How did you conceived the rhythm for From Sculpture to Body ?

From sculpture to body, was actually a short fashion film, produced for a runway show of Ilona Putkaradze. She gave us a free hand to do anything we wanted as long as we used a specific track. This beat by Moderat is what inspired us most for this short film. We wanted to create a film that related to Ilona's collection. Most of the shots are inspired by the materials and the statue she used which was her inspiration for the collection. We wanted to show the viewer a glimpse of her concept and the process she went through before creating her designs. Your artistic production is based on the chance to create a thought-provoking involvement with the viewers: so, before leaving this conversation I would like to

pose a question about the nature of the relationship of your art with your audience. Do you consider the issue of audience reception as being a crucial component of your decision-making process, in terms of what type of language is used in a particular context?

Sometimes audience reception is important in a decision-making process, but it's not something we focus on. We want our images to have a serene aesthetic about them, which will draw the viewer's interest. Only to have them realize that that's not the only visible layer. We want our images to be weird, but also beautiful at the same time to really create that thoughtprovoking involvement with the viewers and raise questions about why we made certain decisions. In terms of language, it's really the twist of beauty that lies within an image. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Rik and Danny. Finally, would you like to tell our readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving?

We just started a new project that is based on gender. We don't want to give too much information about it already because we want to surprise the viewers with a grand series. In September we're going to start with another project which involves Transhumanism in which we are going to combine photography with video. So make sure to keep an eye on us, haha! And thank you for the interview, it was a lot of fun!

An interview by Dario Rutigliano, curator witht he collaboration of Katherine Williams landescape@europe.com


The Marble Duchess


LandEscape 40 Art Review


LandEscape 49 Art Review

David JP Hooker Lives and works in Wheaton, Il USA

An artist's statement

I

n my case the idea of making work from direct experience came from reading Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics and Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation. At about the same time I had an artist residency in Indonesia. While I was there I was incredibly conscious of how radically out of place I was in that culture, that environment, and I wanted to find a way to make work that expressed that. The breakthrough for me was a

performance piece I made where I simply videotaped my feet as I walked through a rice field: something the locals can do without thinking about it but for someone unaccustomed to it like myself it was like trying to walk across a 200 yard-long greased balance beam.

David JP Hooker


LandEscape meets LandEscape

David JP Hooker An interview by Dario Rutigliano, curator witht he collaboration of Katherine Williams landescape@europe.com

David Hooker harmonizes the expressive potential that comes from Nature with a rigorous formal approach: taking advance from a marked performative approach, he accomplishes the difficult task of establishing a symbiosis between a contemplative gaze on the reality we inhabit, with a lively performative practice. One of the most convincing aspect of Hooker's practice is the way he finds a point of convergence between several disicplines that invites the viewers to explore the crossroad between Human and Nature: I'm very pleased to introduce our readers to his refined artistic production. Hello David and welcome to LandEscape: to start this interview, would you like to tell us something about your background? You have a solid training and after your studies at the Winthrop University you moved to the Kent State University, where you earned a MFA of Ceramics: how did formal training impacted on your evolution as an artist. In particular, how did it inform the way you currently conceive and produce your works?

I have to admit that the move from functional pottery, which was my primary production when I entered Kent State, to performance art seems rather random. When I was an undergraduate I was actually an English major studying art on the side. At the time I wanted Juerg Luedi


David JP Hooker

LandEscape 51 Art Review


LandEscape 52

David JP Hooker

Art Review

to make large-scale artwork that people had to interact with, rather than just “look at.” Sometime after college I realized that the interaction I wanted was part of the dialogue of pottery, I just had to adjust from trying to make big things to small things. That was a huge revelation to me: that the “big ideas” could be pursued in small, humble objects. And that that pursuit had a long history that crossed generational and cultural boundaries. That basic philosophy is still part of my artistic practice. In particular my thinking has been heavily influenced by my study of tea ceremony ware from Japan and Korea. In Japan there is a welldeveloped aesthetic defined by the Japanese words “wabi-sabi.” It is telling that there is no direct translation of these words in English, but the basic gist of the term is to find the beauty of things that are humble, unambitious, natural and ephemeral. I still make functional pots from time to time, by the way. I think they continue to help me develop ways of thinking about other works by grounding me in a practice that values a fundamental connection to material, place and history through disciplined repetitive action. The hallmark of your approach is a multidisciplinary symbiosys between Plasticity and environmental contemplation, wisely combined with a marked performative feature that gives a dynamic life to your pieces, and I would suggest our readers to visit directly at http://www.davidjphooker.com in order to get a wider idea of your multifaceted artistic production. While crossing the borders of different artistic fields have you ever happened to realize that a symbiosis between different disciplines is the only way to achieve some results, to express some concepts?

First, thanks for the plug! I never start any project deliberately trying to be multidisciplinary. I actually prefer the elegance of a simple solution. I detail from myFunerals, Performance

think I am a bit of a magpie, however, as I tend to collect the “shiny bits” of any discipline and glom them together. Sometimes


David JP Hooker

LandEscape 53 Art Review

I feel like my practice has become too multidisciplinary, so that there is little

symbiosis, So I’m really happy that you are able to see the connections.


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David JP Hooker

Art Review

That idea of a symbiosis between plasticity and environmental contemplation is really right at the heart of what I’m looking for. I am

always looking for a kind of visceral knowledge; a kind of bodily understanding of places or objects. I was pretty athletic as a kid,


David JP Hooker

LandEscape 55 Art Review

Now let's focus on your artistic production: I would start from the Service Project, that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article: since this work is performance based, it is critical to document the work in a way to best narrate your own story. Would you tell us something about the genesis of this interesting project? What was your initial inspiration?

A teaching job caused my family and I to move from a rural farm town in South Carolina to the suburbs of Chicago. I began to research a little of the history of the area and found some interesting things that were largely overlooked as most people in the area are so culturally focused on Chicago. I thought there were stories here that needed to be told; stories that might cause us to think more seriously about the land we inhabit, the types of houses we build here, and the way we think about our community. The first of these is Winfield Mounds, which is the name of a Native American mound site right in the heart of the town I live in. Right away there is a lot of tension in the name, as the mounds—and the town— are named for General Winfield Scott, the general President Abraham Lincoln assigned to “take care of the Indian problem” in the area. The story doesn’t get much better from there. The mounds were discovered and desecrated by relic hunters in the late 19th century, further excavated by academics, and then “rebuilt,” sans artifacts, sometime in the mid 20th century.

and I think that kind of physicality has influenced the way I approach art.

I wanted to find a way to connect myself to that once sacred space, to honor it, and yet not ignore the tension inherent in me, a white male and a resident of the town, interacting with the space. I grew up playing tennis and I began to realize that might be a perfect metaphor. Tennis is primarily considered a rich-person’s


LandEscape 14 Art Review

Nara Walker


Nara Walker

LandEscape 42 Art Review


LandEscape 58

David JP Hooker

Art Review

sport, one that is typically associated with country clubs. Yet as a player I spent countless hours practicing all the various strokes. Practicing has become a ritual activity to me, it is as spiritual as it is visceral. I decided I would go to the mounds and ritualistically hit serves in different seasons, it seemed the right balance between honoring the space and recognizing the tension. Your practice is intrinsically connected to the chance of creating an area of deep, almost physical interplay with the viewers, that are urged to evolve from the condition of a merely passive audience and I definetely love the way your works take an intense participatory line: In particular, the intrinsically contingent nature your investigation has reminded me of the idea behind Thomas Demand's works: while conceiving Art could be considered a purely abstract activity, there is always a way of giving it a permanence that goes beyond the intrinsic ephemeral nature of the concepts you capture. So I would take this occasion to ask you if in your opinion personal experience is an absolutely indespensable part of a creative process... Do you think that a creative process could be disconnected from direct experience?

That’s a tough question. It brings to mind Sol LeWitt’s Sentences on Conceptual Art and also his great wall drawings. Would he have considered his process disconnected from direct experience? My guess would be yes and no. In my case the idea of making work from direct experience came from reading Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics and Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation. At about the same time I had an artist residency in Indonesia. While I was there I was incredibly conscious of how radically out of place I was in

that culture, that environment, and I wanted to find a way to make work that expressed that. The breakthrough for me was a performance


David JP Hooker

LandEscape 59 Art Review

piece I made where I simply videotaped my feet as I walked through a rice field: something the locals can do without thinking about it but for

someone unaccustomed to it like myself it was like trying to walk across a 200 yard-long greased balance beam. Rice Field Walk


LandEscape 60

David JP Hooker

Art Review

expressed my experience of Indonesia far more succinctly than anything I might have done symbolically or abstractly. The ambience created by the Service Project has reminded me the concept of Heterotopia elaborated by French social theorist Michel Foucault and what has mostly impacted on me is the subtle but pervading sense of narrative: although each of your project has an autonmous life, there's always seem to be such a channel of communication between your works, that springs from the way you juxtapose ideas and media: as I have been told once, "nowadays art can no longer rely much on symbolic strategies and has to probe psychological narrative elements within the medium instead". What's your point about this? And in particular, how much do you explicitly think of a narrative for your works?

I really like the connection you make to heterotopia in the Service Project. I hadn’t thought of that, but I think it is bang on. But I have always thought more in terms of Liminal space; a place where the sacred and the mundane overlap. That idea interests me a great deal. It think I am attracted to the sense of mystery, something in a place or an object that is decidedly present, at times palpable, but ultimately unknowable. Trying to make contact with that and also present it to the viewers. There is something of a narrative in that. For about 12 years after graduate school my work was explicitly narrative. A few years ago I realized my work was changing and I thought I was getting away from narrative. My colleagues challenged that notion and I began to realize they were correct. When I start I am not thinking about narrative, only trying to connect to the material and the space. In that way I think I am fulfilling the quote you were given. Somewhere in the exploration, in the trying to

connect, a narrative emerges. I have to admit the term “narrative” sounds so linear to me it feels restrictive. There is something poetic there, too, but like your friend I am weary of symbolism. Another interesting work of yours that has particularly impacted on me and on which I would like to spend some words is The Sweep Project, that has been recently exhibited at the Illinois State Museum. I like the way it challenges us to consider our role in building a more equitable society today: Art has never operated in a vacuum and it is almost impossible to separate art from its subtle or explicit socio politic context. And as Edward Burtynsky's or Michael Light's work, much of your art, as I interpret it, seems to aim to be a political intervention that helps re-frame our understanding of the nature of our relation with the environment we inhabit... do you think that you approach is politic in a such way? Moreover, what could be in your opinion the role of an artist in our society?

I do think my work is politic, but not necessarily political, if that makes sense. As you say one doesn’t make work in a vacuum. When I was in school in the 80s and 90s most of the work was overtly political and didactic. I dabbled with that but for the most part I found it dissatisfying: art used solely as a vehicle for ideology tends to “shout,” and I’m not really interested in shouting. I’m more interested in listening, more interested in paradox; there is too much complexity in the world, in our relationship to the world, to express it in simple binary ways. That being said I certainly have issues that I feel passionate about and those issues become a part of the work: our relationship to the land, for example. I do think the Sweep Project is very politic in that way. As I travel on my


Nara Walker

LandEscape 42 Art Review


LandEscape 62

David JP Hooker

Art Review

pilgrimage through the county I pass through a wealthy suburb with a lot of “cookie-cutter” mansions that have no relationship to the environment, other than to simply try to dominate it. It seems like an attempt to achieve the “American dream” on steroids, at the expense of history, the land, and our sense of community. It strikes me as the exact opposite of Alain De Botton’s philosophy in Architecture of Happiness, or even the opposite of what the famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright set out to do in this very area a century ago. In a subtle way I hope my project draws attention to that. One of the things I really like about this project is that it invites the resident’s of the community into a one on one conversation. People occasionally stop me to ask what I’m doing. That gives me a chance to talk to them about the history, the fact that the Underground Railroad was active in their own backyards. Most people I meet have no idea. I also love that when I tell them the story, they always tell me a story back. It’s an amazing opportunity to connect with a stranger in a meaningful way that comes directly from artistic practice. I also give them a cyanotype print as a memento of our conversation–I am making prints of the places I travel as part of the project and I carry them in my backpack. Those meetings increasingly fuel the project. I do think this is a role artists are embracing more and more: to make work that directly interacts with a small community: to tell stories in microcosm rather than trying to make universal statements, to make work for small audiences rather than always pursuing big international “success.” It’s an exciting time to practice.

Politics do sometimes affect the work as well. You mentioned the Sweep Project at the Illinois State Museum. Turns out that didn’t happen due to budget cuts in an election year. The new governor slashed the state’s arts funding, which was already working on a shoestring budget. The museum director was left trying to pick up the pieces and has had to postpone the exhibit, which included a community performance piece, indefinitely. That was a tough pill to swallow but I decided that wasn’t going to stop me from continuing. Hopefully it will still happen. I can tell it from your question it must still be listed on my CV. I need to fix that. I definitively love the way you recontextualize the idea of the environment we live in and I would go as far as to state that your capability to evoke the presence of a view forces the viewers' perception in order to challenge the common way to perceive not only the outside world, but our inner dimension as well ... you seem to deconstruct and assembly memories in order to suggest a process of investigation: maybe that one of the roles of an artist could be to reveal unexpected sides of Nature, especially of our inner Nature... what's your point about this?

Yes, thank you for your insight. That’s exactly what I’m talking about when I mention the conversations I have with residents I meet during the performance of the Sweep Project. The first goal, however, is to change my own perceptions, to challenge my own internal nature, through direct communion with places and objects. I think that is why the ritual nature of my practice has become increasingly important. That kind of knowledge takes time. I am really inspired by the works of Tehching Hsieh and Wolfgang Laib in that respect.


Nara Walker

LandEscape 42 Art Review


LandEscape 14 Art Review

Nara Walker


David JP Hooker

When I first happened to get to know Construction Sculpture, I tried to relate all the visual information and the presence of primary elements to a single meaning. I later realized I had to fit into the visual unity suggested by the work, forgetting my need for a univocal understanding of its symbolic content: in your work, rather that a conceptual interiority, I can recognize the desire to enabling us to establish direct relations... Would you say that it's more of an intuitive or a systematic process?

Wow. Can I first just say what a pleasure it is to have this conversation? You are affirming everything I think about when I view the work myself! I, too, realized during the making of the pieces that I had to give up the symbolic content of the objects, that I wanted to find a way to touch the wabi inherent in the objects. In some strange way the construction process helps me to do that. But that is both a systematic process and an intuitive one. I am systematically building these constructions as a way of stripping away, or at least challenging the viewer to reexamine, the symbolic content of the objects, yet the way each construction is approached is largely intuitive. I do believe the intuitive approach reveals some kind of systematic thinking; there is some kind of system to the way I am putting the pieces together, but I am still trying to figure out what it is through the explorations. Your pieces are in private and public collections and during these years your works have been extensively exhibited around the United States, including over 14 solos: so before taking leave from this interesting conversation I would like to pose a question about the nature of the relation with your audience: in particular, do you consider the issue of audience reception as being a crucial component of your decision-

LandEscape 65 Art Review

making process in terms of what type of language for a particular context?

That is always the million-dollar question, isn’t it? Take, for example, this interview. Discussions that include Foucault’s “heterotopia” or the Japanese aesthetic “wabi-sabi” are clearly going to self-select an audience, right? How intentional are we being about audience reception with this publication? I’ve decided—and maybe you have too as an editor—that while I want to be considerate of audience, I ultimately want to make the work that I’m interested in and passionate about, and to let it speak with it’s own voice. What else can I do, really, if I want to be authentic and make work that’s authentic? Not that that comes without a cost. Several times I have approached community groups about the Sweep Project, hoping to get more community buy-in, to get a chance to work directly with members of the community. The first and biggest hurdle is always the performative nature of the project. Why, they want to know, don’t I just paint a mural? That is to say why can’t I use an artistic language they are already familiar with? While I appreciate the sincerity of their question I just know it is the wrong direction to take. That’s not what the art wants to be, and ultimately the power of the work to communicate in a meaningful way would be destroyed. So I continue to sweep; it reaches less people in the community overall but the impact it has on those people is greater. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, David. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving?

Well I feel I always have too many projects going at once, so my main goal this year is just to get some things finished! I hope finish the Joilet to


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David JP Hooker

Art Review

Crete Pilgrimage Sweep, the main part of the Sweep Project, this year, and to develop the construction series further. I can sense it may be leading me into a direction in which more

minimalist compositions might emerge, which I find intriguing. I have started a project where I am attempting to make 10,000 ceramic bees, all numbered, from a single mold. This


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summer I am heading to a residency in the Black Hills of South Dakota where I hope to make some connections with the Native American Lakota tribe that might lead to some

future performative/collaborative works about the nature of the land there, and how our two cultures perceive that land differently. So, yeah, a lot going on.


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The Redwoods at the Autumn Lights Festival in Oakland, California. Photo by Kelly Knowles


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Gabe Babcock Lives and works in Oregon

An artist's statement

E

xploring the natural world around me and focusing on my role within it, i strive to illuminate the tension between nature and humans through art. Using found materials I challenge the integrity of the materials within spatial boundaries. Whatever the material, I find myself testing it, searching for its limits with a structural balance, much like an explorer gingerly traversing a glacier in high summer. In using various materials and testing their limits, i toe boundaries; each project becomes an engineered experiment. Similarly, a stonefly's cocoon of sand and pebbles is fit for three years of tumultuous waters; the cocoon can fail and its

components once again become part of the river, shedding light on connectedness and impermanence. The tension and balance I strive for is like that of an eagle's nest. Weaving found materials together with its beak, for the bird to balance a metric-ton basket on the highest point of the tallest tree to embrace the elements is like Russian roulette. Nobody would ever do this, but an eagle does and succeeds. Using craft as my wading staff, my goal is to create structure within the thalweg, conveying tension to the viewer standing safely ashore.

Gabe Babcock


LandEscape meets

Gabe Babcock An interview by Dario Rutigliano, curator witht he collaboration of Katherine Williams landescape@europe.com

Gabe Babcock accomplishes the difficult task of highlighting the tension between nature and human, creating an area in which emotional dimension and perceptual reality coexist in a coherent unity. He does not let the viewers in the foggy area of doubt: the evokative power of the combination of materials he uses to investigate about the relation between reality and the way we perceive it, generate an area of intellectual interplay between perception and memory, contingency and immanence, that invites the viewers to explore the crossroad between human emotion and nature's power: I'm very pleased to introduce our readers to his refined artistic production. Hello Gabe and welcome to LandEscape: to start this interview, would you like to tell us something about your background? Are there any experience that have influenced your evolution as an artists and that still impact on the way you currently conceive and produce your works?

With only 27 years of observing i have little to specifically point a finger at and confidently say it had significant impact on my work. I have spent a great deal of time in the woods, and on rivers. Outside. Trailess. Always walking, always observing, always in wonder. I seem to fall into the habit of going on these Juerg Luedi


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Ring of Vows, Steam bent white oak. Photo by Emily Houston


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adventures and inevitably looking for places with no human “print” and, usually, there is a log cross-cut by a chainsaw, or an old rusted pipe, or power lines. For instance, last winter i was climbing to get to the spring of a creek in the coast range. I scaled up the creek, high walled basalt canyon covered in moss with rhododendrons reaching for light over the edges. The old noble firs swaying madly in the horrendous wind and, as I climbed closer to the creek’s source, it only seemed to grow from the amount of rain falling. Springs fascinate me, maybe because i don’t understand them. But a vein of water coming up from the earth’s core, through bedrock...Something full and satisfying about it. Wholesome. Something as soft as water shaping something so hard as stone. Fitting and the way it should be. A little watching and observing, a slow amble with a little selfless time, and the mind is humbled by the simplicity of things in contrast with their layers of complexity. So my mind gets lost in little thought circles as i clamber on through the stream up to its source. This day i found it and . . . “continued up under and through the alders and thorns until they grew so thick i was forced to crawl like a child on my hand and knees. I reached a rock out crop in a clearing and scrambled up it. As i looked up i realized the clearing was a swath cut through the woods for power lines, which were no more than 5 ft above my head. In a heinous rain storm the wind howled up this canyon of old growth trees, barely clothed and bare footed covered in blood and my only fear was how far can power arch?” This type of outcome happens often enough. It certainly curves my perception of the world and i inevitably question my role in it. And, this curiosity carries into my work. detail from myFunerals, Performance


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566 growth rights etched in glass to resemble the redwoods... what they were and what has come of some of them


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The Redwoods at dusk. Emulating the bay area as night sets in


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Your approach is marked out with a deep multidisciplinary synergy between several practices, that are combined to provide your works of a dynamic and autonomous life. I would suggest our readers to visit http://www.gabebabcock.com in order to get a wider idea of your multifaceted artistic production. While crossing the borders of different artistic fields have you ever happened to realize that a symbiosis between different viewpoints is the only way to achieve some results, to express specific concepts?

A resounding yes. To paint a simple picture. I am from a family of ten. With farmers, teachers, biologist, foresters, teachers, artist, nurses, and more teachers, and now parents. There are clearly different perspectives politically, environmentally, religiously etc. I have no aspirations to tell people how to live or think. Everyone does the best with what they are given, i only aim to offer another perspective. I don’t think many of my family members understand art, or what i do. But they support me and are fascinated about how I go about accomplishing certain projects. And this perspective extends out to my audiences too. Some get it, some don’t. Those that get it and like it, great! Those that don’t but are fascinated by the complexity and story of the process, also great! And for those who don’t get it and/or care for it… what am i supposed to do? Just smile I guess. I would start to focus on your artistic production beginning from The Redwoods, an interesting work that our readers have already got to know in the introductory pages of this article. What most impressed me in this project is the way you have create a point of convergence between a functional analyses of the context you examine and autonomous aesthetics. Do you conceive this in an instinctive way or do you rather


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structure your process in order to reach the right balance?

For me, i think it is necessary to have this balance between aesthetics and concept in order to reach a broader audience. Making something aesthetically pleasing will attract a wider range of people in my opinion. Even if one doesn’t get art or care for it, or understand the concept of a piece, they can still see it and appreciate it. If the work is not inviting and approachable i think it is hard to draw people in to want to understand the concept. But it is always the concept and the materials that help shape the piece. The context is equally important, but i don’t try to force people to understand it. Each piece means something to me, but i don’t want what i see to impose on what they see. I think it is more effective for the viewer to ruminate on what they see, rather than to have my ideas interrupt their thought process. I want the viewers to take their experience home with them and reflect on it. For me I think this balance is instinctive. I am a very processoriented person and in order for me to be happy with my work I feel it needs a sense of cleanliness, supplemented by the wabi-sabi aesthetic. A relevant feature of The Redwoods that has particularly impacted on me is the way you highlight the inner bond between Man and Nature: you invite the viewer to appreciate the intrinsic but sometimes disregarded beauty of geometrical patterns, bringing a new level of significance to the idea of landscape itself. In particular, the evolving nature of the installation offers a multilayered experience... Like Mariko Mori and Mike Kelley's installations, this work aims to raising a question on the role of the viewers' perception, forcing us to go beyond the common way we perceive not only the

outside world, but our inner dimension... I'm personally convinced that some information is hidden, or even "encrypted" in the environment we live in, so we need to decipher them. Maybe that is a role of an artist, to reveal unexpected sides of Nature, especially of our inner Nature... what are your thoughts about this?

I agree to an extent. There are certainly millions of years of evolution encrypted in our minds and in nature. However, i don’t necessarily agree that we need to decipher it. Nature is phenomenal. Certainly there are layers of complexity within it. From our eyes’ perspective it is simple, elegant and beautiful. As we begin to decipher it, it gets more and more complex, interesting, and we learn we know less and less. For me i approach the totality of understanding as accepting that everything has its role in the process of things and, even if I don’t understand it, it has importance and serves a purpose. So i see my role, as an artist and human, as insignificant. I focus on where i fit in and how i influence the natural process. Your suggestive recontextualization of materials from industry to generate a evocative, almost euphonic imagery that is intrinsically connected to the chance of creating an area of intellectual interplay with the viewers, that are urged to evolve from the condition of a merely passive audience, as in Tethered. In particular, your process of semantic restructuration of a view has reminded me of the ideas behind Thomas Demand's works, when he stated that "nowadays art can no longer rely much on symbolic strategies and has to probe psychological narrative elements within the medium instead". While conceiving Art could be considered a purely abstract activity, there is always a way of giving it a


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The Redwoods. Center of the stump. It took 24 hours to etch the rings with a dremel. I mounted the 11 ft platform with the glass onto a ceramic wheel and let it spin slowly while I etched away.


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Tethered. Natural Wholeness; Broken, patched and controlled.......by industry


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permanence that goes beyond the intrinsic ephemeral nature of the concepts you explore. So I would take this occasion to ask you if in your opinion personal experience is an absolutely indispensable part of a creative process... Do you think that a creative process could be disconnected from direct experience?

Sure. I think the things i see and my experiences certainly impact on my creative process. However, I think taking it a step further is important. For example, i understand the concept of Tethered. But when i go back to it, i feel something more. I remember the full experience of coming up with the idea and the trek i did on that blizzarding day in the Wyoming planes but it doesn’t mean i fully understand how that experience shaped the Tethered piece. I can honestly say i look at this piece with a bit of wonder myself, and don’t really feel responsible for it. Another interesting piece of yours that has particularly stuck out to me me and on which I would like to spend some time on is entitled Holding On. In this work you explore the psychological nature of the concepts of mass and gravity: in particular, when I first got to know with this work I tried to relate all the visual information and the presence of a primary element of water to a single meaning. I later realized I had to fit into the visual unity suggested by the work, forgetting my need for a univocal understanding of its symbolic content: in your work, rather that a conceptual interiority, I can recognize the desire to enable us to establish direct relations... Would you say that it's more of an intuitive or a systematic process?

If i understand this question correctly, you are


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Tethered. Broken railroad found in a river.

asking “is it intentional that my pieces don’t necessarily have a singular meaning? And if this approach is instinctive or planned?” I would say yes, it is intentional, as i want people to draw from the pieces what they see and not tell them how to think, just show them what i see. I am almost flattered that you mentioned water as a primary element. In a lot of my pieces i have wanted to incorporate water but through the simplifying process it gets nosed out for one reason or

another. So, for you to mention “water” as a primary element in my work is interesting to me. I definitively love the way you recontextualize the idea of the environment in a wide sense, as in your Remove Yourself from the Negative Environment: by the way, many contemporary artists as Edward Burtynsky or Michael Light have some form of political message in their works. Do you consider that your works are political


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Tethered. Polished Basalt. Cracks filled with Cement.

in this way or do you seek to maintain a neutral approach?

like and admire. His photos and philosophy are simple and poetic to me.

I do like to remain neutral when it comes to politics and my work. I certainly have my own viewpoints as I am, by nature, a pantheist. But, i think it can turn people off to see that directly in work. I have more appreciation for something suggestive, subtle and elegant.

As most of your works, Slate Tokonoma is open to various interpretations: in particular, the effective reference to wild nature communicates to me a process of deconstruction, recontextualization and assemblage both on a semantic and on a formal aspect. What is it specifically about deconstruction which fascinates you and make you want to

A great example of this is Robert Adams. I know little about his work. But, what I do know I


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Holding On. A 400-pound rock suspended over bedrock by a wooden post embedded in concrete. Photo by: David Paul Bayles.


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Slate Tokonoma. Free standing butterfly slate stones. Vessel - wood fired stoneware.


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An Aerie. Lower Klamath Wildlife Refuge

center your artistic style around it?

I am not sure my work so much focuses on deconstruction but more using what is available. A slab of granite left over from a neighbor’s countertop, redwood blocks from a burn pile and a 5 foot tall piece of slate I packed out of a canyon, split with an axe to make butterfly stones and found a way to make them balance. It is much more about making use of what i have. The granite was the exact width for the space, i had wanted it to go through the existing post to create a way to break through

the barrier of the two rooms. I think that says something about letting things be rather than forcing them. During these years your works have been extensively exhibited in several important occasions, and the physical involvement of your audience is a crucial aspect of your approach: for A Piece of the Whole, you encouraged visitors to take a piece of the show home: so before taking leave from this interesting conversation I would like to pose a question about the nature of the relationship with your audience: in particular, do you consider the issue of audience


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reception as being a crucial component of your decision-making process in terms of what type of language for a particular context?

No. I want the audience to enjoy their experience. With A Piece of the Whole, i actually wanted people to take a stone to experience and understand impermanence. Nobody would take the stones from the installation/show so i sewed 520 canvas bags, made a card and sent them to people. People were moved, deeply in some cases, and at the same time sad to see the piece was dismantled. I can do nothing but smile. Of course i would like people to like my work. I want people to be interested. But, i really do not build these projects for them… it is a piece of me I share with them for the things i think are most important. Thanks a lot for this interesting conversation, Gabe. Finally, I would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects. Anything coming up for you professionally that you would like readers to be aware of?

Sure thing, thank you for taking interest and the time to look through my work. I have recently installed a piece up on the Olypmic Pennisula that is titled Flowers in the Sky. Another hanging rock piece questioning permanence, fragility and control. Also, September 4th will be the opening for a large installation in Hood River, Oregon along the Columbia River that is focused on the dams of the Columbia Watershed. Less discrete and a little more poignant, this one is meant to bring awareness to dams and the impact our conveniences have on the natural processes. Finally, I am just putting the final touches on an Aerie inspired by “Wind” by Tanka, Ryohei 1976, looking over the Klamath Wildlife Refuge in Southern Oregon. An escape from the wind, but a platform for the raptors… a stage for symbiosis, i hope.


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Remove Yourself From the Negative Environment. Private Dwelling


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Larry Cwik Lives and works in Portland, OR USA

I

am project-driven and work on projects for long periods of time. All five of my main photographic projects – The Visitor, Walking 1000 Miles Through Mexico’s Cities, in which I have spent a total of six months and 1000 miles walking while photographing in most major cities in Mexico from 1983 to the present; The Far North, Portrait of the Arctic; Totems; Morocco; and Industrial Districts – have been going on simultaneously for more than 11 years. I have been working on the Mexico project, obtaining images for it, for most of my life. Conceptually I am consistently drawn for all my projects to the themes of mystery, beauty, transfiguration, culture, and surrealism. I am not certain why but I am also consistently drawn to certain types of images. Sometimes my images are infused with sociopolitical commentary, other times not. Always I strive for beauty in my work, and originality. Both are important to me, no matter if the image is photographic, color or black and

white, or from my mind, as in a drawing. Links to two interviews about my work are available for viewing by clicking the Interviews link at the top of the screen. Most of my exhibits have been of photographic work. I also work in drawing, film, and occasionally in multi-media installations. Born in West Virginia in 1959, I am primarily self-taught as an artist but have also taken classes in art and photography at Pacific Northwest College of Art and Portland Community College. Art must be in my genes. Not only was my dad an avid amateur photographer, active in a camera club during World War II, but one of my nieces is a gifted painter, and two of my mother’s sisters, my late aunts, were also professional artists. They were painters who lived and worked in the southern United States. I have been photographing since high school. I decided to pursue art, and particularly photography, for my life in 1983.

Larry Cwik


LandEscape meets

Larry Cwik An interview by Dario Rutigliano, curator with the collaboration of Katherine Williams

think that formal training influenced the way you currently conceive your works?

landescape@europe.com

I am primarily self-taught but do travel widely and make efforts to see art wherever I go, be it New York, Paris, Iceland, Morocco, the Dominican Republic, or Bangladesh. The world is full of excellent artists. They are everywhere, often creating both thought-provoking and beautiful work. Work I see often inspires me. The work can be by an ancient master, an under-recognized brilliant medieval artist like Hieronymous Bosch, or a contemporary artist – it does not matter. I can and do get inspired from many sources. Studying art history, reading art books, discussions with artist friends -- all significantly inform and educate my art practice. The classes I took were very helpful. They gave me a framework to better understand what I learn from my self-study, both in Portland, my home, and when I travel. Having two gifted aunts that exhibited their paintings did not hurt. One of my nieces is also a talented and blossoming artist.

Larry Cwik's camera structures events in their photographic setting. Focusing on urban and natural environments, he draws inspiration from spaces between everyday situations. The series The Visitor, Walking 1000 Miles Through Mexico that we'll be discussing in the following pages seems to raise the question of the role allocated to the individual in a worldwide cultural and economic integration. Cwik also draws attention to the camera itself, which is still able to snatch the spirit of individuality while the bare eye has long failed to do so. One of the results of his approach is an insightful investigation into the hidden narrative that pervades the reality we inhabit. Hello Larry and welcome to LandEscape. To start this interview, would you like to tell us something about your background? You have have taken classes in art and photography at Pacific Northwest College of Art and Portland Community College, but as you remarked, you are primarily a selftaught artist and have been photographing since high school. Moreover, you had the chance to grow up in a family of professional artists. So I would ask you -how have these experiences informed your evolution as an artist? In particular do you

Before starting to elaborate about your production, would you like to tell our readers something about your process and set-up for producing your works? In particular, what technical aspects do you focus on in your work? And how much preparation and time do you put in before and during the process of conceiving and especially creating your series?

Often my projects evolve over time. The project The Visitor, Walking 1000 Miles Juerg Luedi


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through Mexico, was not initially intended to be a 32-year-long project. But I found the imagery so strong and compelling I kept returning to photograph, year after year after year. Pretty soon I had visited so many different cities in Mexico that I decided to try to visit all its major cities. That ended up taking 32 years, visiting a new city each year. I have visited all regions of Mexico for the project, walking more than 1000 miles and spending a total of more than six months photographing there. Walking around there I let my unconcious influence where and when I photograph. The Mexico project reflects my great interest in surrealism. The unusual colors and juxtapositions in Mexico pull me in like a magnet. AndrÊ Breton, the founder of surrealism, and noted Mexican painter Rufino Tamayo both commented on the surrealism inherent in Mexico. I agree. Mexico has nurtured so many wonderful artists, including Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Remedios Varo, Rufino Tamayo, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Leonora Carrington, and many more contemporary artists. I feel fortunate to have talked by phone every year to Leonora Carrington, the great surrealist, from 2001 to 2010 during my visits to Mexico, though I did not get a chance to meet her in person. Both my work and I evolved over the course of The Visitor project. Over long projects a subject also evolves. Mexico, my subject in the Visitor, certainly evolved during my project. During the 32-year-long project, for example, Mexico's population spiked from 72 to 122 million, making it the world’s most populous Spanish-speaking nation; nine million Mexicans immigrated to the United States; the North American Free Trade Agreement was passed and implemented; there was an insurrection in the southern state of Chiapas; I had luggage stolen twice; I got severely sick from poorly chosen food or water five times; I experienced the wonderful hospitality of Mexicans, and the beauty, color, and unusual detail from myFunerals, Performance


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juxtapositions of scenery in all regions of Mexico; mega-malls, luxury buses, and discount airlines became common in Mexico; a presidential candidate was assassinated; the one-party rule of more than 70 years standing in Mexico ended; powerful drug cartels seized control of much of Mexico, leading to more than 100,000 deaths since 2006; and I became friends with a Mexican artist and musician, which friendship has continued for more than 25 years, including a 2015 collaboration on a short film that I made in Mexico.€ The project has hugely impacted my life and vision.€ Other of my projects have also evolved. A more recent project, The Far North, Portrait of the Arctic, started in 2002. I had a curiosity about the Arctic and visited it, in Alaska, for the first time that year. Then it was four more years till I returned to the Arctic, to Greenland (Kalaallit Nunaat), in 2006, visiting six communities there. I learned then from Greenlandic residents about the impacts of global climate change on their subsistence and traditional ways of life, hunting and fishing. This made me more interested to visit other Arctic locations. In 2012 and 2013 I visited the two larges U.S. Arctic communities, Kotzebue and Barrow, Alaska. The similarities between there and Greenland fascintated me. I loved the images, the stark beauty, and learning about a completely different way of life in a vastly different environment. In 2014 I took three more trips to the Arctic, to four communities in Nunavut, the northern-most region of Canada, to Longyearbyen and Kirkenes in far northern Norway, and to Murmansk, Russia, the Arctic’s largest city. The images I came back with were compelling. They were worth the many months of intense and time-intensive planning needed to visit these remote regions.


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Now let's focus on your artistic production. I want to start with The Visitor, Walking 1000 Miles Through Mexico, an extremely interesting project that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. I would suggest they visit http://www.larrycwik.com to get a wider idea of your multifaceted artistic production. In the meantime, would you tell us something about the genesis of this interesting project? What was your initial inspiration?

Well, I first visited Mexico in 1977, crossing the border from El Paso, Texas. The extraodinary

change in cultures crossing the Rio Grande River from El Paso to Ciudad JuĂĄrez, Mexico was dramatic. I liked the imagery that I saw in Mexico even then. That began my fascination with Mexico. My second visit was in 1980. I went on a long train voyage from Mexico City through cities, jungles, farm fields, and past snow-capped mountains to CancĂşn. Then after I moved to Portland in 1982 I started to visit Mexico once a year to photograph, beginning in 1983. The project grew and grew and blossomed.


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The ambience you captured in your work Bridge (2002) seems to have some reference to De Chirico's pallette. It reminds me of the concept of non lieu elaborated by French anthropologist Marc Augé. What has most impacted me is the way you bring a new level of significance to the sign of absence, and in a wide sense to re-contextualize the concept of the environment we inhabit. This is a recurrent feature of your approach. It provides viewers an Ariadne's Thread, inviting them to challenge the common way we perceive not only the outside world, but also our inner dimension... By the way, I'm sort of convinced that some information and ideas are hidden, or even "encrypted" in the environment we live in, so we need -- in a way -- to decipher them. Maybe one of the roles of an artist is to reveal unexpected sides of Nature, especially of our inner Nature. What do you think about this?

Giorgio De Chirico and René€Magritte are my favorite artists from art history. De Chirico was a genius. His imagery has long withstood the test of time. If one of my images has a semblance to De Chirico I am very grateful. Magritte has achieved great and well-deserved recognition in recent decades. Both De Chirico and Magritte were in many ways ahead of their time. I like your comment about bringing a new level of significance to absense. This is easier said than done. But when it happens I am happy. Your comment about perception of both our outside world and our inner dimension is spot on. It is a perfect expression of what I feel in my work. Deciphering meaning in a world of information overload is a challenge but also a wonderful opportunity. I agree that artists can reveal the unexpected side of Nature. Picasso did this with his cubist portraits – making us look for clues. Marcel Duchamp did this with his famous Nude Descending a Staircase,


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Number 2, making us look at how he saw that. Francis Bacon, with the distorted imagery in his portraits, forced us to look with curiosity at his meaning and intent. Cindy Sherman, with her Untitled Film Stills, caused us to look at the roles acribed to women through her cinematic self-portraits. JoAnn Callis with her beautiful images calls attention to common objects in our daily life, seen newly. Gregory Crewdson, with his huge cinematic works, causes us to question what is real versus what is artifice.

While some contemporary photographers like Edward Burtynsky or Michael Light convey in an explicit way their environmental or political message in their photographs your works seek to maintain a more neutral approach. Rather, you seem to invite the viewers to a personal investigation about the themes you touch on. Maybe the following assumption is stretching the point a little bit, but I think that The Visitor, Walking 1000 Miles Through Mexico reveals the connection between different cultural spheres and


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describes a real-time aesthetic ethnography. You seem to be drawn to the structured worlds we inhabit and how they produce a self-defining context for our lives and experience. Do you agree with this analysis? Moreover, what role can art play in sociopolitical questions?

I agree with your analysis. I do not try to hammer home what a viewer should think or feel. But at the same time, some of my work

does occasionally have a socio-political context. I titled one of the images in The Visitor, Walking 1000 Miles Through Mexico’s Cities, from 1986, “Avenida No Reelección.” This was the actual name of a street. It reflected that the Mexican people wanted more electoral choices, I think. About 15 years later, the 70-year-long rule of the PRI in Mexico ended at the national level. There are now three major parties in Mexico, PRI, PAN, and PRD, plus smaller parties.


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The project The Far North, Portrait of the Arctic, has a political sub-context, though the images are not themselves political. They reflect an area of the world with significantly changing weather conditions. The Arctic’s peoples are the first in the Northern Hemisphere being forced to change their traditional ways due to accelerated global climate change. Occasionally I do projects that are purely political. One was in 2004. It was called “The Happy General.” It was a month-long multimedia installation in Gallery 500, Portland. A sandbox with toy tanks and soldiers was on the floor. A video monitor showed footage I had taken of anti-war protestors, except that I placed a large X in red tape over the screen of the video monitor. One wall of the installation had printouts of web pages for seven major U.S. military weapon contractors. The opposite wall had more than a hundred one-inch diameter red cloth poppies, worn by the Canadian public to celebrate war dead on their Remembrance Day. That wall also had some plastic flowers, as one might see in a cemetery, to commemorate war dead. I draped the back wall with patriotic red white and blue American flag bunting. One wall had a news-print photo-mosaic of tiny head shots of 116 of the USA soldiers killed in Iraq in April 2004 and ten playing cards of most wanted Iraqis, all shown as faceless black silhouettes, in other words as “The Other.” A musical soundtrack added sound to the installation, playing war-oriented songs including Rock the Casbah by The Clash, In the Navy by The Village People, The Warrior by Honey Ltd., and the World War I patriotic song The Yanks Are Coming. The installation had a participatory element – a globe on a pedestal. Next to the globe was a box of push pins. Visitors were asked to take a push pin and choose a place on the globe for the U.S. to either bomb, invade, or attack. The only requirement was that people not choose a country that the U.S. had already


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bombed, invaded or attacked. Visitors ignored that requirement. The globe was full of push pins by the end of the show. The entrance of the installation space had large bold capital letters quoting from George Orwell, “War Is Peace,” “Freedom Is Slavery,” and “Ignorance Is Bliss.” Visitors had to walk over those quotes to enter the installation. On the opening of the show I did performance art, for the first and only time in my art practice. I dressed as a general, wearing a general’s cap, an army shirt, and dark sunglasses. I held a scepter and rocked back and forth in a swivel chair as I talked with viewers. The installation was my response to the U.S. government’s falsely-reasoned invasion and bombing of Iraq, which killed more than 170,000 Iraqi civilians. Your photography hopes to create an area of intellectual interplay with the viewers, that are urged to evolve from the condition of a merely passive audience. In particular, your process of semantic restructuration of a view has reminded me of the ideas behind Thomas Demand's works, when he stated that "nowadays art can no longer rely much on symbolic strategies and has to probe psychological narrative elements within the medium instead". While conceiving art, even in the case of photography, could be considered an abstract activity, there is always a way of giving it a permanence that goes beyond the intrinsic ephemeral nature of the concepts you explore. In your opinion is personal experience an absolutely indispensable part of a creative process? Do you think that a creative process can be disconnected from direct experience?

Personal experience is indispensable to creative process. When I photograph in Mexico, and in most of my other projects, I depend on what I observe and experience, whether I understand the observations and experiences at the time or not. Creative process is connected with our psyche. This in turn reflects our personal experience. My


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art practice also includes drawing, painting, film-making, and occasionally site-specific sculpture. When I draw I normally just start with a blank sheet of paper and draw. Then something evolves on the paper, from my subconscious. To this I then embellish, highlight, and add to, sometimes using watercolor or other media. This process taps into the unconscious. The unconscious connects through our brain to our prior experience. Dreams are the only thing I can think of which are not always related to prior direct experience. Sometimes dreams are about future experiences. Another interesting project of yours that has particularly impacted me is the Totem project. When I first happened to get to know this work I tried to relate all the visual information to a single meaning. I later realized I had to fit into the visual unity suggested by the work, forgetting my need for an unequivocal understanding of its symbolic content. In your work, rather that a conceptual interiority, I can recognize the desire to enable us to establish direct relations... Would you say that it's more of an intuitive or a systematic process?

Taking the images is intuitive. Putting them together into triptychs for the Totem Project is partly intuitive – what seems to fit together well to tell a story or hint at a story – and partly systematic. Some images do not work well with other images to communicate. So it is a bit of both. Your works are always pervaded with an inner narrative, but you reject an explicit explanatory strategy. Rather, you seem to offer to the viewer an Ariadne's Thread that allows them to find personal interpretations

to the stories you tell through your photographs.

I like a viewer to respond to what they see based on their own personal experience. This helps attract a viewer’s interest. It lets a viewer formulate his/her own response. Sometimes I discover more about one of my images after a viewer sees in one of my works something that I had not consciously noticed. Besides your photographic projects, you also produce multi-media installations, short films and interesting mixed-media works which are marked with a lively combination of painting, collage and photography. The hallmark of these pieces seems to be an incessant search for an organic, almost intimate symbiosis between several disciplines, that in a certain sense augments the expressive potential of photography. While crossing the borders of different artistic fields have you ever happened to realize that sometimes a symbiosis between different disciplines is the only way to achieve some results, to express some concepts?

Sometimes photography works well to communicate what I want. Other times a combination of media works better. My short films, for example, have both moving images and sound. This produces a different response. It involves more senses. The earlier example of “The Happy General” installation had many media. It immersed a visitor in the installation. A more recent multi-media installation, from 2012, at Gallery 5 of Milepost 5, Portland was “Asia 2011.” This had fifteen photographs, a Buddha Garden on a pedestal, symbols of Islam and Hinduism on the walls, and a floor-mounted video monitor that showed a 20 minute loop of Asian television commercials, showing the yin yang of spirituality/religion compared to commerce.


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Larry Cwik

Art Review

During your over thirty year career your works have been exhibited widely and I would highlight your forthcoming show at the Centro Estatal de las Artes* in Mexico. So, before taking leave from this interesting conversation I would like to ask: do you consider audience reception a crucial component of your decisionmaking process in terms of what type of artistic language to use for a particular context?

Not specifically for what work I make. But I do think about the audience in terms of what selection of works to exhibit, the forum of the exhibit, how to present the work, and how to involve the viewer. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Larry. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving?

I want to keep growing as an artist. I am excited by the Mexico project. Later this year I will continue work on my project in Morocco, where I have photographed every two years since 1990. Much of the remainder of 2015 I will spend on planning and presenting work from The Far North, Portrait of the Arctic to the public. It was just premiered in a group show at the Peoples Gallery of Portland. Later in 2015 it will be featured in solo exhibits at Portland Community College’s Northview Gallery and the Walters Cultural Center, Hillsboro, Oregon. My hope is to present the work from The Visitor, Walking

An interview by Dario Rutigliano, curator with the collaboration of Katherine Williams landescape@europe.com

1000 Miles through Mexico, in future exhibits in the next several years and to explore a publication of that project.


Larry Cwik

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Alfred Marseille Lives and works in Amsterdam, the Netherlands

An artist's statement

D

esigner, media artist. Background in philosophy and electronic music. Working in video, sound, photography and installation art.

Collaboration with poet Jan Baeke as Public Thought since 2006. Jan Baeke and Alfred Marseille create cinÊpoèmes, data poems, moving shorts and practice the art of speculative analysis. Their work counts among the most profilic digital poetry in the Netherlands. More at www.publicthought.net

Active in artist collective De Tropisten between 1987 and 1995 and again since 2012; major exhibitions and performances in Fabriek, Eindhoven, Zeebelt theatre, The Hague, Time Based Arts, Amsterdam, Oude Kerk, Amsterdam, Plasy monastery, Czech republic, Interazoni Festival, Cagliari, and since 2012: Hortus Botanicus, Amsterdam,

Amsterdam Light Festival, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Designer for interactive media since 1995. Founded design studio Zeezeilen in 2000. Clients include Royal Dutch Library, Van Gogh Museum, Dutch House of Representatives, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, National ombudsman, Dutch Filmmuseum, International Institute for Social History, NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Maastrichtnet cultural calendar. More at www.zzln.nl


LandEscape meets

Alfred Marseille An interview by Dario Rutigliano, curator witht he collaboration of Katherine Williams landescape@europe.com

Marked with a strong multidisciplinary feature, Alfred Marseille works ranges from video and sound to photography and installation art. His works, as Walking around trees that we'll be discussing in the following pages provide the viewers of a multilayered experience that investigating about the relationship between Experience and Memory, urges us to unveil the intimate connections between the reality that we perceive and the ambiguous dimension of our inner world. Marseille's works gives life to a concrete aesthetic that engage viewers, while conveying emotional and rational approaches into a coherent unity. I'm very pleased to introduce our readers to his refined artistic production. Hello Alfred, and welcome to LandEscape: to start this interview, would you like to tell our readers something about your background? As many of contemporary media artists, you have a multidisciplinary training that ranges from philosophy to electronic music. How has this experience influenced your evolution as an artist and how has it impacted on the way you currently conceive and produce your works?

From the beginning my work always had a strong conceptual character. I studied philosophy back in the 80’s while at the same time getting involved in electronic music. One Juerg Luedi


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detail from myFunerals, Performance

Alfred Marseille


Alfred Marseille

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of the key philosophical works that influenced and inspired me at the time was La Phénoménologie de la Perception by Maurice Merleau Ponty, that is (very blunt summary) about perceiving the world through the body with all its inherent ambiguities and biases. The German composer Michael Fahres had just set up an electronic music studio in the Netherlands where I had the opportunity to work with a couple of artists from various backgrounds. Out of this group grew the art collective Tropism that I am still involved with. We had this idea of phenomena that would appear in the periphery of your senses and disappear as soon as you tried to investigate more closely, things that you couldn’t really grasp but were still there. So, we tried to set up environments where you

could actually have these kind of experiences, and of course, the approach was, out of necessity, multidisciplinary. Whatever worked we used. We did for instance a number of exhibitions and performances that started with bright light and a loud soundscape, but that were slowly getting darker and more quiet, the transition being so slow that you wouldn’t notice. Multidisciplinarity is a crucial aspect of your art practice and you seem to be in an incessant search of an organic symbiosis between several disciplines, taking advantage of the creative and expressive potentials of Visual Arts as well as of sound and conveying them in a consistent and coherent unity: while crossing the borders of different artistic fields have you ever happened to realize that a symbiosis


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between different disciplines is the only way to achieve some results, to express some concepts?

Actually, I hardly ever bother myself with the question whether I might be a photographer or a musician or whatever. I would say it is about the final work and not about the discipline. Practicing a discipline is about possessing certain skills, but making a work of art, any work of art, goes beyond that. For instance, probably as a result of my philosophical training, text has always been a central element in my artistic work, playing, as I see it, with the tension between meaning and the associations connected with the physical appearance of a text. But in this context, writing texts is certainly not a separate discipline. It’s just something the work at

hand asks for. So I wouldn’t talk about a symbiosis between disciplines, but about shaping ideas with all available means. I should add to this of course that lots of my work is the result of collaboration, like with Public Thought, my partnership with the Dutch poet Jan Baeke, and in such a collaboration, working multidisciplinary is a given. Now let's focus on your artistic production: I would start from Walking around trees that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article: and I would suggest to our readers to visit your website directly at www.alfredmarseille.nl in order to get a


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wider idea of your artistic production... In the meanwhile, would you like to tell me something about the genesis of this interesting project? What was your initial inspiration?

My inspiration was the simple fact that whatever you perceive, you perceive from a specific viewpoint. So I started walking around buildings to make pictures from all sites with the initial aim to create one big picture, that would be some sort of catalogue of viewpoints. I soon found it was also quite interesting to stack all images on top of each other in transparent layers. The result: a building seen from all sides at once. Meanwhile, with my old artist group Tropism I was busy preparing an exhibition in the Amsterdam Hortus Botanicus. This gave me the idea to make pictures of trees. Unlike buildings, trees don't have a back or front side, so being able to look at a tree from all sides liberates it from one of the peculiarities of the human perspective.€And an interesting thing happens in these pictures with the space around the trees, it is exactly the space seen from the perspective of the tree. From my perspective, the multilayered experience suggested by the chance of getting a synoptic view of a tree plays around the semantic gap between perceived reality and symbolic world. This work challenge the viewers' perception in order to going beyond the common way to perceive not only the outside world, but our inner dimension... This has suggested me the idea that some informations & ideas are in a certain sense hidden, or even "encrypted" in the reality we inhabit in, so we need -in a way- to decipher them. Maybe that one of the roles of an artist could be to reveal unexpected sides of Nature, especially of our inner Nature... what's your point about this?

I don’t know if it is really a matter of encryption

and deciphering, suggesting there is some sort of hidden truth behind common appearances. But my point would indeed be that all objects that we encounter are open to many different ways of seeing them and that all these ‘perspectives’ open up new aspects of those objects. It is interesting that you bring up the inner world here. When your experience of objects changes it doesn’t have to mean that parts of the inner world of those objects are revealed, just that different aspects of these objects appear. The same might hold true for yourself. One could argue that our inner nature is mostly a reflection of the way we deal with and experience the world and that if an artwork succeeds in changing your experience, you change yourself as well. An important feature of Walking around trees that has particularly impacted on me is the way you unveil the inner connections between Experience and Imagination: I definitely love the way your art practice takes an intense participatory line with the viewer and at the same time, you seem to remove the historic gaze from the reality you refer to, offering to the viewers the chance to perceive in a more absolute way. So I would take this occasion to ask you if in your opinion personal experience is an absolutely indispensable part of a creative process... Do you think that a creative process could be disconnected from direct experience?

It is usually not an experience that leads to my work, but the other way round. When I have an idea for an artwork, I might have some notion of how it will work out but then it is curiosity that drives me to actually make it and see what really happens. And whenever I make something that works, the result is a kind of magical object that evokes an interesting response in whoever


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encounters it, be it a sensation, or a cluster of associations and ideas. But, quite often, I stumble upon this by accident, like improvising with a modular synth and finding a patch that works wonders, or playing with some found footage that fits and becomes a new story. Another way of saying this is that the idea behind the work is less interesting then the impact that it might have. And “impact” is not necessarily some kind of experience, it could also be an interesting thought, like what you say about my work removing the historical gaze from reality. I wasn’t aware of that, but I see what you mean, so, great! The reference to environment questions about the unrevealed narrative behind contemporary imagery: this pushes the viewer to not play as a passive audience, but to reflect about our society's hidden symbology... By the way, although I'm aware that this might sound a bit naïf, I have to admit that I'm sort of convinced that Art -especially nowadays- could play an effective role in sociopolitical questions: not only just by offering to people a generic platform for expression... I would go as far as to state that Art could even steer people's behaviour... what's your point about this? Does it sound a bit exaggerated?

No, not at all, for many years I even curated a website about the impact of art on social change, human rights, war & peace, … (http://blog.krachtvancultuur.nl/en). And there are many ways in which art can play a role in society or politics. I am for instance a big fan of Yael Bartana and the way she carefully dissects national identities and public rituals in her films and installations. In Africa, Asia and Latin America, the art scene has for a long time been very politically


Alfred Marseille

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Alfred Marseille


Alfred Marseille

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and socially engaged, whether or not in the open. Also, in the western world, artists are now dealing with issues from ‘the real world’ much more then a couple of years ago, and rightly so, because the world is going down the drains. But of course, how much impact art really has in the face of the powers of greed and stupidity remains to be seen. Another interesting project of yours that has particularly impacted on me and on which I would like to spend some words is entitled Spaces: maybe because I have scientific background, I have truly appreciated your investigation about the elusive nature of space and the way we relation to the apparently primordial notions of directions and dimensions. I like the way this series unveils the abstract feature of the concept of space, which in a certain sense transcends the intrinsic ephemeral way we refer to the idea of narration. And it has reminded a quote of Thomas Demand when he stated that "nowadays art can no longer rely much on symbolic strategies and has to probe psychological narrative elements within the medium instead". What's your point about this? And in particular, how much do you explicitly think of a narrative for your works?

Although I work with narratives extensively, a narrative is not what I had in mind for the Spaces project, but on second thought, I see what you mean with it in this context. What I attempted in Spaces was to somehow document the way we actually perceive a certain space, as opposed to the abstract notion of geometrical space or the architectural space of ‘correct’ perspective drawing. And, to experience a space is not just a matter of looking, but much more of gestures, of moving through, of our entire locomotion. So, space as you perceive it always has a human scale, related to how your senses work and your body moves. The resulting pictures are at the same time of course each a


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record of one specific walk and in that way a personal narrative, so you could say that this narrative is my means to investigate a fundamental experience. During these years you have established a fruitful collaboration with poet Jan Baeke that has lead you to conceive and develop stimulating projects as Facts & Figures (Harde Cijfers). I do believe that interdisciplinary collaboration is today an ever growing force in Art and that that most exciting things happen when creative minds from different fields of practice meet and collaborate on a project... By the way, the artist Peter Tabor once said that "collaboration is working together with another to create something as a synthesis of two practices, that alone one could not": what's your point about this? Can you explain how your work demonstrates communication between several artists?

In Public Thought, my collaboration with Jan Baeke, narratives are a more explicit element in what we do, given that Jan is a poet and that poetry is always a core element in our projects. A good example is indeed Facts & Figures, that tells the story of the renowned Dutch/Swedish taxonomist Bob Tagge, who devoted his life to order, sequences and numbers. He appears in installations (like this summer in the botanic garden in Edinburgh), in a radio broadcast, we are building a website that provides access to his archive, a long poem illuminated with a number of botanical ‘tables’ drawn by Bob Tagge has been published as a collectors edition and we’re working on an e-book. This collaboration is certainly more than the sum of its parts, as you suggest. Usually, we talk a lot until there is a concept that we both like, start working on it from both sides,

discuss the results, fine-tune or start anew. One way or another, the end result is a work that can not be tracked down to one of us, although the poetry is clearly Jan’s. Thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts, Alfred. Finally, I would you like to tell us


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readers something about your future projects. Anything coming up for you professionally that you would like readers to be aware of?

Sure, this summer my artist group Tropism has a large exhibition at the Botanic Garden in

Edinburgh (20/6 – 27/9), where I’ll show works from both Walking around Trees and Spaces, and, with poet Jan Baeke, will present two new installations there from the project Facts & Figures, about the taxonomist Bob Tagge.


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Amir Ahmadipour Lives and works in Teheran, Iran

An artist's statement

F

rom among an artist missions, is revealing new perceptual procedures in the art world and this unconscious revelation will challenge the previous procedures. The development of perception procedures will lead in the extension of art range and will surround our entire environment.

The discovery of new perception methods in an interactive way is in relation with our environmental ideas. Revealing hidden information! There is an unlimited joy in this work and I have always been interested in sharing this interest with others. About "zeitgeist" the purpose has been the production of a sculpture with life. Such a goal led me to

the use of iron. In the production process the material of iron was used without any edition or redaction and in combination with oxygen the oxidation process will occur and this is the entrance of chemistry into an art work. This means that the work is going to have a dialogue with its environment. And also the work will affect its environment through its appearance. Because of this chemical activity, it will be influenced by its environment and life will exist in this dialogue.

Amir Ahmadipour


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Art Review

Amir Ahmadipour An interview by Josh Ryder

The work of Amir Ahmadipour accomplishes an insightful exploration in the liminal area in which perception and imagination coexist in an absolute static dimension: through an incessant research of an organic symbiosis between several viewpoints out, his pragmatic gaze offers to the viewer a multilayered experience that to urges our imagination to fill the missing pieces of the story that he has deliberated omited. One of the most convincing aspect of Ahmadipour's practice is the way he creates an area of intellectual interplay between perception and memory, that invites the viewers to explore the crossroad between contingency and immanence: I'm very pleased to introduce our readers to his refined artistic production. Hello Amir and welcome to LandEscape: I would start this interview posing you some questions about your background. Besides the solid formal training that has infomed your refined approach, are there any experiences that have particularly influenced your evolution as an artist and that still impact on way you currently conceive and produce your works?

In the name of God. Hello and I'm happy for talking to you. Undoubtedly human's action has always been influenced by the experiences he has accumulated and these experiences are the resource of the advent of many of the

phenomena. In the art area, the artist is always influenced by his experiences including spiritual, internal (emotional ups and downs), social, political, and also physiological experiences, which the artist obtain through


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his own body, such as growing older or an severe accident by a bike. I have to explain and settle the case of experience in this way: experience in my

works has a prior and posterior impact. Prior effective experiences are the ones which include all of the aforementioned topics and influence the production of a work (either positively or negatively). And posterior


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experiences, that are mainly internal and affect the art work after its production. Posteriori experiences will have the most effect on my future productions. In all of your multifaceted production there's a recurrent sense of narrative: although each of your project has an autonomous life, there's always seem to be such a channel of communication between your works, that springs from the way you justapose ideas and media: German multimedia artist Thomas Demand stated once that "nowadays art can no longer rely much on symbolic strategies and has to probe psychological narrative elements within the medium instead". What's your point about this? And in particular, how much do you explicitly think of a narrative for your works?

I haven’t thought about this feature in my works previously, indeed. Also, I had not planned for the existence of such characteristics in my works but narration is an inseparable part on the art and humankind has liked to be exposed to narration. Holy books like Quran, Gospel, and Torah are full of narration, and different nation's literature has always narrated different narrations! As we can see, mankind has a long familiarity with narration. But our age complexity seeks its own time narration and nowadays life and human's thought transformation has led into transformation in affecting procedure of narration. I believe, sometimes, the art work overtakes and precedes its artist and plays the role of a narrator and that narration makes the production a special work. I agree with Mr. Demand to some extent and the point is that symbolic strategies will not lead into artistic satisfaction for today's human, lonely. I think symbolism will lead into limiting art in personal frameworks while art always needs being free from the shackles. detail from myFunerals, Performance


Amir Ahmadipour

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Amir Ahmadipour


Amir Ahmadipour

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Today, art doesn’t have a personal place, time, or tool and the past categorizations are changing and in such circumstances today's human has got more complicated and has turned toward new medium. New methods should always been found and tried. Now let's focus on your artistic production: I would start from Propagation, an extremely interesting project that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article: would you tell us something about the genesis of this stimulating project? What was your initial inspiration?

Thank you for beginning from Propagation project. Meanwhile, I'll try to shorten my answers from now on. Generally, Propagation is a continuous project and next, the affect that I received from Kevin Carter's "child and scavenger" work would happen. Child and scavenger is a frame reflecting the world's truth in which we are living. Mr. Carter's picture had many reflections in the world. Do you remember the reviews that flowed toward his work from all over the world? In Propagation, I have tried, on the one hand, to cross time recording moment in the picture and to reach time continuation and on the other hand, to make the content of the work generative, in a way which is always productive. After these descriptions, a question arises: do we face the same reviews as Mr. Carter's in the Propagation circumstances? Another interesting work of yours that hjas particularly impacted on me and on which I would like to spend some words is entitled "Acquiesce", that our readers have admired in the incipit of this article: when I first


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Art Review

happened to get to know with this piece I tried to relate all the visual information and the presence of a primary environmental elements to a single meaning. But I soon realized that I had to fit into the visual unity suggested by the work, forgetting my need for a univocal understanding of its symbolic content: in your work, rather that a conceptual

interiority, I can recognize the desire to enabling us to establish direct relations... Would you say that it's more of an intuitive or a systematic process?

Systematic process, and after that the internal cognitive layers are considered.


Amir Ahmadipour

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At first, I acknowledge that visual elements are so that, the direct structure appears more highlighted than the work's internal elements. The ambience created by Distance has reminded me the concept of Heterotopia elaborated by French social theorist Michel Foucault. What has mostly impacted on me is the way you have been

capable of inviting the viewer to a fullfilment process that involves the viewer's personal memories. This is a recurrent feature of your approach and you seem to deconstruct and assembly memories in order to suggest a process of investigation: maybe that one of the roles of an artist could be to reveal unexpected sides of


Amir Ahmadipour

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Nature, especially of our inner Nature... what's your point about this?

I have to say that I'm not well-aware of social theories, but regarding Foucault's conceptual Heterotopia I believe that there exists a genius in each of our mental life. But I'm glad that you have such a viewpoint about fulfillment process, because I believe that every artistic work

should develop continuously and the posteriori development would happen after the audience's confrontation with the product, therefore the performance of the inner nature of the audience to himself will form a higher level of art and if I can reach such a performance in our products I will be satisfied with myself to some extent.


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You seem to be in an incessant search of an organic, almost intimate symbiosis between several viewpoint out of temporal synchronization: moreover, the reference to the universal imagery from urban environment that recurs in your architectural projects, while referring to

islamic hallmark, seems to remove any historic gaze from the reality you refer to, offering to the viewers the chance to perceive in a more atemporal form. In this sense, I daresay that the semantic juxtaposition between sign and matter that marks out your art, allows you to go beyond any track of contingency and invites the


Amir Ahmadipour

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present in it, however I'm glad that you talked about this project, too. As an introduction I'd like to start be this saying: "God is beautiful and likes beauty". This is one of our beliefs is the pure Islam and the effective presence of art in Islam confirms this belief. You talked about semantic juxtaposition between sign and matter and I'd like to add "light" element to this juxtaposition. Sign, matter and light try to find a way into spirit. I don’t want to claim that the project has reached such level, but I have tried to lead different elements into the one spirit. Meanwhile, this is an additional project and the main structure of the bridge has been made previously. I think being beyond contingency for an architectural work has a direct relation to personification of a product. So, the main feature of architecture should be the capability of personification to space and not only imaginary of architectural elements.

viewer to an absolute way to enjoy the ideas behind your works...

Well, undoubtedly your readers and you already know that architectural projects cannot be interpreted only through two dimensional designs on paper. And experiencing it depends, to a large extent, on the experience of being

I like the way have been capable of bringing a new level of significance to the signs of absence, in Tumble: the hallmark of your practice is the creation an area of intense interplay with the viewers, that are urged to evolve from the condition of a merely passive audience: in particular, your investigation about the intimate consequences of constructed realities: while conceiving Art could be considered a purely abstract activity, there is always a way of giving it a permanence that goes beyond the ephemeral nature of the concepts you capture. So I would take this occasion to ask you if in your opinion personal experience is an absolutely indespensable part of a creative process... Do you think that a creative process could be disconnected from direct experience?

I think there are different kinds of creative process, but the pure creative process, is mainly a part of personal experience. Creative processes, in their modern general meaning, are


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trained everywhere and are used in many situations, for example in industry or in technology, and their goal is production based on considered features. But in different situation the products are different. I believe that the production of a pure art is generated from a creative process which is rooted in the personal experience of its creator or producer. I know that the world of art witnesses many works every day that are not rooted in art process, but I want to say that the purest and the most related work is the one which is created based on personal experience and other processes produce works with different levels of purity. A feature of Zeitgeist that I would like to highlight is the way you invite the viewers' perception in order to challenge the common way to perceive not only the outside world, but our inner dimension... By the way, I'm sort of convinced that some informations & ideas are hidden, or even "encrypted" in the environment we live in, so we need -in a wayto decipher them. Maybe that one of the roles of an artist could be to reveal unexpected sides of Nature, especially of our inner Nature... what's your point about this?

From among an artist missions, is revealing new perceptual procedures in the art world and this unconscious revelation will challenge the previous procedures. The development of perception procedures will lead in the extension of art range and will surround our entire environment. The discovery of new perception methods in an interactive way is in relation with our environmental ideas. Revealing hidden information! There is an unlimited joy in this work and I have always been interested in sharing this interest with others. About "zeitgeist" the purpose has been the production of a sculpture with life. Such a goal led me to the use of iron. In the production process the material of iron was used without any edition or

redaction and in combination with oxygen the oxidation process will occur and this is the entrance of chemistry into an art work. This means that the work is going to have a dialogue with its environment. And also the work will affect its environment through its appearance. Because of this chemical activity, it will be influenced by its environment and life will exist in this dialogue. Before taking leave from this interesting conversation I would like to pose a a question about the nature of the relation with your audience: in particular, do you consider the issue of audience reception as being a crucial component of your decisionmaking process in terms of what type of language for a particular context?

You know, I try not to be influenced by my audience perception because I believe that the quality of perception is much more important than the quantity of the perceivers. But, certainly the election of language is closely related to the perception of the work and one cannot be indifferent toward it. Generally speaking, I reach a final point by considering different and various factors. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Amir. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving?

I thank you, too. Your detailed questions made me think deeply. With the help of my God, and in case of suitable conditions, I'm going to experience performance and will probably produce some installation art works which are just ideas right now. I hope I can produce effective productions. Hope nice days for you and Landscape readers.


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Josh Booth Lives and works in Jersey City, New Jersey

An artist's statement

A

s an artist I’m interested in creating intensely physical, disorienting environments using sound and video.

any sense of direction, focus and linear narrative.

Sonic and visual events are generated algorithmically based on principles of contingency and permutation.

Josh Booth's work has been performed and exhibited both internationally and in the U.S. Some notable events include (un)Scene Art Show (NYC), Mantis Festival (UK) and Aperture Foundation (for Rinko Kawauchi's "Ametsuchi" exhibition) (NYC). Upcoming shows include a performance at the Prague Quadrennial – Sound Kitchen (CZ) and an installation at the xCoAx 2015 Festival – Center for Contemporary Arts (Scotland). He has also worked as a coproducer/cowriter with the hip hop group dälek on Ipecac Recordings since 1998. He is currently a Ph.D candidate in composition at Rutgers University Mason Gross, where he studied under Charles Wuorinen.

Both mediums throw off various cultural allusions -‐ from noise and underground dance genres to glitch aesthetics, retro / lo res gaming and concrete cinema. Disorientation is critical to my aesthetic thinking because it subverts

Josh Booth


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Josh Booth An interview by Dario Rutigliano, curator landescape@europe.com with the collaboration of Patrick McMullan

The synergy between sound and new media allows Josh Booth to subvert any sense of direction, focus and€linear narrative: his works offer a disorientating experience that creates a deep intellectual interplay, urging the viewers to rethink about the ambiguous dichotomy between the perception of space and time. His works suggest an unexplored area of interplay where we are invited to explore the relationship with reality and the way we perceive it. I'm very pleased to introduce our readers to his refined artistic production. Hello Josh and welcome to LandEscape: before starting to elaborate about your production, would you like to tell to our readers something about your process and set up for making your artworks? In particular, how does your background and your current experience as a Ph.D candidate in Composition informs the way you conceive your works?

I’m currently making audio/video works exclusively in the computer. Specifically, everything is generated from my compositional system that I’ve implemented in Max/MSP/Jitter, whose architecture and employment is the subject my dissertation. My interest in algorithmic generation goes back to

my deep admiration for Milton Babbitt’s music. While I no longer work in a 12-tone context – in fact I don’t employ equal temperament at all anymore – it’s Babbitt who introduced me to the idea that musical material can be systematically generated and organized, and most importantly lead to results that could not have been intuited within our own aesthetic prejudices. Early minimalism does this too in a different way but Babbitt’s conclusions were more personally rewarding for me. Also for a few years now I’ve been listening to a lot of Chicago Juke (RP Boo, DJ Rashad, DJ Spinn). The physicality in the bass has permanently changed how I hear things. The immersive environment they create live has had a huge impact on me. It’s similar to when I was a kid in the early 90’s and saw My Bloody Valentine, except now bass is the new noise, the new element for inducing disorientation. I generally like to use four independent subs at once, in close interval proximity and on the same track to create thick unpredictable textures. Now let's focus on your artistic production: I would start from Up Down Left Right, an extremely interesting multimedia installation that generates a ‘permutation narrative’ in realtime based on the concept of contingency. Our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article and I would suggest our readers to visit directly at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gv_oCw4h9M in order to get a wider idea of it. Juerg Luedi


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detail from myFunerals, Performance

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In the meanwhile, would you tell us something about the genesis of this interesting project? What was your initial inspiration?

I wanted the visuals to play a critical structural role in the realtime formation of the piece. While the animation on screen and some sounds are triggered according to permutation schemes, the cursor’s ruleset reads the animated color blocks and moves in the prescribed direction triggering bass tones as it goes. Since the system randomly chooses these permutations (from a fixed set of 24 permutations total) the cursor’s trajectory is always different each time the piece runs. There are also a finite number of landscapes that the cursor can travel through. These landscapes dissolve and change into others depending on where the cursor is on the screen at a certain time. The permutation narrative that plays out is completely contingent on how the cursor reads its environment and alters it, and how the animated environment influences the cursor’s behavior. The term ‘permutation narrative’ is meant to subvert the usual linear connotation in favor of a more nondirectional or non-goal oriented understanding. In terms of inspiration, there’s nothing specific really. It’s just how I think of life or existence in general, where every action of every thing is contingent on how its internal systems interact with other things in a linear and nonlinear way. For me it’s a kind of material spirituality that encompasses everything from geology to morals. Your practice is intrinsically connected to the chance of creating an area of deep, physical interplay that disorients the viewers, who are urged to evolve from the condition of a merely passive audience and taking such an intense participatory line. While conceiving Art could be considered a


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purely abstract activity, there is always a way of giving it a permanence that goes beyond the intrinsic ephemeral nature of the concepts you capture. So I would take this occasion to ask you if in your opinion personal experience is an absolutely indespensable part of a creative process... Do you think that a creative process could be disconnected from direct experience?

Well, I think the effect of personal experience on the creative process is a trivial one in the sense that life circumstances will always

influence what an artist ultimately chooses to make or instantiate. It’s never something I’m conscious of during the creative process. In fact even the thought of it right now seems stifling, too limiting. I am interested however in the user / system relationship – mainly, to what extent does one’s intuitive choices determine a system’s output? My system of composing minimally constrains input material but it completely automates how this material is temporally organized – ‘temporal’ in the sense of before / after, not


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precise rhythmic values which I choose. The creative process then entails providing input while hearing and seeing the results being computed in realtime. The system creates a context for the material that I provide. If I don’t like something I simply change the input, but never the order of events as they are contingently determined anyway. What results is a kind of serial translation of my aesthetic / subjective preferences.

The impetuous way modern technology as Max/MSP has nowadays came out on the top has dramatically revolutionized the idea of Art itself: in a certain sense, we are forced to rethink about the materiality of the artwork itself, since just few years ago it was a tactile materialization of an idea. I'm sort of convinced that new media art will definitely fill the apparent dichotomy between art and technology and I will dare to say that Art and Technology are going to assimilate one to each other... what's your point about this?


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I think the use of technology as an intermediary between artist and artwork forces us to be more aware of the underlying generative process. The work’s materiality then is the resultant product. Your idea on assimilating art / technology is a slippery one though. A distinction can always be made between a device’s output, the phenomena, and the device itself. Also, the structure of this phenomena can be very different from the functionality of the device, so can a real assimilation be achieved? Another interesting work of yours that has particularly impacted on me and on which I would like to spend some words is entitled Say What and it is an interactive audio/visual installation that responds to the commotion in a room. It is absolutely fascinating the translation of social vibe into an obscure sequence of auditory images, in a way that has reminded me of the idea behind Edgar Varese's Density 21.5... What has mostly impacted on me is the way you have been capable of bringing a new level of significance to signs, and in a wide sense to recontextualize the concept of the environment we inhabit in. This is a recurrent feature of your approach that invite the viewers' perception in order to challenge the common way to perceive not only the outside world, but our inner dimension... By the way, I'm sort of convinced that some informations & ideas are hidden, or even "encrypted" in the environment we live in, so we need -in a wayto decipher them. Maybe that one of the roles of an artist could be to reveal unexpected sides of Nature, especially of our inner Nature... what's your point about this?

The piece was first presented at a party at Harvestworks (NYC) which made me realize that it works nicely outside a gallery since the social vibe at a party is less inhibited. The system reads amplitude levels in the room and translates the data into different visual/sonic parameters. The


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decibel values are also mapped to order-indices which scramble the system’s permutation schemes creating irrational patterns on screen and in sound. When the amplitude level in the space is within a certain threshold the system is not disturbed and produces regular rational patterns. This recontextualization of the vibe in the room into sound and video creates a feedback loop where the generated phenomena ideally changes peoples’ response / behavior - like how loud they’re speaking or where they tend to move around in the room in relation to mic placement which in turn disturbs the system… The vibe in the room (the signified) is thus a product of recursion as it is constantly changing according to the newly generated signs (the new mappings of amplitude to parameters in the computer). Of course the system, depending on the threshold level, starts to affect itself as well. By creating a recursive environment, peoples’ perceptions of any permanent situation are untenable. In this respect, any encryption is also only temporary. What is being deciphered is not permanently real. These ideas are obviously not new. They’re part of the larger zeitgeist from Baudrillard to David Lynch. As our readers have already noticed, multidisciplinarity is a crucial aspect of your art practice and you seem to be in an incessant search of an organic, almost intimate symbiosis between several disciplines, taking advantage of the creative and expressive potential of Sound as well as of Video: besides your involvement in interactive installations, you have produced interesting sound works that can be listened at https://soundcloud.com/joshuabooth-1. While crossing the borders of different artistic fields have you ever happened to realize that a symbiosis between different disciplines is the only way to achieve some results, to express some concepts?

Yes definitely and in different capacities too. My recent interest in creating or recontextualizing


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environments can only be achieved through cross discipline. I never really considered myself a musician and definitely not a visual artist. When I started working with video it was just a natural extension of my system since the system doesn’t contrive specific input data in any medium. It’s an activation device really. Also, in terms of life experience, having been a cowriter / coproducer with the hip hop group dälek, the three of us created a sound that was well beyond our individual influences. It was an

amazing learning experience and I would think it has instilled in me a certain openness to life in general. Another interesting work of yours that has particularly impacted on me and on which I would like to spend some words is entitled Everybody Say: in particular, when I first happened to get to know with this work I tried to relate all the visual and audio information conveyed in the group-theoretic operations that stay behind. But I soon


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realized I had to fit into the visual rhythm suggested by the work, forgetting my need for a univocal understanding of its symbolic content: in your work, rather that a conceptual interiority, I can recognize the desire to enabling us to establish direct relations... Would you say that it's more of an intuitive or a systematic process?

Yeah, despite the group-theoretic underpinnings, I have no interest in the permutations being the object of one’s

perception. This dichotomy probably goes back to my Babbitt influence. The kind of 12-tone structures he’d set up were never on the musical surface, but in the theoretical background, maybe revealed as glimpses in various ways at best. This extreme attention to something that is so far removed from our immediate experience but yet generates that experience I find fascinating. Many composers today are far too pragmatic in their approach and decision-


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making. It leads to a very healthy sounding music. I’d rather eat a piece of fruit. During these years you have exhibited your works in several occasions as the (un)Scene Art Show (NYC), Mantis Festival (UK) and you are going to take part to the Prague Quadrennial. Before taking leave from this interesting conversation I would like to pose a question about the nature of the relation with your audience: in particular, do you consider the issue of audience reception as being a crucial component of your decisionmaking process in terms of what type of language for a particular context?

I always care that what I’m doing has a positive impact but this concern doesn’t influence what I do. It’s more like a hope-for-the-best kind of attitude after the fact. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Josh. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving?

I’m currently experimenting with piezos and light sensors, as well as expanding on certain aspects that were in Up Down Left Right and Say What. For the sensors I’m dealing with the recursive environment idea that I was talking about but now it includes translating the physical space as well. Thank you so much for allowing me to share with you my thoughts and work.


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Xiaohong Zhang Lives and works in the United States

An artist's statement

L

andscape painting was regarded as the highest form of Chinese painting, The classical Chinese landscape painting are rolling hills and rivers of native countryside in peaceful scenes done with softer, rubbed brushwork. Emphasis was placed on the spiritual qualities of the painting and on the ability of the artist to reveal the inner harmony of man and nature, as perceived according to Taoist and Buddhist concepts. My creative focus has been on the Traversing Medium and Re-appropriating Motifs in Contemporary Art with continuous investigation of traversing traditional art form of Chinese landscape ink wash painting through the concept of contemporary western art setting. I have focused on exploring digital 3D skills. I want to blur the institutional and historical boundaries between traditional Chinese ink wash painting and Western graphic practices by using western 3D graphic skills to re-figure the traditional Chinese ink mountain painting. I have

used the 3D software Maya to recreate the mountains, water. Beside my investigation of re-figuring the traditional art form of Chinese landscape painting, I have been also re-appropriating motifs. Mountain, river, tree and water have always been popular subjects for Chinese landscape. Much of my work often interrogates historical, social and political themes from a Chinese perspective. I tried to insert modern industrial chaos into the traditional peaceful vision. It is a very interesting mix. I want to address environmental and social issues that have been brought by China’s social, economic, and cultural development. I have been working on a series of projects to epitomize the notion of inclusion by signifying the fusion of East and West aesthetic values through the lenses of culture, language, ethnicity, religion, and politics.

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Xiaohong Zhang An interview by Dario Rutigliano, curator landescape@europe.com

Xiaohong Zhang accomplishes the difficult task of a establishing an effective synergy between painting and movement, creating an area in which emotional dimension and perceptual reality coexist in a coherent unity. Unlike artists such as Carsten HÜller, she does not let the viewers in the foggy area of doubt. Recently focusing on China’s environmental problems, her evocative imagery invites us to investigate themes investigating the relation between reality and the way we perceive it. One of the most convincing aspects of Zhang's practice is the way she creates an area of intellectual interplay between the heritage of her Far Eastern Identity and her current experience in a pluralistic society, offering to the viewers an Ariadne's Thread capable of driving us through the exploration of unexpected relationships that pervades our changing world. I'm very pleased to introduce our readers to her refined artistic production. Hello Xiaohong and welcome to LandEscape: to start this interview, would you like to tell us something about your background? You have a solid formal training and you hold a MFA from Southern Illinois University: how did this experience influence your evolution as an artist? Moreover, you are currently an Associate Professor in Department of Art and Design at the University of WisconsinWhitewater; do you think that teaching and daily relations with your students informs the way you conceive your works?

My name is Xiaohong Zhang. I came from a small town in Northern China. I was traditionally trained Juerg Luedi


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Fall color of Paris Watercolor on Paper 14 x 11

in academic art forms that include Chinese brush painting, western style drawing, and foundations of graphic design in earlier 1990’s period. We did not have today’s computer technology during my undergraduate studies when I lived in China. I started to learn about computers in 1999 when I studied at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. During those three and half years in graduate school, I experienced intensive digital techniques and computer software and training. I even took programming classes like C++, database, etc. detail from myFunerals, Performance

The entire evolution of an artist for me is a gradual transformation out of instinct and eagerness to learn the new things. In 2002, I was accepted as a faculty member in the multimedia/graphic area in the Department of Art and Design at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. The courses I taught were mainly 2D-based graphics. Since 2008, with continual curricular development in the College of Arts and Communication, my course load has gradually UW-Whitewater photo/Craig Schreiner


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shifted from traditional 2D graphics to 3D and 4D design.

feature or a function may suddenly give me some ideas of my personal creation.

The intensive teaching preparation and selfstudy of new media arts became a trigger to change my work styles over time. I used to integrate my 2D digital graphic skills with my fine arts background. Recently I started to work with the 3D in which I use 3D software Maya to rebuild the urban landscape view by incorporating traditional mountains, water and also contemporary industrial subjects like cranes. Teaching and daily interactions with my students has informed the way I conceive my works. It has changed my working process and the way of creating new projects.

A good example is when I learned the displacement function in Maya. The function allows me to create random terrain by converting 2D vector displacement to 3D geometry. The function helps generate a random and natural looking mountain. You have the control of intensity and depth of the large composition of the mountain by adjusting the gray scale contrast of the 2D vector displacement map. Still, you have no control on how the software generates the detailed geometry. The whole working progress and final output suddenly reminds me of traditional Chinese ink and wash landscape painting creation processes. The artist has overall control of the structural composition of the mountain. The detail of mountain and rock is the interaction result of water, ink and color on rice paper. It is very similar to western watercolor working process and I immediately used the software function to create a traditional Chinese style mountain after I learned it.

Before starting to elaborate about your production, would you like to tell to our readers something about your process and set up for making your artworks? In particular, what technical aspects do you mainly focus on your work? And how much preparation and time do you put in before and during the process of creating a piece?

My creative focus has been on “Traversing Medium and Re-appropriating Motifs in Contemporary Art� with continuous investigation of traditional art form of Chinese painting through the concept of contemporary western digital art setting. In other words, I am always trying to use the new media technology to deliver the traditional aesthetics. My teaching area is media art. Media art itself is composed of a constantly changing assortment of computer hardware and software as creative tools. My teaching requires me to keep updating myself with new computer software and new technology every year. During the process of learning new software and technology, a fresh

My working process is constantly changing due to the never-ending challenge of my teaching and learning. In my earlier work, I mainly played with vector and bitmap images, layers and effects by using Photoshop and Illustrator. In the beginning of the working process, I used a pencil to make a quick sketch for the basic composition of my project. Sometimes I might also need to recreate vector images in Illustrator based on the subject. Then I imported multiple images including vector and bitmap images into Photoshop and play with different functions to combine different images together naturally. Finally I use an inkjet printer to print out the digital


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image on Japanese rice paper. Generally due to the large scale of the final output and the limited printing size of my digital printer and small size of Japanese rice paper, I have to divide the entire large digital image into many small images. By using the conventional paper mounting skills I learned when I was in China, I eventually mount the small prints on the thin Japanese rice papers onto a larger size sheet of heavyweight drawing or printing paper on a wood board. The choice to print a digital image on Japanese rice paper is simple; rice paper is absorbent with a soft but slightly coarse texture. It gives the digital printed image a natural and refined texture and look. My recent work process is different from that of a few years ago. I have focused on exploring digital 3D imagery creation. By doing so, I blur the institutional and historical boundaries between traditional Chinese ink wash painting and western graphic practices by using 3D digital graphics to refigure the traditional Chinese ink mountain painting. For example Maya 3D software is used to recreate the mountains and water. The preparation time for completing a new work is considerably longer for me now. It can be a month or up to a year. The preparation includes software proficiency and creative thinking and iterations. Now let's focus on your artistic production; I would start with Across The Divide. Our readers have already begun to get to know you in the introductory pages of this article. I would suggest that our readers also visit your website directly at http://facstaff.uww.edu/zhangx in order to get a wider idea of your artistic production. In the meanwhile, would you like to tell us something about the genesis of this interesting project? What was your initial inspiration?

Across the Divide Project is a platform for Chinese artists and scholars teaching in American universities to share creative


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practices, research and teaching through exhibitions, symposiums, and other related events and activities. It focuses on a shared

cultural identity over differing geopolitical convictions under the large frame of Chinese culture.


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In 2002 Professor Yu Li at California State University, Long Beach, initialized the Across the Divide forum. He initially established connections

with 14 Chinese artists who were teaching in universities across the United States. After oneyear of careful and extensive preparation, in


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Inspired by Professor Yu Ji, in 2011 I collaborated with my colleague Michael Flanagan to host an international traveling exhibition Across the Divide and a related Symposium in the Crossman Gallery at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, United States. The 2011 Across the Divide exhibition at UW-Whitewater included twenty-four contemporary Chinese artists who were working in academia across the United States. With an emphasis given to artwork that blends cultural influences drawn from both Eastern and Western aesthetics, the exhibition presented both experimental and traditional approaches that artists have applied in their studio practices to explore their personal crosscultural perspectives in relationship to the changes that have been brought by China’s current social, economic, and cultural development. In the past few years Across the Divide has continued to grow. In 2014, the Across The Divide forum officially became an organization The Association of Chinese Artists in American Academia (ACAAA) with over 50 members. In conjunction with Beijing Normal University and The Art Education Committee of Chinese Artists Association in China, ACAAA will co-host an international conference and symposia in Beijing from June 6th to 7th, 2015. The entire Across the Divide project has been slated to elevate awareness of the Sino-Asian immigrant experience, Chinese art and educational practices, and highlight the value of global visual literacy in the Eastern and Western education systems.

2004 he successfully held the first exhibition and symposium to open a public dialog on their cultural positions in American society.

The investigation about shared cultural identities effectively accomplished in Across the Divide reveals the connection between different cultural spheres which describes such a real-time aesthetic ethnography: you seem to be drawn to the structured worlds


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we inhabit and how they produce a selfdefining context for our lives and experience... A relevant feature of Green Blue Mountain that has particularly impacted on me is the way you highlight the inner bond between Man and Nature: you invite the viewer to appreciate the intrinsic but sometimes disregarded beauty of geometrical patterns, bringing a new level of significance to the idea of landscape itself. Like Jean Tinguely's generative works, this piece raises a question on the role of the viewers' perception, forcing us to going beyond the common way we perceive not only the outside world, but also our inner dimension... I'm personally convinced that some information is hidden, or even "encrypted" in the environment we live in, so we need to decipher them. Maybe that one of the roles of an artist could be to reveal unexpected sides of Nature, especially of our inner Nature... what is your point about this?

My landscape works, including Green Blue Mountain, have been deeply influenced by the philosophy embedded in classical Chinese landscape paintings. Landscape painting was regarded as the highest form of Chinese painting. Classical Chinese landscape paintings often involve depictions of peaceful scenes of rolling hills and rivers in the native countryside rendered through softer, rubbed brushwork. Emphasis was placed on the spiritual qualities of the painting and on the ability of the artist to reveal the inner harmony of man and nature, as perceived according to Taoist and Buddhist beliefs and concepts. In China the world is composed of two basic opposing forces, namely Yin and Yang. Mountains and Water Painting comes to show how the balance of Yin and Yang appears in

nature. The imposing mountains protruding to the sky are the masculine power of Yang while the gentle clear water is the feminine energy of Yin. Ink that composes form embodies Yang, while Yin appears as the empty and bare paper representing mist, water and sky - both forces are prominent yet delicately blended together. The landscapes Chinese artists created were


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not the real places but imaginary, idealized landscapes. The "mind landscape," embodies both learned references to the styles of earlier masters and, through calligraphic brushwork, the inner spirit of the artist. Going beyond representation, scholar-artists imbued their paintings with personal feelings. Painting was no longer about the description of the visible

world; it became a means of conveying the inner landscape of the artist's intellectual state of mind. My landscape work is based on retaining its inner essence while updating its subjects and media. Viewing my landscape work, it is clear that depictions of nature are seldom mere


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representations of the external world. Rather, they are expressions of the mind. Green Blue Mountain addresses China’s environmental problem of excessive urban development. As the speed and scale of China’s rise as an economic power accelerated, with no clear historical parallels, so has its unprecedented various pollutions endangered the ecosystem. Environmental degradation is now so severe, with such stark domestic and international repercussions, that pollutions pose not only a major long-term burden on the Chinese public but also an acute political challenge to the ruling Communist Party. The work uses traditional Chinese painting styles to show Chinese metropolitan areas surrounded by industrial building trash and wrapped in a toxic gray shroud. Your relationship with the use of strong colors to evoke a personal imagery is intrinsically connected to the chance of creating an area of intellectual interplay with the viewers who are urged to evolve from the condition of a merely passive audience. A good example is Red Mountain, in which intense tones of red have a marked evocative feature. In particular, your process of semantic restructuring of a view has reminded me of the ideas behind Thomas Demand's works, when he stated that "nowadays art can no longer rely much on symbolic strategies and has to probe psychological narrative elements within the medium instead." While conceiving Art could be considered a purely abstract activity, there is always a way of giving it a permanence that goes beyond the intrinsic ephemeral nature of the concepts you explore. So I would take this occasion to ask you if, in your opinion, personal experience is an absolutely indispensable part of a creative process? Do you think that a creative process could be disconnected from direct experience?

I was born during Cultural Revolution in China. Later I came to the United States in 1997.


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Xiaohong means ”little red” in Mandarin Chinese. The Cultural Revolution was a socialpolitical movement that took place in China lasted from 1966 until 1976. The goal of it was to preserve a “purist” Communist ideology by purging remnants of capitalist and traditional elements from within China. As we all know the color red is also associated with Communism. I believe my grandparents gave me this name to show their political loyalty as ‘true’ Communists. I intended to use the color red in my work. Red Mountain is designed to demonstrate the identity of modern China. China is one of five remaining Communist countries in the world. Red Mountain indeed possesses a symbolic meaning of the land that I came from. In the West, the term “Red” was often synonymous with the fear of Communism. So my creative process was connected to my direct experience and my pluralistic identity – a Chinese artist who was born during the Cultural Revolution and later resided in the Western world. In a similar vein as many contemporary artists, such as Edward Burtynsky and Michael Light, your works convey environmental and political messages and raise awareness of the intrinsic political potential of Art. Although I am aware that this might sound even a bit naïf, I have to admit that I'm sort of convinced that Art could play an effective role in sociopolitical questions; not only just by offering to people a generic platform for expression. In particular, I would go as far as to state that Art could even steer people's behavior. What is your point about this? Does it sound a bit exaggerated?

Arts and politics have a strong relationship across the historical era in both Western and Eastern cultures. We can take propaganda

machines during World War II as good examples. Art – the visual form - is not only the expression of artists’ creative skills but also a means to deliver their emotional power. Art is a very powerful tool. That is the main reason so many artists turned to political subject matter in the last decade. I do not feel it is exaggerated to suggest that art can influence people’s behaviors to a certain extent. In the Western world we have many high-profile artists who proclaim political agendas including Chantal Ackerman, Omer Fast, Subodh Gupta, Teresa Margolles, Walid Raad, Bruno Serralongue, and Santiago Sierra. In China today there are contemporary artists like Ai Weiwei who declares himself as a rebel artist. Ai's works genuinely carry weight and power reflecting and even influencing politics and society. His work has gradually shaken the social structures and helped promote the social system reform in China. So I will say art is really powerful. I am not qualified to say my art works can steer people’s behaviors. I do wish my artwork could at least raise viewers' awareness of China’s social and environmental issues. The ambience created in Spring Mountains has reminded me the concept of Heterotopia elaborated by French social theorist Michel Foucault. I find very impressing the way it highlights the signs of absence, urging us to rethink the concept of Space and Identity. The multilayered experience suggested by this work gives hints of something else happening or going on, almost on a subliminal level from ordinary reality. Could you explain this point to our readers?

Ancient Chinese artists are not addressed as a group the way we are today for people with fine art skills. Painting skills are a social symbol specifically for highly educated and privileged


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class. Generally artists have a dual identity – politicians and fine artists. Song Dynasty emperor Zhao Ji is a good example. He was the emperor, but also was one of the most famous bird-flower artists in the history of China. The majority of Classical Chinese landscape paintings show a peaceful vision. The concept of withdrawal into the natural world became a major thematic focus of Chinese landscape painters. Faced with the failure of the human orders, artists/politicians often sought permanence within the natural world, retreating into the mountains to find a sanctuary from the chaos of dynastic collapse. My Spring Mountains has retained the peaceful vision from the Chinese tradition. Meanwhile I intentionally changed the subject and media. Traditional trees become modern industrial cranes. In the midst of the chaos caused by extraordinary urban development, the red cranes became the intruder to the peaceful vision. The red cranes here are

symbols of modern industrialization in China and its dire impact to the environment. Another interesting project of yours that has particularly impacted on me and which I would like to investigate is entitled Memory and Dream. In particular, when I first happened to get to know with this piece, I tried to relate all the visual information to a single meaning. But I soon realized that I had to fit into the visual rhythm suggested by the work, forgetting my need for an unequivocal understanding of its symbolic content. In your work, rather that a conceptual interiority, I can recognize the desire to enable us to establish direct relations. Would you say that it's more of an intuitive or a systematic process?

In Memory and Dream, I retained the traditional Chinese painting form - handscroll form. The subject and expression style are Western. The whole process was intuitive and it took little time to conceive the design.


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The handscroll is a long and narrow scroll for displaying a series of scenes found in painting and calligraphy from Chinese, Japanese, Indian, or Korean sources. The handscroll presents an artwork in the horizontal form and can be exceptionally long, usually measuring up to a few meters in length and around one half to one meter in height. My use of handscroll design in Memory and Dream is intended to be viewed flat on a table while admiring it section-by-section during the unrolling as if the viewer is traveling through a landscape. In this way, this format allows for the depiction of a continuous narrative or journey. It enables the viewers to make an immediate contrast between green blue mountain and bare mountain. I was impressed with the way the multidisciplinary feature of Green Blue Mountain reveals an incessant search of an organic, almost intimate symbiosis between several disciplines, taking advantage of the creative and expressive potential of

Technology. While crossing the borders of different artistic fields have you ever happened to realize that a symbiosis between different disciplines is the only way to achieve some results, to express some concepts?

Before I answer this question. I would like to define the term “multidisciplinary.” I will say generally that artists have often used "multidisciplinary" approaches to innovate by pushing the boundaries set by artistic traditions or “schools.” It’s a way of working that integrates knowledge from multiple fields to solve a known or new problem. To finish Green Blue Mountain, I used 2D computer graphics and traditional watercolor to assemble the elements together. I have intentionally printed the final digital image on Japanese rice paper to give the digital print an organic feel and look. I used the “Threshold“ function in Photoshop to turn the digital crane images into their silhouettes. The effect oversimplified the shape


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Art Review

and strengthened the contrast between foreground and background to give the work a powerful visual impact. The impetuous way modern technology has nowadays come out on the top has dramatically revolutionized the idea of Art itself. In a certain sense, we are forced to rethink the intimate aspect of the materiality of an artwork itself, since just few years ago it was a tactile materialization of an idea. I am sort of convinced that new media will definitely fill the apparent dichotomy between art and technology and I will dare to say that Art and Technology are going to assimilate one to each other. What are your thoughts about this?

I feel technology plays an important role in the history of creative art. It is the part of art making process. 40,000 years ago when Asian and European cave painters made paintings on cave walls and ceilings, mineral-based pigment was the only available “state-of-the-art” medium at that time. Gradually canvas, oil paint and bronze became the “new media” and have been used and accepted by all artists. The invention of camera and photographic technology completely changed the art world. Realism is no longer the ultimate goal of artist. Today's digital media, which is commonly referred as the “New Media”, becomes the de facto technology. I'm interested in breaking down the arbitrary division between traditional art and new digital world. I believe infusing digital technology will become the major trend of art creation in the future. During your over twenty years long career your works have been extensively exhibited in several important occasions, including seven solo exhibitions. So before taking leave from this interesting conversation I would like to pose a question about the

nature of the relation with your audience. Do you consider the issue of audience reception as being a crucial component of your decisionmaking process in terms of choosing a type of language for a particular context?

I never have a specific targeted audience in mind when I “brew” a new project. My creation process only engages with personal emotion and instinct. I did my undergraduate education in China and received my MFA in the United States. Both Eastern and Western educational backgrounds helped me develop in a crosscultural aesthetic philosophy. I believe I am delivering a global message which can be easily


Xiaohong Zhang

LandEscape 108 Art Review

understood and appreciated by both Western and Eastern audiences. Thanks a lot for this interesting conversation, Xiaohong. Finally, I would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects. Is anything coming up for you professionally that you would like readers to be aware of?

Currently I am in the process of learning new technologies including 3D modeling functions like rigging and animation. I will continually explore new technology and seek different approaches to create artwork. I would like to include more animation and soundscape aspects into my

current and future work. I will follow both my head and the heart while continuing to push the boundaries in all directions.

An interview by Dario Rutigliano, curator landescape@europe.com

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