Archive for March, 2010


‘carefully, look over your shoulder’- the silversun pickups

Is there a blueprint to create the ineffable? (Originally asked on 4 August 2007)

I really should have started this entry before Chelsea bombed out of the Champions League to Jose, I mean it’s bad enough to lose but we sacked the guy.  Christ.

The original intention of this blog back when I started it 2.5 years ago, was to function as a reflexive method, an informal way to gather my thoughts on the research and it’s been great.  For the most part I blog when I need to and it provides me with an easy, attainable goal within which to complete work.  Now as I focus on the light at the end of the tunnel I need to find a way to look at the data that I have amassed and process it somehow.  The most cohesive way about going about this was to create a physical archive, print out the pages and read through, thus letting the good bits float to the top and pushing aside the crap.  It’s interesting because I have done this a couple of times but not with any focus, but today it kind of started to click back into focus how useful this has been.

On 4 August 2007 I wrote a fairly long entry where I asked both the question above and this:

‘I know I am doing this because of the PhD, but it might be worth checking back in a few years to see how this particular element of the research has affected my practice.  Will it make it better, or by taking off the cover and showing the bones will it make it worse?  Is some part of making art supposed to be inaccessible to not just the viewer but the artist as well’? (Spaulding 2007)

It’s hard to mentally contextualize yourself back and say with definition I can recall exactly what I meant, but I have a very strong reaction to this particular statement.  As an artist, it has been my belief that the creation of work is both the completed set of tasks but also an act of magic.  There has to be an element of wonder and the will to create it as such present in the making.  You don’t get the colour green without the colours blue and yellow; it’s not a question rather a statement of truth.  I was concerned by the role of this blog and the role of research in relation to my practice because I felt that lifting the lid and showing the mechanics of the tricks would devalue the outcome of the work.  I still believe that, but an enhanced exploration of the methods used to make the magic is not out of bounds.

I think that I got lucky because I subverted the blog to do what I needed to do, I allowed it to be a place for reflection at certain times and an actual functional tool at other.  As an example the live blogging my dice compositions, this task allowed me to focus on the creation of new work without being bogged down by the very real issue of making it ‘special’ or ineffable.  Having that as your conceptual umbrella is not easy, often it makes the conceptualization of new work next to impossible because your constantly demanding that every one thing BE SOMETHING to someone or everyone in some way, all of the time.  That’s more restrictive than the actual PhD itself and it creates a bottleneck mentally.  Often ideas are chucked out before they even make it to a sketch because they are deemed stupid or unworthy.  What the blog has allowed me to do was shake free of the preciousness of it all a bit.

The dice blogs remains a germane example, after the first album I was like a kid  looking through the window of the proverbial candy story.  Excited by my own ability but hampered by my serve criticality, I was turning down ideas faster than I was coming up with them because the ineffable seemed so unattainable.  It seemingly requires that I create at every stage an act of perfection.  This is both counterintuitive to both being an artist and conducting research.  The research begs you to ask questions and find answers; the work need not always be perfect.  It is this unhealthy obsession with perfection that led me to the dice blogs.  (Click here if you want to read the dice blog before continuing) Link will appear in a new window, neato!

Before this exercise my compositions had been created intuitively but that often meant that I only made work, when I felt like it or rather when I felt it was ready to be made.  Whilst being a viable method is also kind of tough because sometimes-new work and compositions are shy.  If you have read the Dice Man you will understand where this experiment comes from.  Essentially I read a book called the Dice Man where the protagonist makes every decision based on the roll of the dice.  So with that in mind I set forth the rules, utilizing two dice I assigned a task to each number up to 12. Then I rolled the dice, over and over within this experiment I also took it further from my usual style of working by live blogging the results.  By taking out the ‘gut’ instinct and leaving things up to chance I produced a raft of things I hated but I also produced a large amount of useable material. This new method also demanded that every aspect was down to a random roll of the dice.  Sometimes I rolled 7 four or five times in a row and you had to abide by task the given to the number 7 no matter how much I agreed or disagreed with the decision.  I would also experiment sometimes just rolling one die instead of the pair, this allowed for more varied results.  The thing of it is I wouldn’t have even tried to do this without the blog as a vehicle for change and experimentation.  There was no reason before to question my methods in such a way (Actually that’s a lie, there has always been a reason to change things up a bit, but I was never brave enough to do so).  But this way of working had nothing to do with bravery or fear.  It was measured and methodical.  It had real time results and I was afforded the ability to see the outcome of change immediately.  Live blogging was so successful that I utilized it as method through the composition of the second album, but not in the conceptualizing of the visuals that went along with it.  Since I have 6 more albums to produce I feel that it is something I will be visiting again because work begets work and the need to create a momentum tide is upon me like no other.

Now back to the start, and the other line I highlighted: Is there a blueprint to create the ineffable?

I don’t think there is a blueprint, per say.  I was never going to be able to sit down and create a set of rules that applies to a majority of practionairs within which to generate an ineffable experience.  The creation of such an experience is largely subjective (beating that dead horse again) for both the artist and the viewer.  I can tell you what I have done and what aspects were successful and what were unsuccessful but that doesn’t mean that a new artist utilizing my methods within their own interpretation of the ineffable is going to be successful.  Rather I can provide a map of my experiences, which can be studied and I can begin to stake claim to the validity of certain methods, but I don’t know if it’s transferable across the board.

As an example my art boys Turrell and Irwin and myself.  I could copy a Turrell down to the very last exacting measure but it might not work. I can utilize the same colour lamps that they use in their installations within my own and while a particular blue works for them it might not for me simply because it creates an unwanted friction with my other assembled methods and tricks.  You can learn, take and borrow as much as you want but the generation of an ineffable experience is dependant upon the sum of the parts not the parts as singular entities.

To reproduce Irwin’s and Turrell as if they were created by the artist’s themselves is not something I have attempted because it asks more questions about appropriated art than it answers about the ineffable, so I stole their most successful bits, the use of light within space and melded it with my own methods of this emotionally suggestive spaces which relied as much on the ocular as they did on the aural, but my inclusion of such materials was because I didn’t think I could do it simply by copying Turrell and Irwin.  Plus this is about the acquisition of new knowledge and what they have done both historically and within the context of their own careers is not underdeveloped.  Conducting a quick mental survey of the successful methods over the last fives years, it was about borrowing in the nicest way from my heroes and stripping back the wrappers to allow these singular successful elements to become malleable and free of their previous context.  Utilizing fluro bulbs for example doesn’t mean I am waxing Dan Flavin hard, but I am acknowledging that he was on to something in a big way.

It’s worth continually unpicking, as this is the crux of the whole new knowledge issue and what my contribution to that actually is.


‘i caught a glimpse, now it haunts me’ –the knife

The past couple of months have been a little thin on the ground here at with good and bad reason. At the end of Nov 2009 I underwent knee surgery to repair my ICL.  What they didn’t know before they went in was how fucked my ICL has gotten.  It’s March now and I still don’t walk completely correctly and various other parts of my body are still suffering.  Make no mistake, surgery is a violation of sorts, I allowed someone to cut into my body and not in a fun sexy times kind of way, but in a way that I believed to be restorative and helpful.  I am in more pain now than I was before the surgery but I have to keep up the belief that it will get better, but it’s discouraging and depressing.  I have spent more days since enveloped in a blackness that I can’t shake.

As for my PhD, when I got back to the States to have the surgery done I was a shell of the person I was at the beginning of the year.  Strung out, exhausted and this close to breaking in two.  I just wanted to quit and be done.  To be honest, I don’t think that completing a PhD proves that I am smarter or better than anyone at anything, even within my own field.  I think it proves that I have the stamina to swim upstream against the constant downstream of shite, the shite of research, of how the research rules your whole life, and how I had put it ahead of me, and I simply wanted to quit.  I was and am now in the headspace where I had to know that I could walk away if I wanted to and it free of regret.   This isn’t all I am just a simple part and I needed to put it into context.  I feel in some way that for all the positive things that come forth from this, it’s brought and incredible amount of pain and suffering to my life and I didn’t know if I wanted to deal with that anymore.

Wait! Stop! But…!  What about all the time you have spent doing it, what would you tell people about that, how would you explain quitting?  Very simply I suppose, because I can and I want to.  It’s not a slight to all of the people who have supported me thus far, without them and you I wouldn’t be here.  Rather it’s about having the ability to say: ‘thank you, now respectfully fuck off’.  I am not actually going to say it but knowing I am ok with saying it makes it okay to keep going forward. Now I am going forward because I want to get this done, I want to move on and move forward.  This is no longer the picture I want to be defining me, but I didn’t know that 3 months ago because everything was so twisted.

So why am I back and what is that I am back to being about?  It’s not that simple to explain, but I will try.  I am back because I believe in the ineffable and the magical moment that happens when you push people into the rabbit hole you created.  I am back because I am fucking good at this: I am a good artist, I am good researcher, and I have my swagger back.  It’s silly to say but it’s all about confidence and standing up and taking the punch whether or not it was deserved.  I am back to standing up and taking the punches because I saw something that made me believe in it all over again.

The last couple of weeks have been kind of interesting weather.  Hot, cold sometimes in the same day, even the same hour.  Last week was warm temperature wise, I mean I was running about in short sleeves letting the sun kiss the skin a bit, but there was still all this snow on the ground, a bit of a paradox.  I happened to be driving home and it was the middle of the afternoon, right before the left hand turn onto our street is a little creek set back in the woods.  The sun was streaming through the clouds, the sky was blue, the windows were down and the air had all the promise of spring summer nights, but as I was passing this creek set back in the woods there was mist hanging over the water.  Thick in some sports almost like cotton wool suspended in mid air, it was phenomenon all to itself.  It was isolated and viewed out of the corner of one’s eye as you pass by, so quickly you would think you made it up.  It was fucking magical and I suddenly got it all over again, suddenly I fell back in love with being bowled over.  It was so amazing I turned around and parked there on the side of the road just looking, looking at the mist hang almost solidly in some areas and being worn thin in others and it made realize something.  Not for nothing, but all my ineffable experiences come from the nature place, the work I make is about the replication the desire to best the thing that occurs simply because it does.  I know that phenomenon I viewed was based on air/water/ground temp and it has a scientific explanation, but who gives a fuck? You forget and you look past it because it takes your breath away.  You look closer because it’s happening then and there without viable explanations and contexts; you look because you can’t look away.  (By you I mean me)

Thus far I have avoided asking the questions about the natural occurrence and what that means within the research and I wonder if I have undersold my entire context by negating this fact.  No matter the bullshit I spin and the books I read at the end of the day I am trying to replicate the magical thing that I saw in my bedroom as a kid or in the woods, I am trying to harness the NATURAL phenomenon.

It’s all coming together, or it’s all coming BACK together I suppose.  I have gone so far into the exploration of the natural self: meditation and yoga that I sort of forgot about the NATURALLY occurring phenomenon that exists every day in front of me but because I have my head usually so far up my own ass I miss it.  Before my surgery I went to a Gregory Crewdson talk at the Albright Knox Art Gallery.  I was curious because in my undergrad like any other photo major I waxed Crewdson hard.  It was beautiful, lush, cinematic, and magical.  I sort of lost desire for his work but then I went to this talk and while he may be a bit of a weak public speaker he said two words that basically hit it out of the park for me: ‘magic hour’.  A descriptive term used to describe that time of dusk when the light is slipping away and the shadows begin to fall.  This term the ‘magic hour’ describes the thing I am looking for perfectly, and since I need to start banging out this lexicon that will defiantly make the cut.

That’s the thing; I lost sight of the magic hour. Even though I spent two months in bed basically starting at the wall watching time pass, watching the magic hour happen EVERYDAY I didn’t see it because I didn’t want too or I couldn’t see it.  I lost sight of the magic, the whole reason I am here in the first place, but finding it again does bring up the question of the natural occurrence and why I haven’t been engaged with it.  A lot of what I am doing currently for research is to cull through my archives and I don’t mention it at all, how problematic is that, what did I leave out and was this omission major or minor?

So yeah, it’s nice to be back and it’s nice to be engaged/engaging with the pulse of it.  As the days pass especially the next ten or so I intend on more entries and more questions.  When you go through the archives the thing that comes up, are the gaps in my knowledge and the questions that need to be asked: again or for the first time.

Foremost I will need to assess my research questions, over the next few days I intend to do this in a variety of ways, utilizing my blog and social networking sites to see what and how people view what I am talking about, but also the questions I asked five years ago aren’t the same questions I am trying to answer, rather they were the starting point.

So yeah, I am back kids, I am back.

Gregory Crewdson. Image courtsey of Luhring Augustine Gallery

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