Wavepool – Your practice seems to be rather messy, with intentionally destructive materials and processes being used often. How do you approach making?
Aric Crafford – When creating work, I enjoy intentionally manipulating materials to their limits. Because I primarily work with digital materials, these limits may include flaws, errors or glitches that can occur in the process of creating the work. For this reason, I focus on the process of how the piece is made, rather than the final piece itself.
Wavepool – Is it important that you work digitally? Are there conceptual interests that come with the digital process or is it mostly a matter of preference?
Aric Crafford – Working digitally has a few advantages that I enjoy. Normally in digital photography, there are no-no’s when making an image. These may include, moiré patterns due to overlapping linear patterns or Newton’s Rings when digitally scanning film. I concisely seek to engage in what could be thought of traditionally as a “bad photo” by using these ideas. I like to experiment and know how the camera’s digital sensors will react when confronted with unorthodox methods. In a previous project a few years ago, I kicked disposable film cameras down streets while a friend documented me in Chicago. The results were pretty much beautiful, abstract light leaks captured on 35mm. I recently revisited this project and kicked a digital camera video recording itself until it was no longer able to record. This project, Orientating, was able to capture the process of how the work was produced, while giving similar, abstracted visuals as the kicked film. Rather than having two separate pieces, which I felt the kicked film and documented video had, the kicked digital camera combined both. The visuals captured from digital camera created a rolling shutter effect. This dizzy-like glitch occurs in video when the frames per second of the camera’s digital sensor does not match up properly with what it is recording.
Wavepool – At what point did you begin taking an interest in exploiting those no-no’s? Was your practice ever more traditionally photographic, or have you always worked this way?
Aric Crafford – When I was teenager, I was mainly interested in mixed media approaches to creating art. I would experiment with various materials, like in Slithering. One of my first approaches to working less traditionally was scratching up the lens of a disposable film camera and taking photos with it. Soon after, I began manipulating film with materials as well. I enjoyed experimenting and had fun creating art early on. That has really carried on and influenced how I approach making now.
Wavepool – What kind of materials are you working with in your Slithering works? Where does the title come from?
Aric Crafford – Slithering is a project where I use a flatbed scanner accompanied by various materials. The scanner’s light slithers through the materials to create photographs. Most of the materials I use are household liquids, such as bleach, Pepto-Bismol, artificial food colors, lubricants and hand sanitizer to name some. As well, I use materials that may be reactive to the scanner’s light, like an iridescent plastic. Sometimes studio debris (dust or hair) may be included. Depending upon how the scanner’s sensor reacts to the materials, it may contribute more to the image. For example, the scanner’s light may refract through a clear liquid to create a separated rainbow or other details not noticeable until I see the final image.
Wavepool – Not only does the light slither through the materials, but the materials also seem to slither across the scanner bed in some of the images. Does that recorded gesture play an important part in the work?
Aric Crafford – Yes. I like the idea that scanner’s light in traveling in one direction and the materials may be traveling in another. Each image takes a significant amount of time to create because of scanning at a high resolution. Moments where materials appear to be slithering are recording only a mere second or two of a chemical reaction taking place.
Wavepool – How do the accidental and the intentional compare in the process?
Aric Crafford – Intentions typically create accidents and accidents typically become intentions. It’s a trial and error, learning process.
Wavepool – I pick up on a strong interest in both genuine and mediated experience. How do you see those ideas aligning in you work?
Eileen Rae Walsh – I think it is interesting to be an image maker right now. This idea of the potential for genuine experience is something that I think is being absorbed by the amount of pictures being made right now, by anyone (or, everyone). Which, may be old news. But, for me, there is still something important about making pictures in the world instead of just through the screen. So, while several of my images involve sifting through what something looks like on Google (the sky, the horizon), I believe so much in experiencing the world and in an art practice that allows me to do so. That being said, I also understand the failure of the image to transcribe the visceral and ephemeral nature of engaging in the world that I love and celebrate so much. In a way, photography has become a kind of container for experience, for telling us what something looks like, and that actually begins to fill our brain-space with what it is. So, I began trying to find outlets to create a balance of this understanding, of the failure of photographs but their relentless perseverance and power. I’m looking for the sticky stuff between the gaps and the cracks that contemporary photography orchestrates. At the same time that there are so many images, a kind of meaningless in the surplus, there is an opportunity to excite people again. How do you surprise a generation that has been rubbed in the same spot for too long? How do you disrupt the numbing stream? That is what videos like The Sky and Paradise began addressing, I think.
The other thing that is particularly interesting is what something looks like that I can’t actually see. For instance, pictures of space on the internet. The other part of that is the way that a camera can see in a way that I can’t see. That any kind of experience becomes mediated, or potentially abstracted, through the camera, but in an exciting way. My main interest is in the way something can be experienced through an image. I don’t necessarily care about what it is, or was, but rather, what kind of unknowable or mysterious in-between becomes adhered to the image in the process of making the picture. To absorb the moment into something more interesting, to know what it looks like, then. Less about illustrating or pointing, more about discovery.
Wavepool – What are some of the techniques that you’re using to maximize that opportunity for discovery?
Eileen Rae Walsh – When working with the screen, I’m aware of the mediated, and of my speculation that this technological immediacy is challenging the level of curiosity about the world that I feel is vital. The body of work is called A History of Staring at Fires. Staring at a fire being this profound, mesmerizing, ancient act. My fear is that that act has been replaced with the act of staring at a screen, our heads bowed down with an artificial light source illuminating our faces. However, rather than just talk about screens, which seems simple, easy, and contemporary, I’m interested in this process of photographing and then looking at an image on a screen and then rephotographing again and again until the image becomes something else. It pushes beyond the screen. I’m interested in making pieces or videos that have a shared hypnotism with the act of staring at a fire, but derive from this artifice and mediation. I think that is one instance of using the camera to discover something potentially beautiful or profound through the means or technology that has kind of absorbed and changed the pleasure of looking, both at images and the world.
Wavepool – You briefly mentioned the sky and the horizon, two elements that repeatedly appear in your work in various forms. Can you elaborate on their importance as subjects?
Eileen Rae Walsh – I’m interested in the way certain phenomenological events have been absorbed through images. I feel the sky and the horizon are things that are described by pictures more than they are described by our natural experience of them. They have become photographic subject matter – to the extent that I can’t look at the sunset without thinking about images of the sunset. I also love the infinite, intangible nature of both of these things. Knowing you can never reach the horizon or the end of the sky, a kind of limitlessness, but that we are always looking towards or trying to grasp or fathom them… but also that these things are relentlessly photographed. There is a ceaseless attempt to capture these experiences, and those photographs will always fail at doing so. But, the amount of images of these events… it is like continuously trying to get closer to something that you can’t be close to. With a video like The Sky, I’m interested in making someone feel something for clouds with ten images of clouds on Google. There is an opportunity for an emotional tone in the work that highlights this false proximity. They are subjects that work as spaces to create this conversation and pull.
Wavepool – In addition to the images in The Sky, the audio in that video piece is vital to my experience with it and seems to toy with my emotions a little bit. It complicates things and seems to reverse the tone of the video at one point. Can you talk about that component and your intentions with the narration?
Eileen Rae Walsh – Sure. I like the idea of a dictionary.com definition of something that is unfathomable, or infinitely vast – an attempt to contain the idea of the sky or space, similar to the absurdity of the amount of images of these subjects on Google Images. (As if we are consistently trying to capture the essence of these things). However, I want to disrupt the narrative of the mediated and of that scientific language with subtle, personal appendages that make those unfathomable subjects somehow personal (again). I feel like some of the visual moments where you can see my desktop point at a personal experience of me, sitting at a computer, actually relentlessly clicking through these things. The video functions as a mark in time, that this is what Mac operating systems looked like in 2015, that this is an artist, trying to understand the new infinite that we’ve created, this impossibly vast archive of images and information – an attempt to personalize that search and experience. Both the search in terms of the Google search, but also the search for meaning, the shared sentiment of contemplating the unknown. The weird way in which a Google image of space is connected to my panic of what happens after I die. It is a vast territory to traverse in 55 seconds, but it is all really elastic in my mind in the way my ideas live and function and are affected by technology and a deeper, more cosmic connection to the world.
Wavepool – How do you go about structuring the viewing experience of A History of Staring at Fires, a project that includes similar imagery but also welcomes a variety of subjects and moments into the mix?
Eileen Rae Walsh – I’m interested in a kind of elasticity between the immediate urgency of some of the pictures I’m drawn to, a very first person narrative perspective, and the larger, more abstract, intangible questions and sentiments of trying to fathom the infinite that other images reference. I want to be able to move a viewer in and out, both in physical space and in idea. I’m pulled constantly between the micro and the macro perspective, the visceral nature of the temporal: a hose and a pair of legs, a pile of dead fish, sticky, wet hair…and the sun. And the sun on a screen, and the sky. Without a tight sequence, the whole thing falls apart (and often does). Jazz is incredible because of what is able to be accomplished in a single song. It can pull you through so many different experiences and emotions, seamlessly, and by the end you’re just kind of rubbing your eyes knowing that something profound happened, but unable to illustrate it with words, because it’s jazz. I feel the same way about someone like Philip Glass. I’m not saying my sequencing does this, by any means, at all. But those are the things I’m thinking about when trying to orchestrate these ideas. It might be too much. It probably is. But, I’m always trying to do that. And it gets messy. What I try to accomplish with sequencing is the same thing that I try to accomplish with poetry. My writing practice and visual practice are really linked in this way.
Wavepool – I like the connection between those practices in A History of Staring at Fires, where a poem is the statement for the work. When joining the two, do you start or end with the writing, or does it come somewhere in between?
Eileen Rae Walsh – I’ve never had a really organized practice. I’m kind of always doing everything, at once. That being said, the poetry can come before, after, or during. I’m always doing both. I’ve constantly been really torn between the visual and written languages. But, instead of trying to separate everything into some kind of linear practice, I just started allowing it all to happen fluidly together. That can be a dangerous tread, or maybe, I’ve been told a lot of times that this is a dangerous way of working. But, I just don’t know that this work has some kind of conventional artist statement. Someone asked me recently, upon reading this totally heady, far too long, academic and impersonal artist statement that I wrote “could you just write that you feel too much?” And I just decided this felt better. I’m pursing these big, complex ideas. The poems feel like small, honest rocks that keep me focused on the important parts.
Wavepool – Many of your projects present fictional narratives that are composed of seemingly real moments. Can you talk about the balance between fact and fiction in your practice?
Dan Boardman – Early on in my art making I realized the very thing you mention here. Photographs have a tenuous relationship with reality. I’ve never been able to draw a line in the sand from authentic to staged with my image making. It seems to me that it’s impossible to do so. What i’d like my images to do is communicate. I’ve learned to do that by engaging in the associative power of images. With a body of work like The Citizen I was encountering a verity of people over many different places, and those people and places mattered to me, but that’s not all that mattered. I think fiction in that case was my escape hatch from making a book about the down and out in down and out places. I didn’t want to make that kind of book because I don’t believe my subjects needed pity or wanted it, and because the actuality of it wasn’t in the pictures. My pictures were my ideas and had very little to do with actual anything. I thought a lot about Kurt Vonnegut. How his books could be about a real situation and he’d shoe horn in science fiction, because the reality felt like fiction.
Wavepool – How much of the narrative is left up to the viewer? Are you interested in specifics or do your prefer a more fluid approach where the images can be understood and contextualized in a variety of ways?
Dan Boardman – Some things are up to the viewer, but I think it’s really up to me to bring the viewer my ideas. A book can give things context. The design, size, and text included are all part of the thing of course. This isn’t really true out side of photo-books in many ways. I have a copy of Dune from who knows when that has an incredible look. Newer and cheaper versions of Dune look terrible. Here though the cover makes no difference whatsoever. It’s the same Duncan Idaho no matter what the cover looks like.
The obvious difference is that images appear to be more open. I certainly don’t want to close ideas down, but like I said I want to communicate my ideas, so I aim for that in my editing. Honestly it really depends on the group of images. Some groups need practice to tease out the right path from cover to cover, others simply fall into place.
Wavepool – What is your editing/sequencing process like? How long does it take for you to feel confident with your decisions?
Dan Boardman – I’ve learned a few things about myself when it comes to editing over the years and I hope I’ll learn more. The number one thing I’ve learned is that I can’t edit a group of images while i’m shooting them. It closes down that side of the creative process. I start to close doors. It’s even better If I stop shooting and do something else and then a year later pick up the images and edit them. Time fractures my emotional tie to most of my pictures, and it makes me think again about things I would normally disregard.
I love editing with friends. Not mentors or professors or curators or anything like that. It’s gotta be with friends. They point out bullshit, and they encourage strange associations. Mine do at least.
I also think deadlines are good for editing. You can go forever revisiting an edit, and some projects require that. Other times having a week or a night to make some choices is a good thing. Certain goofy choices come out of the energy in the room. Revisiting over and over can sort of destroy that spirit.
Wavepool – The way that you photograph your subjects makes me think of you, the artist, as a character that is integral to the story. You’re not just narrating, but you’re also interacting with the other characters and the landscape. Do you think about yourself in that way? Can you talk about your role in all of this?
Dan Boardman – I’m glad that translates. I do feel that way. I never feel out of body making images, but I don’t always feel like what’s in front of me is real. I think a lot about the narrator. Who is this person? Why are these pictures being made by this person? I did this project in college where I tried to photograph as if I was on a trip in Russia, but I was in Central New York. I’d go photograph, go to restaurants and order something I’d never had, write in my journal, take the bus different places, etc. The images were nothing special, but I think it ended up being good training for other ideas later on.
I think of the different cameras I use as a shift in narration. Photography is great because sometimes the evidence of the tool used to make the image is visible in the final image even to those who aren’t savvy. It’s fun for me to play off of this. I think about John Divola’s work Isolated Homes. The end sheets in that book are these exceptionally grainy images of dogs running. They give all the narrative you need to a book of pretty straight forward austere images. Of course I love the book made of the dog pictures too.
Wavepool – You collaborate with a few other artists to publish books under the name Houseboat. How did the group start, and what are your interests as publishers?
Dan Boardman – Houseboat is Eric Ruby, Dylan Nelson, Ryan Arthurs and myself. We are a group of friends that at one point all lived in Boston and at different times attended Mass College of Art and Design for grad school. Basically we started publishing because it seamed like the natural thing to do. We all had made books and were involved with each others work. It was a way to get our work into the world in some sense. This must be a typical story to some degree.
As publishers we don’t specifically have a point of view, but I do know that we seem to be attracted to forgotten projects. We like to take over a little and make something out of a project that might not see the light of day. I think about the narrator a lot in the choices of books we make too. It’s fun to try and figure out someone by looking at the pictures they made. I feel that we push one another to make increasingly complicated books and we firmly do not care about making perfect objects. We have learned a ton about making books but I don’t lose sleep over mistakes.
Wavepool – Your new work looks different than what you’ve done in the past. What’s happening in the new images?
Dan Boardman – The seeds of what I’m doing now started right after grad school, but recently it has taken over.
Looking at Ed Ruscha I became interested in trying to make an image with text in the center, and I started to pick apart how i’d do that in camera. I came up with this way of making a sort of stencil in negative and positive. I went out and made some images this way and when I got the negatives back the results astonished me. Since then the stencils have gotten increasingly more complicated and intricate. I won’t attempt to explain the meaning of it all as it’s very much in progress. I will say that the new work shares the pleasure of the associative nature of images that my work has hinged on in the past. Now it’s happening in a single frame!
Wavepool – How would you explain your body of work Object Drawings to someone encountering it for the first time?
Joe Rudko – It’s about the way photography and images in general can shape our visual perception. I appropriate existing images and look for new ways of interpreting them. My work happens between the flatness of a physical photograph and its illusionistic space. I’m not sure whether to call them drawings, photographs, sculpture, or collage.
Wavepool – What is the process to make a piece in the series like? Is it important to be working on multiple pieces at a time and allow things to sit for awhile, or do you prefer to focus and work singularly?
Joe Rudko – The process is always shifting and being tweaked. I’m interested in understanding how the photographic processes describe the world. My own process is a response to specific images that have the potential to articulate the nuances of photographic vision. I’ve been collecting images from various sources since about 2008, and most of them are antique photographs. When there’s enough time and distance from the original context of an image, it opens itself up to a number of interpretations. I use those factual cracks to insert my own propositions about it’s meaning.
Some Object Drawings are made with the help of a paper shredder, where photographic bits mimic digital pixels. Others use the physical edges of photographs as an opportunity to shift into an isometric perspective, a very flat way to describe 3-dimensional space. I find that working on multiple approaches at the same time allows the ideas to intermingle and fertilize one another.
Wavepool – In addition to found photographic images, you also make use of photographic ephemera such as envelopes, boxes, etc. Why is it important for you to include these materials?
Joe Rudko – I’m trying to tap into the framework that surrounds photography. Photo corners, film boxes, drugstore envelopes – all provide a physical context for the subject of the image. They bring a sense of touch to the work – they’re a very tactile component within photography.
Wavepool – Some of your recent work has been sculptural. Tell me about that process. Do you see it taking on a larger presence in your practice moving forward?
Joe Rudko – Working sculpturally is a way to expand on the two-dimensional surface of a photograph and its subject matter. Photographs convey a specific moment and surface of space, and sculptures can physically describe the volume of space. Treating a photograph as a sculpture could be a more holistic way to look at and represent the world. I’m interested in the potential for an image to communicate to a viewer, and acknowledging the physical properties of it and its original context are some of the components necessary to understand that potential.
I think there’s a common language between sculpture and photography that I’m very interested in. Despite being the most physical of art mediums, sculpture relies on the least physical – photography, in order to document and present itself. As early as the 1840’s, William Henry Fox Talbot was photographing sculptural busts, and the ubiquity of the medium changed the way sculptors worked. More and more work was being designed for the camera rather than the real life experience. I think I’m interested in that same thing today. As more of our lives are lived in virtual spaces it becomes increasingly difficult to differentiate between the virtual and the real.
Wavepool – Is traditional photography still an important part of your practice?
Joe Rudko – Right now I’ve stopped producing my own physical photographs. At the same time I am consistently influenced by the language used in traditional photography to describe the world. It’s influence on the contemporary image landscape is huge, and more and more apart of our daily social media lives. I’m often taking photos on my phone to see how a drawing or small sculpture can function on a screen compared to looking at the actual thing. I want to make work that is interesting in both places simultaneously.
Wavepool – I’d love to hear about your curatorial project Two Shelves. How did it begin and what are you looking to do with it in the future?
Joe Rudko – Two Shelves is the in-home gallery that I run with my partner Kelly Bjork. It’s literally on one wall that has two shelves mounted to it. The idea for the space developed after having my BFA thesis show at an in-home gallery in Seattle called Vignettes. That experience allowed me to connect to an entire community of artists, many of whom I was only vaguely aware of through the Internet. I was starting to show some of my own work on shelves as a way to imply physical weight to the work; to make a clear distinction between the online/offline experience. Opening up a gallery space with those parameters built-in was a way to spread that idea.
Since the first Two Shelves show in March of 2014, it has grown into an active testing-ground and meeting place for artists and thinkers in Seattle. We host receptions about once a month, hold appointments, and facilitate interviews. It’s a project that has taken on a life of its own. I’m excited for our summer line-up, which includes shows from John Keppelman (Bellingham, WA), Drew Miller (Brooklyn, NY), and JD Banke (Seattle, WA). We want to continue to support the talent within our region, but also share artists from elsewhere to promote more dialog between communities.
Wavepool – Tell me about your photographic project _IMG. What are some interests that are addressed in the work?
Robert Chase Heishman – The _IMG works are straightforward, formal photographs that play with the flattening of pictorial (photographic) space. I arrived at the project out of a desire to loosen up what I made in the studio. I wanted to embark on a way of making that was willful and immediate – something to free me up a little from the restrictions I tend to put on myself. Having been steeped in process-based art since the beginning of my career, I’ve always had a hard time simply shooting photographs – like a ‘shooter’ – mainly because I need a structure to work in and construct from. Around this time of trying to make another body of work, my friend Megan Schvaneveldt lent me some colored masking tape she had laying around her studio. I borrowed some rolls of orange tape and made _IMG #3.
Wavepool – How does your new work, Indefinite Free Time, fit into that spectrum of making? You seem to be revealing an interesting dynamic between structure and leisure in the images, and I’m curious how the work developed. I’d love to hear more about those images, the ideas behind them, and the process.
Robert Chase Heishman – Indefinite Free Time is a series that directly references Guantanamo Bay detainee artwork – they’re 1:1 representations of paintings and drawings by detainees that I referenced and then rendered photographically. A few years ago, I came across an article of a reporter who gained access to do a story on and take cell phone photos of the artwork that the Guantanamo Bay detainees were allowed to make. When I saw the artwork I was instantly reminded of the ledger art that Native Americans made while imprisoned. They were given lined, ledger paper to write and draw on, and would often depict tradition and ceremony that was being desecrated. The parallels of subjugation, and how art factors into the equation in both instances is/was striking to me. Navigating a globalized existence, I often feel powerless in the face of larger political conflicts or issues. What is my role in speaking to global conflicts or situations? In a very simple sense I think the photographs of Indefinite Free Time are like a small archive. This act of preservation through appropriation is something I’m interested in and I see as a political act on my part. At the same time, I largely see these politics to be more of a human gesture of acknowledging other’s humanity that is being infringed upon. I like these works because their subject matter resembles the kinds of still lifes that someone would study in a beginning drawing class. This series feels like an extension of my interest in flattening a picture plane, much like my _IMG series and my ibid. videos. As photographs, they bridge a tradition of still life photography that, on the surface, looks very formal, yet these seemingly willful arrangements are actually embedded with complex political content.
Wavepool – In addition to your work as an individual, collaborative projects seem to make up a large portion of your practice. Why is collaboration important to you? What is enjoyable and beneficial about the process?
Robert Chase Heishman – Collaboration is how I began my artistic career. When I was 18 years old, I collaborated with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company on the work Split-Sides. I designed an original décor (set design) for the production. Looking back, I realize I was quite naïve about making art, and was given tremendous trust by Merce to create whatever I wanted to create for the work. With the mentorship of Trevor Carlson (Executive Director of the MC/DC), Jim Ingalls (the lighting designer of Split-Sides), and the MC/DC staff as a whole, I navigated the terrain of Merce’s form of collaboration. John Cage used to say: “Merce does his thing, and I do mine, and for your convenience, we put them together.” This is very much how it felt while working with Merce – it was freeing; it was independently together. The collaboration of Split-Sides largely occurred at the time of the actual performance, when the elements of the dance, set, music, costumes, and lighting all blended anew, each night the piece was performed. My work with Merce and the company was a formative time in my artistic upbringing that has always stayed with me, as well as the spirit and importance of collaboration. Throughout my career I have always remained interested in collaborating with friends and colleagues of mine because unanticipated results inevitably occur, and often the work I make with others is more exciting and allows for a social component rather than making work on my own. Collaboration creates a space where I am reminded that I am but one trajectory of many. This is helpful to be reminded of because it is a reality in life as a whole.
Wavepool – How did ibid., your collaboration with Megan Schvaneveldt come into existence? What is happening in the videos?
Robert Chase Heishman – Megan and I met while in grad school at Northwestern University. We were both making videos that involved doing series of actions with different objects – she made a great series of videos about balance, and I was making videos about my namesake. Our initial videos took place outside in public spaces, and we would wheatpaste a QR code in the exact spot where we shot the video. This is where we used the moniker ‘ibid’. This practice of site responsiveness has been something we attempt to continue to this day. Recently, we were invited to create a video on-site at the Columbus Museum of Art. To answer your question of what is happening in the videos – this is hard to pin down. I mean, on a practical level, they are one-take choreographed videos that are humorous, absurd, and magical at times. The flattening of the pictorial space is something that we are interested in working with, as well as mining simultaneity. In some ways our videos are like going to website where there are about a million other things happening on the site. There’s a lot of material/object play happening as well, but it’s all incredibly rehearsed. I’m curious to know what you think is happening in the videos?
Wavepool – I definitely pick up on the humorous qualities, the simultaneous actions, and the performative nature of each video. I really love how absurd it all is and the fact that there’s rehearsal involved, resulting in some kind of awkward and beautiful magic. In the video for the Columbus Museum of Art especially, I tune in to that idea of simultaneity when some of the gestures are being viewed on a screen in the space as well as in real time. Part of that process throws off my sense of time and the picture plane, as you mentioned, just a little bit. Tell me more about the sites you used. Do you use objects collected on site? In what ways do the sites affect the process?
Robert Chase Heishman – Generally, the sites we used were sites that were nearby CTA lines in Chicago, with the hope that a passerby would scan the QR code, watch the video and recognize that the video playing on their mobile phone is the very place they’re standing, and then take the video with them. Megan and I would also choose sites that felt blank and nondescript. The objects we used were collected from dollar plus stores or surplus stores, and the nature of shooting these videos outside presented enough variables and challenges to delightfully alter the momentum of the objects and actions we would rehearse beforehand in the studio.
Wavepool – What artists have you been looking at lately?
Robert Chase Heishman – This question always sends me spinning. I look at artist’s work – online and in person – all the time. It’s just hard for me to pin everything down to a concise list. There’s also a great deal of music that I feel affects what I’m making in the studio (lately I’ve been re-listening to a lot of Arthur Russell and, per my friend Chris Meerdo’s suggestion, Sophie. But ultimately what I feel the most connected to and excited by are the work that my friends (or friends of friends) are making and it’s this community that I believe in and think about the most day to day.
Robert’s work will be included in Making an Entrance, an exhibition presented by LVL3 and Robert Blumenthal Gallery that highlights sixteen contemporary artists who are making an international impact with their creative practice. An opening reception will be held at Robert Blumenthal Gallery in New York on Thursday, June 25 7:00-9:00pm. For more information, please visit LVL3’s website.
Wavepool – You often use the term ‘surreal’ when writing about your work. In addition to that, what are some other unifying words or themes that span your practice?
Sheung Yiu – I must confess I am guilty of overusing the word ‘surreal’ in my statement. I guess that is because surrealist art was my inspiration when I first started ‘becoming’ a photographer, making conscious photographic choices. My meaning of ‘surreal’ though is nothing similar to that of surrealism, it simply means a photographic reality that is different from the one I am living. I love to subvert default truths and question their legitimacy, using weirdness as my ‘device’. Most often when we are confronted by weirdness, we get a sense of what is normal. That is interesting to me. I will use ‘eerie’, ‘unhomely’, ‘weird’ or maybe ‘alternative reality’ to describe my work.
Wavepool – What are some influences in addition to surrealism?
Sheung Yiu – A lot of what I have been doing is inspired by Wolfgang Tillmans’ ‘paper drop’ series. They are photos of bent photo papers, which were exposed to colored light in the darkroom, placed against plain backgrounds. What is mesmerizing to me though is how Tillmans presents the photo paper, showing the audience the blank backside of the photo paper while giving us a small glimpse of the exposed image. It is a big idea visually shown in the most minimalistic way. I also like looking at still life paintings and photography, just visual metaphors in general. I enjoy learning about the semantics of objects and how auteurs signify meaning through this established connection between the apparent and the obscured.
Wavepool – In your project (PHOTO)graphy, you talk about being part of the last generation to witness the shift away from the physical viewing experience of a photographic print. How has that changed the way you look at the medium and the way you make work?
Sheung Yiu – Witnessing the whole transition makes me realize that the generation after me – the digital native – will mostly experience photography solely through its image, but to me, image on the photograph per se is not the ‘complete picture’. It is not about nostalgia toward traditional photographic practice either. It’s just that I always feel there is something beyond the image about a photograph, and experiencing the drastic changes in photography intensifies that feeling. I try to experiment with the ‘thing’, reveal the ‘thing’ by emphasizing the physicality of a photograph. I separate the image from the photo, treat it as the paper it is and let the result surprise me.
Wavepool – I’m curious about the content in your images and the objects that make up your subjects. How do you choose what to work with? Do any of the objects hold significance?
Sheung Yiu – Yes and no. Some I specifically choose to complete a visual metaphor or a joke, like the photograph of the universe I used as a paper to dip tomato sauce. Some are objects I found randomly in a street market that caught my eyes, for its shapes or color or whatever reasons. I have a collection on my shelf. I have an ice cream cone paper, magnetic beads, a petri dish, a shocking green slinky, a transparent pastel pink lighter and lots of other small stuff that I am still figuring out what to do with them. But I mostly will juxtapose them with photographs, playing with the idea that photography negates the physical properties of the object photographed, that the representation now adopt the physicality of a plastic paper.
Wavepool – Is the final result of the work an image? How does the work exist when shown physically?
Sheung Yiu – For now, I would say the final result are images, some in groups, some as individual images. But this question always comes up in my mind whenever I am creating work for this project. I spent most time setting up and making props. At times, I feel like my photographs are a documentation of temporary sculptures I made. Maybe image is not the best medium to tell my story. I am still coming into terms with myself.
I can go to extremes with installation and cross mediums with the concept I am working with, but I guess the photograph is where I feel the most comfortable working with and the most visually impactful. I am an image lover, on top of everything else. I do not have a solid answer at this moment. We will see how it turns out as the project evolves.
Wavepool – What do you think are the key differences between an image and a photograph? Is there more to it than the physical presence?
Sheung Yiu – I immediately thought of McLuhan’s ‘The medium is the message’. Image is the content and photograph, or photo paper, is the medium. There are far more carriers of images now with all the smartphones, tablets and laptops, but images printed on photographs still connote a kind of nostalgia and artistic value that demands viewers’ introspection and attention. This ‘message’ is moulded by a whole stream of traditions. The viewing experience was different. The venue and settings was more authentic. Every photograph was a unique art object that required much more time and effort to make. Countless times I have come across great photographs that I saw in museums on my smartphone and was perplexed by how unmoving and incomplete the images were. Images, without an appropriate medium, is just information in another form, not dissimilar to words on instruction manual.
But then even photographs, the medium, loses its message over time. As I look at the pile of photographs I printed out for my project, some of which I shot and others downloaded from NASA, I realize these photographs bear no value to me at all, except for being props for another photo.
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.
Wavepool – To start, why are you interested in the landscape?
Tyler Los Jones – I’m interested in the relationships we have with the entities we are trying to describe when we talk about nature or wilderness. Specifically I’ve been focusing on the role of photography in translating/mistranslating these complex systems into representations of landscape. In public discourse surrounding our current ecological crisis, we claim to be in the process of becoming more aware of our (uncomfortable) connectedness to other beings. Yet in spite of this new-found connectedness, we continue to produce images of dramatic disconnection. In my home province of Alberta we have these incredible mountain parks where millions of visitors come each year to visit a pristine, untouched wilderness. The images we see in brochures and blogs compel us to flock to the parks where we are encouraged to reproduce these images ourselves. This stream of photographs has been flowing constantly since the construction of the parks over a hundred years ago and has created a broader cult of expectation that the ecosystem be as static as the images we are so familiar with. In this cycle, the photograph is a tool used to produce and fulfill our expectations of environments.
I came to think about the assumptions I was performing as a photo-taking-tourist when I began producing works based on local ecology a few years ago. Since that time I’ve been on this slow and steady walk backwards out of the problematic beliefs about landscape I had inherited. I love the mountains, but I came to realize that the industries which helped facilitate and encourage my affections are deeply implicated in some of the most destructive attitudes concerning these places. I often think that Alberta is the perfect place to think through this kind of implication. Not because it doesn’t exist in other parts of the country but because it is just so overt here.
Wavepool – Do you start with photographs that you’ve taken yourself, or do you source materials from that constant stream of production and sharing?
Tyler Los Jones – When I started working with photography through imagery I had appropriated from Life magazines, National Geographic and textbooks. These were all materials I had surrounded myself with and which were formative in my initial interest in ecology. At the time I had a lot of difficulty confronting the questions of ownership that came with this type of overt appropriation and I just wasn’t prepared to deal with that part of the equation. I quickly moved to taking my own images and became much more interested in my own performance of the tourist gaze. Our mountain parks are full of staged vistas; roadside pullouts and viewing platforms where we are encouraged to take photos that will be almost indecipherable from the millions of others taken from that same place. The images produced in this way have a thin veil of originality covering this highly prescriptive process which produces validation from making images look like images we are already familiar with. I’m much more interested in this kind of repetition of imagery and I think it’s important to implicate myself in that process as well. The works included in Being with, at Jarvis Hall Fine Art in Calgary began as typical tourist images taken while visiting glaciers in and around Banff, Jasper, Yoho and Kootenay parks this past summer. The original image in A Panorama Protects it’s Views, which is a large commission currently on view at the Art Gallery of Alberta, was taken while hiking up the Athabasca Glacier, where you can even take a tour bus up onto the ice…
Wavepool – Your process moves from image to sculpture, and ultimately back to image through documentation. Can you tell me about the importance of this result and why an image is the ideal form for a piece?
Tyler Los Jones – Re-photographing these folded works serves a few different functions. Firstly, it is a way of continuing the mimetic logic of these pieces. Mimetic gestures play a role at all stages in the creation of this work, beginning with the panoramic promise of re-recreating a vista. This panoramic ribbon is printed in the studio and folded in response to the geology in the image, mirroring peaks, passes or glacial flow. These folded forms are suspended off the wall in the studio, re-photographed and finally printed flat. This flat image references the way most of us first encounter these environments as documentation. The compression of all of these states hopefully enables the work to enter into this uncanny existence where the familiar transforms into something much less certain. My hope is for the work to slowly pick away at itself and steadily break down some of the assumptions it initially may have seemed to support.
Wavepool – The discussion about preservation and your gestures immediately makes me think about the passage of time in each piece. There’s a great tension between stillness and change as each step of the process is condensed. I’m curious if you’ve thought about other ways to activate time in the work, whether it be photographically or through introducing video or some other medium?
Tyler Los Jones – Ha ha, yes! I think about time a lot and these questions certainly played a role in why I started working with photography in the first place. I’m a bit suspicious of the assumption that a video necessarily has more access to time than certain “still” objects or images. I’m really interested in Tim Morton’s argument that object don’t occupy discrete space-time but are spaced and timed by other entities. I would love to find other ways to get at that kind of a relativity without there having to be a moving image per say. I think this is a rambling way of saying that yes, I’m actually really interested in working with tools like film and sound and I’m especially interested in the collaborative potential of these tools; but I definitely don’t believe that they would necessarily have more to do with time than the images I’m producing now. I think that the perceived stasis of a photograph is an incredibly productive way to raise awareness about temporal relationships.
Wavepool – What artists do you look at? What are some outside influences?
Tyler Los Jones – I’m feeling most influenced by writers at the moment. Lucy Lippard, W. J. T. Mitchell, Bruno Latour and Timothy Morton have obviously been really important for me. I’ve been going back to a lot of nature writing like Edward Abbey, John Muir and more local folks like Thomas Wharton and Howard O’Hagan. Artists like Fritz Haeg, Andrea Zittel and Simon Starling, have been important to me for a long time. I’ve been looking at work by Zoe Leonard, Geoffrey Farmer, Rick Silva, Marina Zurkow, Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison more recently. I’m listening to a lot of Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never), Liz Harris (Grouper), Alejandro Ghersi (ARCA), Felicia Atkinson, Sara Davachi, Sarah Rara and Luke Fischbeck (Lucky Dragons). I think that Laurent Montaron’s Everything is accidental at Mercer Union in Toronto was probably the most incredible art experience I’ve had over the past year.
Wavepool – What are you currently working on?
Tyler Los Jones – I’m currently working towards a show at Ditch projects in Springfield, Oregon at the end of April. I’m also preparing for a residency in June at the Gushul studio in Crowsnest Pass, which is being generously facilitated through the Southern Alberta Art Gallery in Lethbridge.
I’m really looking forward to both of these projects as opportunities for me to reflect on the work that I’ve produced for a few exhibitions over the past few months. I’ve just finished a show at Jarvis Hall Fine Art in Calgary and I have a large scale commission up at the the Art Gallery of Alberta in Edmonton. The work at AGA is the largest piece I’ve ever produced and has been a really incredible project to think through. I’ve been reflecting on that scale and trying to figure out how best to move forward with these things.
Wavepool – Tell me about the spaces that you choose to photograph. What are you looking for in the landscape?
John Lusis – The spaces I choose to photograph are two fold: firstly, I am looking for structures where there is a clashing of the old and the new, for example a house that has been repurposed as a law firm and in the background there are new apartments. Secondly, vernacular structures that show a history of adaptation that makes them appear odd through colors or morphed forms of the buildings. I have an affinity for these strangely shaped houses and main streets, which have changed their initial intention. They exhibit a sense of desire to move forward with what means they have around them, which I find humble and admirable. This shifting and repurposing interests me as well, because it changes the initial meaning and shows over time what we think is new will eventually be overtaken. The tension between the old and the new exemplifies the desire for the new but a reminder that what is new will eventually be replaced.
Wavepool – In addition to photographing the structures as a whole, you sometimes focus on smaller surface details. Do you see those kind of images functioning in the same way as the more broad investigations? Are there any differences?
John Lusis – The details are an attempt to engage with structures in an in depth way. It sort of came about one day when I wanted to know what the outsides of these places felt like. Many of these more detailed photographs focus on windows as well. I am fascinated with windows as means to look out of a building, or anthropomorphizing them as eyes. An illuminated window at night stands vigil waiting for its occupants to come home. When blocked or obscured the building loses its ability to stand guard, which comes up in many of my photographs. This loss is also related to the formation of commercial structures next to older structures, for instance, when a house is transformed into a commercialized space the window is often covered up. I would like both the details of a building’s façade and its use, or non-use, of windows to underscore the ideas behind my work as a whole.
Wavepool – Many of your images maintain a sense of anonymity. Is this important to you?
John Lusis – Anonymity comes out of the fact that I focus on structures rather than concerning myself with the place. Specific cities for a long time were the basis of my work but what kept happening was I would look at the same oddly constructed buildings. It’s important to me that these places maintain a sense of anonymity because I prefer to see it as a larger symptom of the way we shape the built environment of our cities.
Wavepool – Is research involved in your process at all? Do you set out with something in mind, whether it be the way an image might look or what kind of structure you’d like to track down?
John Lusis – The research I do isn’t on the specific places that I photograph, although there is a lot of Google street view involved, but with theories concerning the production and reproduction of space within cities. I am constantly looking at buildings as I move through the city in my car making notes and going back to them. I often go back a couple of times if I don’t get the light right or wasn’t a fan of the composition in the first place. I have different agendas depending on which part of the project I’d like to tackle that day. So I may just focus on homes, which have a vernacular look, or other days I’ll look at older buildings converging with newer structures. I think a lot about the capitalist commercial production of space as well, which is related to the reconstruction and production of the outmoded. I then apply these theories in the picture making process.
Wavepool – What artists, both past and present, do you see your work being in dialogue with?
John Lusis – I’d like to think that my work is in conversation with photographers like Lewis Baltz and Robert Adams for the way in which they look at what we are creating within the built environment. Also, the work of Richard Nickel for what we leave behind in the wake of reconstructing cities. Stylistically, Bob Thall has had a big influence on the way in which I construct pictures. A few contemporary photographers I enjoy/admire are Felipe Russo’s Centro in Sao Paulo, Brazil and Daniel Shea’s Blisner about de-industrialized cities in Illinois.
Wavepool – What do you hope viewers take away from your work?
John Lusis – Mainly, I hope viewers see that what is new will eventually be overtaken by another new, in a constant cycle of shifting and repurposing of the built environment. Then, seeing the new referencing the past and borrowing form and replacing it, questioning whether or not the new is as good. Further I like to ask, of these structures how many could still have the opportunity to be repurposed rather than being replaced with cheaply constructed suburban strip malls?
Wavepool – For those unfamiliar with your work, can you introduce your project North 97 and how the idea developed?
Brittany Carmichael – During the summer of 2013, I set out to create a series based on the life of a truck driver. I traveled to Kelowna, British Columbia to meet my Uncle Ian, and joined him on a ten day trucking expedition. The trucking industry provides an essential service to our economy, and my expectation was to photograph the community that forms around this incredibly important job – a community that often goes overlooked. However, as each day passed I began to realize that my uncle’s life did not meet my expectation (gleaned from years of movie-watching) that I would soon be discovering a community of truck drivers eating dinners together at highway stops or gathering at seedy strip clubs. It became clear to me that my uncle lives a life of solitude, and his work reinforces his seclusion. The unrelenting push to get the job done means that he does not often make stops or take breaks: the sooner he delivers his load, the more he is paid. I found myself turning my camera to the road, photographing the landscape we travelled through and my uncle in his isolation.
Wavepool -Was it easy for you to embrace that realization and adjust to the unexpected lifestyle?
Brittany Carmichael – It took me a while to acclimatize to the fact that my expectations differed to how the trip actually played out. I received a grant to carry out the project, and part of the proposal involved predicting what the images would look like. I assumed I would take more portraits of truck drivers in the community and fewer landscape shots. Before I set out, I definitely had a different vision of what my uncle’s life on the road looked like, but, as with everything in life, you really cannot predict the future.
Wavepool – Can you talk about the limitations of photographing while traveling during the project? Did you find it difficult to continuously make good images while being mostly on the road?
Brittany Carmichael – My uncle never stopped the truck when I wanted to take a photo. Part of his job is delivering his load in a timely manner, so with other interferences such as road closures, traffic congestion and accidents he was not all that interested in throwing photo shoots at the side of the road into the equation. Besides, pulling over an 18 wheeler onto the shoulder of a mountain highway is not exactly an easy task.
Wavepool – Were those limitations liberating in any way?
Brittany Carmichael – I am not sure if it was liberating – it becomes challenging for me when I am not fully in control of my work. That is, however, the biggest hurdle when making work that is reliant on other people. Luckily, the highway we travelled ran along some of the most beautiful and diverse terrain in Canada. One day we were surrounded by the Rockies, and the next day, desert. If we’d been trucking along a bleak concrete highway for the entirety of the trip, the project would have become a very different thing.
Wavepool – Have you worked in a way that is dependent on others before? Would you do it again?
Brittany Carmichael – Yes, making work about people is what drives my practice. Although, there seems to be a trend in my work where even when the intention is to investigate a person or a community, as a result of my involvement as witness the outcome becomes about my personal journey as voyeur. In North 97, I set out to make a documentary project about truck drivers as a whole and it became a very personal look into my uncle’s life and the bond created between the two of us on this trip. I really did not know him very well before this; we had met only a handful of times. So instead of a document of the profession as a whole, this is a story of solitude, family and human connection.
Wavepool – What are you up to now?
Brittany Carmichael – I am living in Brooklyn and I teach a photography class at a middle school in the Bronx. I am thinking about my next move, and although I am a city girl at heart, I find myself, after a long winter, ready to hit the road again. Over the past two summers I have been working on a project in Northern Alberta along the stretch of the Athabasca River between Fort McMurray and Fort Chipewyan. The Oil Sands developments in this part of Canada has wrought an environmental disfiguration which has radically altered the lives of the First Nations and Metis people and their landscape. On my last two trips out there I canoed and camped along the remote riverbanks, and witnessed the resilience and vitality of the Athabasca River system and its people. This year I am planning on returning to the Athabasca again but I’ll stay in Fort Chipewyan for an extended amount of time. My plan is still in the works so stay tuned!