Monday, June 17, 2013

Train interludes...

I am sitting on a packed Amtrak train at 7:32 am heading south.  We will pull into Chicago around 8am. The beginning of my 5th week in residence at Columbia College Chicago, really its day 12. I’m back and forth from Milwaukee and Chicago about three times a week and have gotten to be an expert at this commute. Train time has become incredibly important to my practice these days.  One and half hours of time to myself – to read, write, catch up on email, etc.  it’s a great way to start the day. After a quick 20 minute walk to Columbia from Union Stations I've set goals for the day (usually too many), cleared my conscience, and enjoyed my walk – it makes for a productive head space to enter the studio ready to experiment.

Experimentation is at the heart of what's happening this summer. Experiments in light, scale and media. Jennifer Keats and April Wiltkins are a power house duo, solving problems and taking names. They run the Digital lab at Columbia as well as the Artist in Residence program. They've welcomed me with open arms and introduced me to much of the Columbia community as well as the larger Chicago art landscape. It’s like no other residency in that these two advocates have made themselves available for brainstorming and production help at every moment.  I am blessed to work with these two women all summer.  And the space – have I mentioned that this digital lab at Columbia is amazing!  More Epson 4900 printers than you can imagine (it was a scene to see them all in action during the last week of the spring semester); an entire room of Imacon scanners – the history of the imacon scanner held in the room; a beautiful mural printing room; an open lab with speedy Xerox printers (one of my favorite features at the moment); all of these hardwares connected by an efficient server and streamlined production.  I wonder if the students at Columbia realize what an amazing resource is at their fingertips.  And this is not just speaking about the the facilities… the professors as well… wow.  I have had the honor to visit with - in passing or for long talks - a slew of amazing artists while working at the “kitchen” table on the 11th floor of 600 Michigan. Barbara Kasten, Collen Plumb, Krista Wortendyke, Matt Siber, John Opera, Jay Seawell, Jess Dugan, Clarrisa Bonet, Myra Greene, Kelly Connell, Jason Lazarus – the list goes on and on….

So what have I been doing there in a photographer’s paradise? Following the breadcrumbs – listening to the work. Building my vocabulary with light.

Rainbows are important. What can they teach me about the fleeting? What can they teach me about science? What can they teach me about perceptions of light and space? What’s with their superficial read? Seeing particles – seeing waves. What can I learn about rainbows?

(the sunset is an intense red and its hard for me to look away right now – let alone keep my focus)

What is my relationship to math and physics?  All of a sudden I was imagining geometric sculptures and thinking about triangles. Circles, cycles, möbius – Christian Marclay and magic tricks - lead me to fall in love with Janna Levin and her talk on the MOTH – “Life on a Möbius Strip.” A collaborator and his bubbling knowledge of math and philosophy introduces me to Kurt Gödel and his incompleteness theorem.  I find a math dictionary in my studio’s bathroom – the dictionary printed in 1978 lists Gödel as living.  This math book is fascinating and I find my work & myself in the book.  Janna Levin has written several books about Gödel – I start with fiction… Mad Man Dreams of Turing Machines.

There should always be a place for wonder it’s a direct line to new knowledge.

Tumblr, my assistant tells me I need to be on tumblr.  It can be an amazing tool and archive. With it I’m listening to old friends again- Roni Horn, Olafur Eliasson and Robert Irwin. Light and space. Water marks both.  Our collective histories, a blink in the universe’s time line.  Micro to macro, it’s all-important. A rainbow is important.

Concealing the details to reveal the potential.  The potential of synergy: me and this place, my work and ideas, you and I.

Listening, building, making.

Today in the lab, through an exercise of catching rainbows, making videos of people and their caught rainbow describing what they see, transcribing that, selecting a piece of it, then just a word from it…. Magic struck and this lovely phrase revealed itself: wavelengths glowing in between histories
Where all of this will lead… we will have to discover together but the trail is full of promise.

Click here to see some images from the past twelve days in residence…

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