Descriptions and gamified interpersonal relationships within a group of researchers (2022)
Draw a cloud. See it in the cloud and draw that.
I use paper and pencil for most works but think of mass creation over line creation. Lines live a ghostly existence. Lines look like lines independent of distance. To an eye floating away observed masses recede to points. Massing with pencil expends a lot of effort and the reward is flat and shiny. With acrylic syrup, gluing paper harvests skin cells. The paper backing falls away and the subject in the old song leaves the body behind.
We can go to image production with reference to painting, because I can think of painting and scrapbooking as creating a place and time and a collage as fracturing place and time. Collage critiques if you’re not careful. And I tie that to words. Someone on the panel said painting delivers a continuous stream of information that can sometimes have a calming effect, but more often not. The discrete of collage has a different flavor and a way of restricting and expanding image creation with discernable orthogonal moves five miles and twenty five minutes away. You can try to dampen the words at these joints but they always find a way when you’re on the way there.
The layouts come from dreams and are tied to a place of lived experience. This throws into relief mutationious recollection like the friend’s favorite album song phenomena that we are making some headwinds with with those with means. It was The Devil Runs Nightly. That was her favorite album and she had told you that out back but didn’t go into more detail because things were getting crazy back there and from here it wasn’t clear what they were doing on the lawn back near the plants. You had a dream that walking across the dim lawn she had told you her favorite song was the 2nd song so now you recall her favorite album is The Devil Runs Nightly and her favorite song is the 2nd song, which is great because that’s your favorite song. Dreams are drivers but can only go so far.
I am interested in the experience of dream images asleep and awake and I heard people say the having of the dream experience is an emergent byproduct of biological waste-removal processes running about the skull. Tau plaque waste piles up across the side of recursive networks looping in the wakeful state. The dream image layouts are organized by the material constraints of the plaque scarfing up process. Efficiency and capacity are the main concerns when going for good nightly product. This is waste recovery fueled dreaming so it’s a loss going for purity. Grade is whatever you get and what you remember in the morning.
It had come up on the news that something they called an oasis had been set up in an old grocery store in October. Researchers made a call for participants in an important study. One that could make or break the group. They’d already tried to own another groups experimental results with their own results but it blew up their face, so tensions were high. The awesome dynamics of this group, like a heavy foam, was so complex and salt rich that it was impossible to predict what might collapse next. They’d been going for over 1000 years in a flow and it showed.
In the grocery store, they arranged everything to not look coercive. The study was about talking to ourselves and the study correlated tasks involving word and phrase recognition to later interview reports of visual image intrusion during the talking-to-ourself process of the tasks.
One other important part of the tasks involved imaging-to-ourself. That’s where you tried thinking without words and used visuals instead. The lighting had gone out towards the back aisles. Bathroom breaks were conducted in complete darkness. Participants were seated during the study, but weren’t allowed to think. This last requirement was not divulged to the participants but treated as an ‘as if’ by the group for inter-therapeutic reasons. The ban on thinking was later overturned. The next morning, the researchers reported the image intrusion was more pronounced in the head for things closer to the seated subject in time, space or relationship. It is believed the intruders entered through the mouth. Researchers said talking-to-ourself had more power during consideration of things far-off but images still hung in the background.
Overall, images carried weight that could be worded down a bit but images could image words into something thin for folding up.
It was too late to stop now. Sunk costs. As participants walked the streets that night with snouts pointed to the sky, each with a remote scanner behind the ear tried to recall images only and not the words. It was a haunted night. Everybody else in the area tried their best to stay silent in their homes. When it was over, participants were returned and scanned again with another scanner, but only after the one behind the ear had been removed. This is because the group had found during some prelims that participants became agitated when double-scanned and generally recalcitrant afterwards. They’d had to take out at least two restraining orders after the prelims. The one taken from the ear was looked at and it showed the visual cortex was only weakly active compared to wakeful in-the-moment experience. Imagery would arise during mental talking-to-ourselves and depending on space, time and relationship, even overpower critiquing with reptile sense so that all communication becomes shadowed. But there was the persistent issue that the images were ghostly according to the fMRI compared to imaging during direct wakeful experience. The images of the thinking-in-words and thinking-in-images could at best weakly occupy the domain of real-time waking experience with any recognizable force.
I thought to myself how it was a really interesting study with intense researchers but I couldn’t remember the name of the person regaling our group with the story. There had been mention of a second scanner but it never came up again and we weren’t sure if our speaker hadn’t just said “oh yeah, and there was a second scanner and they tried to double-scan them” just to make the whole thing sound more gnarly than it was. But, our speaker heard about it inside, and that person had left already and we were now outside in the back anyway so it didn’t make sense going back inside just to check on the story of the second scanner.
The thing of the qualia ties into things at this point and our generous friend was going to tell us about that now.
The qualia are supposed to be real things. A philosopher was talking about bats and qualia. The qualia is the thing it is supposed to be like to be a bat. The bat flies around firing off a stream of qualia that only it can verify, but these things do exist. Even if the bat gave a verbal report of its qualia, it’d be apples to oranges as the report itself could be verified, encoded in writing or zeros and ones, but what the report reported could not except by the bat. All we can do is sit back and consider the bat over a drink and say, yes we believe there is a thing the bat can verify and that thing does exist and yet it is completely unverifiable to us but since I fire off qualia too, I believe I can empathize with the bat flapping about during a warm evening with an orange sky. The bat is not a zombie or computer bat that has no thing that it is to be like.
This part can be said over and over again and even sung. It’s common knowledge that people sometimes sing it when they’re feeling loose. There was a fire going, one of the bigger ones because of all the new members. One person who was new and likely wanted to prove something hopped the lip and went through the fire. The fire was 10 ½ feet across. Everyone knew there were fires on weekdays dedicated to quick run-throughs that were 2 feet across, shallow and with no lips to trip you up. This one had been burning since noon and was in no mood.
He looked like someone tromping and kicking through a knee-high snow drift only burning embers. The fire had been mostly smoldering at this point but regained some vigor as our fellow traveler made his way through. We helped him climb out the other side being careful not to touch the lip and someone brought some lemon water. He waived them off. We didn’t expect him to speak at this point but he gave a verbal report and said he felt he had better insight into things now. He said he could with absolute confidence verify the bat’s qualia, in other words, he was happy to verify the bat was not a zombie or computer thing.
Some of us led him off, away from the others, and he said he wanted to try next verifying on a painting. We told him we’d ban him from all bonfires, even the weekday bonfires that are open to all and relatively safe, if he pulled something like that again. We walked and talked with him and he wanted us to witness him. His vibe with the bat could never be encoded with zeros and ones, not even by him and so he wanted to try verification on a painting because then there could be something about the painting that could never be encoded.
Paper is the main material right now, assembled without a complete idea of the final form. I am usually thinking in terms of film-like events of dream states. Dream states are a driving force despite all other rationalizations. Most compositions are the result of an associational process branching off into different directions. The landscape aspects are inspired by local life intertwined with dream elements that act as place setters. Most of the architectural shapes come from photos I’ve taken mixed with recollected buildings. The figures are made up or lifted from elsewhere. They exist either as wholes, parts, animals, plants, items bought at the store, hybrids, or as architectural entities.
One thing about paper is its edges. If, in the early afternoon we stand on a peak off of the S22 highway as it passes Culp Valley just before it begins its descent to Borrego Springs and look south-east, we will be on the closed end of an arch laid horizontal and delineated by the Anza-Borrego State Park mountain range. From this scenic point we can get a look at California. As one tilts the head upward, the low land between the ranges opens up on either side off towards the Salton Sea. The sky looks grayish white under these conditions and there is the feeling of a subtle but perceptible flat decline in the landscape the further one looks off. The land disappears into the distant iron haze somewhere below sea level. It is as if horizon itself is pulling away.
If paper could have edges that created experiences such as the above we’d be in business. But perhaps we can settle for the possibility paper offers, a sort of budget sublime for a medium historically tied to preliminary and supportive activity. Its expanse is vulnerable to change and can easily continue on; paper can always be glued to the ends, end over end. Through patchwork addition the edge can increase in perimeter and pull away. With painting, the pre-framed edge has a physical invulnerability whereas with paper the edge is a suggestion. Most application on paper leaves a mark that cannot be completely effaced. Layers of paint deform the paper as moisture is wicked and evaporated. Collage covers over and leaves seams while erasure cuts burn-lines into the fine and shrubby surface. These unavoidable traces bring to light the potential of activity that never really ceases.
With the ink jet prints in the ‘movie mashup’ series I am interested in the mosaic quality of immediate awareness. Each picture is an eye looking out. Repeated and altered scans overlaying each other to build up the image act in a metaphorical manner and manifest as distortions and offsets in the final work. The subjects are derived from screen grabs from films.
The poppy flower series comes from photos of poppies from the web. These give me a chance to explore color and painting. As political, emotional, and economic plants, poppies are subject to Orientalist fantasy and dreamscapes while providing society with a vast casualty count. The graphite framing parodies control of the subject.
Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers stands over California art. Rodia was operating outside the folk arts and avant garde at the time of the towers’ creation. Like many transplants in the early 20th C. who arrived during a time of concentrated California boosterism, whether to work or to found new religious cults, Rodia may have inhaled the fresh history of the place, like fresh paint over ‘America Tropical,’ and felt himself upon new grounds of possibility. Now Watts Towers looks contemporary and completely integrated. We can link Watts Towers to a certain mode of art reception by discussing Outsider Art.
‘Outsider Art’ has become the defacto name for art that has by general consensus (critics, galleries, collectors) a modernist or contemporary feel to it (it looks interesting), yet comes from outside the both contested and agreed upon sphere of acceptable practice. A work of outsider art could come from someone whose biography does not overlap with the art world but whose art imparts a curious intensity or urgency that points away from kitcsh. Modern art has always held a fascination with curios, particularly artifacts from cultures deemed ‘primitive,’ and held them as symbols of, or an actual case studies in, artistic essence existing beyond the horizon of Western meaning making. This romantic mirage persists in consuming what attracts it but signs of weakness can be found in cases where modern and contemporary practice have crossed paths with and maintained an egalitarian openness and reception towards alternative production by those we would today designate as outsider artists.
In 1936, MOMA curator Alfred Barr introduced Dada and Surrealism to the American public along with something called Comparative Material. Comparative Material included cartoons and the work of untrained artists. MOMA trustees only later realized this was a trial balloon for what Barr had in mind: a solo show for Morris Hirchfield, American primitive painter, in 1942.
No sooner had Barr’s desk been cleared out than one of art history’s great’what-if’s was established. If Mr. Barr had continued to arrange well-funded and regular shows in this vein, how would later artists and critics have reacted and how would his shows flow into culture?
In France, concurrent to Mr. Barr’s ouster, Jean Dubuffet was collecting a trove of untutored art which he then had published or put on show with mixed results. He had less means at his disposal than what the MOMA would ever allow. Despite this, Dubuffet managed to call around hospitals and siphon off scribblings otherwise destined for the trash. If not given works, he would generously purchase them at cut rates. Psychiatric hospitals and marginal quarters, both urban and rural, are where he found his vessels, whose unholy art furnished his radical sensibilities with the inspiration and artillery necessary to attack high culture. His eye was informed by the latest art trends and we are left to wonder what art he rejected. Interestingly, Dubuffet’s art looked nothing like that in his collection. It was the ideal of freedom he took from them and to him freedom meant rawness expressed literally with contingent, “impure” materials like dirt and the use of fingers instead of brushes. His paintings were intended as red hot skid marks on the dead walls of mainstream art institutions.
Further points of contact between outside and inside include Joseph Yoakum, a retiree without formal training, who showed with the painters from the Art Institute of Chicago in the 60s. We could compare this to the situation of Henri Rousseau and the avant garde of Paris at the turn of the century. Picasso held a burlesque banquet for Rousseau in his studio in 1908 and we can imagine a riot of plastered and forward-thinking Parisians hoisting aloft the ailing 64 year old Customs Officer. Sixty-odd years later the Chicago students, among the first generation raised in TV culture and civil rights, were primed to view Yoakum as a fellow traveler, a maker of things, in a time of the dematerialization of the art object.
In the early 70s, Roger Cardinal, a researcher of art outside the art world, responded to Dubuffet through the filter of 60s social awareness. A revolution in pharmacology allowed afflicted artists to function outside of institutions and mass media pressed on all but the most isolated. ‘True’ primitives were harder to come by. For Cardinal, Art Brut occupied one wing of an expanded realm of parallel productivity and he went through hundreds of names before titling his book ‘Outsider Art.’ This book is still out-of-print.
Today, for curators and critics concerned with power relationships, things are understandably tricky. To say someone is an outsider artist seems to preclude the possibility of dialogue. Their work is destined to be viewed through a seemingly impassable window and we may feel a little guilty peeking in. Since categories are often a necessary evil, and we can’t treat artist biographies as if they don’t exist, I believe the most important element in the reception of outsider art is for the viewer to open themselves to empathetic response.
Master’s of Applied Statistics, UCLA, 2022 (pending)
MFA, Tyler School of Art, 2007
Post-Bac in Material Studies, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 2003
BA in Mathematics, UC Berkeley, 1997