“After the first death, there is no other.”
The startling poem, A Refusal To Mourn, by Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas, reaches back to Donne and Herbert and beyond to Lucretius. It's a poem about LIFE, not the particular life of a child or the majesty and burning of her death. The choice of motif is stark and uncompromising–it had to be, in order to cut through the sentimentality surrounding life & death. It moves with speed to achieve a clarification, not just textual, but of the reader's mind.
As the mind tumbles along on the waves of successive imagery, the torrent and drenching of those waters brings us somewhere close to the beginning of things, to the seed & bead of life, to the very nature of things. There is no child here, no named instance. There is, here, all children, all parents, all things bounded in the kernel and bound for life itself.
Mere biography is transcended by biology. The history of our being is better uncovered by the Histologist, and not by the historian. To reach the things that matter, we must sometimes let fall the things of no great matter. And though we may never see our full nature, we may, by our sounding the depths, hear the shadowy echoes. The materia of import is mitochondrial.
One way to avoid the dangers of the pseudo is to engage in process. The knowledge that process is invariably the subject within the subject can keep the actual process honest.
A series of works like seeds or Mendel are formed by a process of reproduction and reformulation. Again, as in much of my work, photography, digitizing and projection are employed. The process of making the work is portrayed in the work, and as such, is there to be explored. But just as we don't see DNA in a face before us, the subject of the process is sublimated into a different state.
The true process is not the physical making (interesting and valid as it is), that is located on the surface. Some works hide it, others reveal it. Seeds reveals it, as one can see–the calligraphic gestures, the neumes of paint application, the cutting up of surface and the rearrangements of material in space. This making process is on the surface, but the true process, is traceable only as a process of mind. It is the why of the how of the doing, and as such, is closer to the cognitive than the epistemological.
A large work like Materia I is the result of a destructive and re-constructive process. That is not unusual–such is the so called creative process–but it is also produced and re-produced between states of existence and in-existence. It can virtually never be presented the same way twice. Its component nature, in this
We have our biological self and our cultural selves. We have our chromosome and grapheme expressions of our life and lives. Every few years I return to this subject, with the particular motifs of the biological and the linguistic. Recently, I have used a combined set of motifs: the genomic and the cuneiformic.
One can only speculate why Proto-Sinaitic script is strangely similar to the visual appearance of chromosomes... The designer in me wants to believe it has something to do with the scaling of matter. The order of size magnitude between a gene and a chromosome is considerable. The same can be said for the size differential between a molecule and a tiny cuneiform mark in clay. Yet the intra-ordering of scale between the chromosome and the macro-world marking will display a similarity or a fractal dimensionality. And then again, perhaps not! In the world scale of things, the relationship maybe considered casual. At other scales, the relationship is enfolded. The artist in me sees a motif relationship–in this case, a binary combination.
These are not visual ratiocinations of scientific speculations–that would be illustration. We often mistake the latter for fine art, and to do that is to disparage the art of the illustrator. Fine art and illustration are simply different activities that employ similar skills. Either one of them is capable of perpetrating pseudo versions of the other, yet, somehow, pseudo-art is more pernicious, like its cousin pseudoscience.
case comprising 16 inch squares, is reshuffled, allowing for a redistribution of markings when newly presented. However, the matter (i.e. the process) of the subject remains constant. The idea of many levels of meaning is a failure of understanding, or at best a prosaic throw-away. What exists in these works is an ordering and scaling of subject, such that the seeming singular subject is constituted of other subjects. All subjects have cohesion and are present in each other.
In a work like By Self on Self and Thru Self Too, a projected work (some of which can be seen above), the recursive process of reproduction is pushed further. Several new motifs are added, one is a representation of a carbon-14, and another is the screen itself. In this case, the recorded images of specific works, works destroyed in the process, are mapped onto a three dimensional surface which, in its turn, was derived from dimensional versions of itself. Depth is determined by color and tone scale. In this way, the screen on which self will be projected is a relief sculpture of the self to be projected, wherein the process of mapping and translation variation will occur. The variation between generative iterations is a sort of similarity engine.
The mapping itself becomes a motif, and whether one is mapping textures in a 3D app, mapping light onto dimensional surfaces, or doing old timey cartography, the act of translation is also an act of transformation. The poetics of fine art allow these tranforms to be transports. By Self on Self and Thru Self also references two major literary works, one is Joyce's Ulysses (literally quoted within the work), which usually invokes pained expressions, as he is the MATH of literature. That work's central contemplation of metempsychosis as a poetic transport (literal and figurative) has its roots in de Rerum Natura and in Dionysian ritual. About the other referenced work, I’ll not say a word. It remains a mystery!
Most great works tend to celebrate LIFE. Most good art comes from and goes to somewhere, beyond the self-indulgence of its maker. The greatness of the Thomas poem is that it speedily transports us to a difficult place, despite our reluctance. The gift of that voyage is assuaged grief, sans Hallmark sottishness.
I tried many times in the early 80's to achieve a process similar to this, but without speedy digitalization playing an active role, one was always left with a quasi theoretical proposition. SuperPaint was something we could only read about in the magazines. My first access to a Qauntel Paintbox system ('85-'86) was marred by the ever present tendency of technologists to go for Eye Candy. Paintbox was, after all, mainly used by TV stations to produce the obvious. Alas, this was reflected in its architecture, but it was not without possibility.