Wavepool – Your work reads visually as being both scientific and poetic, either through the joining of the two in a single image or through shifting back and forth throughout a body of work. Does this interpretation match up with your interests?
Dillon DeWaters – Carl Sagan wrote “Understanding is a kind of ecstasy.” Understanding, knowledge – these are important elements to my practice. I read poetry and often don’t understand it. This act usually leads me on a path; I desire to understand. I want to make sense of things, of this world, of what is physically there in front of me and of what cannot be seen or physically touched, of things that are transparent or ephemeral. This process is akin to scientific method. You might begin with a problem, a question, a hypothesis, and then allow the mistakes, the queries, the solutions to guide you. I am not a scientist or a poet, but I think that the photographic process is imbued with poetry and science. Time plays a role technically – a machine marking the passage of time, a science. The poetry comes as the object, the picture, begins to move through space and time. It begins to make its own history. It’s a process of transmutation, acquiring meaning where there otherwise isn’t any. Making images is like making mistakes, and to me, knowledge comes from making mistakes. And, for me, the act of looking, searching, for knowledge is where I find the “ecstasy,” not necessarily in the knowledge itself.
Wavepool – When allowing those mistakes and discoveries to guide you through the process, how do you reach a stopping point for a body of work?
Dillon DeWaters – I keep going. I just keep adding, erasing and assembling. From this point, things, subjects and techniques blend into one another. I don’t make project- or series-based work, so the thinking, the stopping points, happen much later in the editing. It’s more like discarding or dumping points. And one body or set of images may bleed into and mix with another. This is when the poetry becomes important; it is the entry to process, to the sequence. So the choosing and editing of the pictures becomes crucial. It’s a tightening up or blending of dissonant elements. Making my work is a process of building up and then peeling away.
Wavepool – Some of your project titles make reference to works of poetry. Is this a consistent point of reference for you? What role does outside research play in your practice?
Dillon DeWaters – Yes, it used to be more so. Poetry was a way to render, to amalgamate image with language. But it was also a device that helped me set up a framework to explore some philosophical structures and ideas that were otherwise unreachable to me. I used it as away to communicate with the dead (see Jack Spicer), as a conduit for influence. This is an approach that is embedded in my practice. I would say that it is closer to a lifestyle than it is a kind of research. In this way, the everyday becomes paramount. These days, I’m inspired less by poetry and more by painting, weird fiction and B-Sci-Fi and supernatural horror films. This has inspired a otherworldly voyeurism – a more mystical approach to image making. I’m trying to investigate, to observe the invisible. I have a desire to somehow make metaphorical pictures that relate inward, operations of thoughts, of consciousnesses. I’m trying reveal the mythological and practical application of photography, to capture the energy, the essence of things. It’s a matter of seen and unseen simultaneously. It’s like showing what you know rather that what you actually see, like the cubists. Because of this I rely heavily on the symbolism of color. It’s a kind of personal myth-making.
Wavepool – As your inspirations shift, do you have any desire to move away from photography and explore painting or film?
Dillon DeWaters – I’ve always wanted to make a film – I may, one day, but when the credits start to roll at the end of a movie, I am overwhelmed by the incredible number of people it takes to make a film – I have such a solitary practice. I try, and mostly fail, to incorporate sculpture into my work. I love painting, but I’ve never had the desire to paint. I still dream of being a writer. Video is something I am interested in, and is very much a part of my practice. My video works typically serve almost as companion pieces to certain of my series. Video is where I can really let my influences run wild. I find editing to be a holistic and creatively meditative process. It allows me to think sculpturally, to think about images beyond photographs, photographs as installation, as a rebus for the other elements of a space – in a sort of John Cage way. I want people to think about the light switch, the corner where the wall meets the ceiling in relation to my photographs and videos. There is an otherness I’m after which is at times very experiential and is so intimate to my process, but is also something I try to translate into my work, still or moving.
Wavepool – Because some of your imagery is experimental and non-traditional, I’m curious about the way you work. Do you know what you’re getting into when you’re making?
Dillon DeWaters – Not always. I believe in accident and chance as operations for growth. So, the way I make things is a matter of putting myself and my work in positions that allow for unusual things to happen. I learned quickly that this process of experimentation could be stretched very thin, and that it had its limits. An experimental accident is one thing, but harnessing it is another. Accident had to become another tool. And to use such an unpredictable tool, and to use it effectively, you have to understand the material both physically and conceptually, its history, its chemistry, its boundaries – this is what I’m reaching for and pushing against simultaneously. It’s a kind of understanding of the medium as a whole, observing, analyzing, processing and practicing. It always returns to the idea of mistakes and learning, a way to knowledge. In Rene Daumal’s novel Mount Analogue, he wrote, in comparing Alpinism to Art, that “Art” is the “accomplishment of knowledge in action.” He went on to state that, “[t]here is an art to finding your way in the lower regions by the memory of what you have seen when you were higher up. When you can no longer see, you can at least still know.”
Wavepool – Can you go into a bit more detail about the way that accidents can be appropriately harnessed? When do they fail?
Dillon DeWaters – This is very subjective. Considering the potential of a given material, its limits, my intention, becomes a process unto itself. I spend a lot of time breaking things apart – most of which I don’t know how to put back together. But in these messes, which make up a large percentage of my work that will never be seen, there are always a few aha moments. In these moments, chance encounters or accidents, I try to be aware. Awareness allows for this “harnessing of accidents,” which is an incredible idea unto itself. If I am distracted, ideas just disappears, unnoticed. Being engaged with the history of photography really helps this process and is the foundation of what I do.
To see more, please visit Dillon’s website.