|like lewis & clark, i've decided to keep a journal of my expedition west, chronicaling my encounters with new life forms, and recording my experience of constructed proximity. this is my account of making a national park as stageset for the portland institute for contemporary art, in portland, oregon, from 5 august to 7 september 2009.|
|sunday 9 august 2009|
i arrived on the morning of wednesday, the 4th of august, but it's taken me 'til now to figure out how to maintain an internet connection for more than 20seconds at my apartment, in the southeast of portland.
this past week, i got myself oriented to the site, borrowed some risers from PICA to get a head-start on the structure, and secured the primary remainder of supplies. i also made a maquette.
|i'm working in an old, abandoned high school building, about 18 blocks from my apartment, and have been walking there everyday. much in the school has been left as though one day everyone split. the old pink scouring powder handsoap in the bathrooms; a craft supply room with yellowed construction paper; notes on the chalkboard... some stuff is missing arbitrarily, like all the shelves in the library-- the space where i'll be installing National Park, my piece.|
|i've met with a number of my assistants, and have begun to involve them in building projects. more on this later. kristan kennedy, the curator of my project has been wonderful, as has jorg jakoby, the tech person for PICA.|
this morning i woke up and took a 3.5mile run east of my apartment. there's an energy school on 47th and belmont that i'm now obsessed with attending. also, i'm obsessed with this blue fake-healthy soda called jones' or something.
later on, i went with jorg and sam korman, a great PICA intern, to Mt St Helens. a real gift.
|i learned on this trip that volcanoes are called 'living mountains,' and felt myself drawn to the intersexual or gender boundarylessness of a volcano, who, through permeating and expansive explosion, births more land.|
|i love those signs. this one was especially effective:|
|here is my resultant contraband:|
|i like the old-future quality to the signs. they express a distinct vision for advanced, authoratative information, which ignores its own expiration.|
|this language desires to have us look through lenses and frames already constructed around an established conclusion. when and where can we locate pockets for learning, and is it even possible, as our public spaces would like us to believe, for them take place without the real risk of failure and safety?|
|framing devices distance us, not just from the land we are seeking to connect with, but from our own experience of it. they are a way of alienating and severing intimate, subjective perception.|
|in a way, it makes the fake things realler than the real things. because the fake things can be experimented with. they can be trespassed, challenged, and independently defined. they can be perceived with limitless configurations and vantage points.|
|this photo was taken at the visitors' center, and shows a scaled down fiberglass model of Mt St Helens that lights up, with a little boy who was completely enamored by it.|
|here are my take-away souvenirs, one bought by, and one assigned to me. the item on the right is a 'paperweight' plastic canister, containing ashes from the last eruption on may 18 1980, for $3.95. the item on the left was my wristband for the $8 entry into the visitors' center, where sam and jorg and i watched a terrible/good tourist movie about the volcano. when the movie was finished, the screen and curtain rose, and exposed a seated audience to a windowed view of the real Mt St Helens. the narrator's voice in the movie was incredible, totally satisfying.|
|when i went there, in 1984, just 4 years after the explosion, the trees were all hewn carcasses, laying flat for miles and miles along the landscape. the image of it had a way of compressing distance, since the trees looked inconcievably smaller than a twig from afar.|
|i knew going back there, as with any place i have vivid memories of from that trip, and that time, would involve some quiet mourning. for all that had to pass.|
|monday 10 august 2009|
so i finally remembered to take some photos today. first, here is the maquette, which is still in process:
the blue foam cushions are supposed to be in green vinyl, and i'm still not sure of their configuration, or whether i'll be using old furniture for the cliff, or turning it into a cave that people can hide out in, inspired by a pattern language's chapter on children's caves. the black stuff is tar. i began working with tar for COMPANY, originally becoming drawn to its icing quality. as time has gone on, i've thought much more into the material and its history. for a sculptural stage depicting american landscape, i'm not sure how i could omit it from my materials list. on the maquette, i've also included some fake (cardboard) stones, pressed into the tar. i'm not sure if they'll be like that. i know i definitely want a fake stone wall somewhere. there is also foam squished in the tar in my model, and i china-markered it green, in place of flourescent green spray paint. the mountain/cliff is covered with car carpeting/felt, which a distributor called 'perfect fit' here in portland graciously sold us at cost. there may be future photo postings of this maquette, as it continues to acquire attributes, since it's not yet finished. i'm totally embarassed by it and love it deeply all at the same time.
notice the orange carpeting below/around it. this is the carpeting in the library, where i'm installing. underneath it's pilly burbar layer, lays a world of asbestos waiting to give me cancer.
|so this is a big (much bigger than it appears) pile of foam that jorg and philip retrieved from some park where kids were using it to jump onto. i feel kinda bad for having it be taken away from them, but am also inspired by the idea that it has the memory of this activity. the two big roles were donated by perfect fit, that foam/felt supplier who sold us the maquette car felt, which you can see the roll of to the back of this photo. the wooden cubbies are old bookshelves, since i'm installing in a former high school library. cropped out of the picture frame are 2 high school versions of fake WPA murals.|
|so this is at the beginning of today. the risers are up, and the 4x8 3/4" sheets of plywood are being layed out. you can see one of my assistants, jax gise, in the left middleground measuring a 2x4. The depth of this part of the room- to give you some sense of the space- is roughly 75 feet.|
|this is by the end of the day today. also helping was a retired ny firefighter named ned, and another one of my assistants, tom mickelson. all the platforms are framed out but nothing's attached. that's for tomorrow.|
in the evening i had beers and hamburgers with kristan and jorg. it's strange, as i get older, realizing how much i feel at home in so many places, maybe not because they're familiar or comfortable, but because home gets much easier to hold from within.
ps. still figuring out the entryway part of the structure, so don't pay attention to that part.
|tuesday 11 august 2009|
|so here's the rear exterior of washington high school, the building that PICA's Time Based Arts Festival will take place in this year. the light blue door is the entry we've been using, and the white van is a PICA van. apparently, after the school was abandoned, it was a community center for a while, and then FEMA was going to bring katrina survivors to the site, but they got diverted to texas. in the basement are various rooms designated for hurricane katrina relief, all left intact, with donated clothes on the floor, and dry erase boards filled with notes about crisis relief.|
|also of note with regards to this photo: it's the first picture i took with my new iphone, which we decided at lunch yesterday would be named divine, after the drag diva Divine.|
today there was a barbeque for patrick, the pr person @ PICA, so the whole PICA staff transported themselves from their offices in downtown portland, to washington high school's crumbling concrete patio. I ate 1.5 hamburgers! grilled by tc. it incapacitated me for the rest of the day. who ever thought just an extra half of a hamburger could put a person over the edge? i only ate a half a bun because they were fake. the potato (by vic) and bean salad (by kristan) were super yummy. i didn't get to eat scott's angel food cake, but i shared half of my second hamburger with him. i also ate a half a cupcake. oh, and one of the PICA ladies and i chatted it up about good bras and diane von fustenburg dresses, while i fed a potato chunk to an itinerant dog. jorg attempted to teach me how to use a nail gun in the morning, which didn't go well, so the sweetest of sweets, named kent, helped nail the brace-frames of my stage together. also a volunteer named patrick helped today, along with my new favorite helper, jax, and sam and i unloaded the lumber jorg bought me. rain in the evening.
oh, also, very important: a black cat who i think lives in my apartment building, jumped through my open window in the middle of the night last night, and was meowing up to me in my loft bed. it was cute, but also i kept on thinking- 'what if you were a rat?' and then i'd get grossed out, until finally i blew kisses at it and showed it back out the window. the situation brought up this early childhood memory for me of when i found the doll my grandmother brought me back from china, which was stuffed with rice, impailed and spewing its entrails on my bedroom floor one morning, to find a rat had been traipsing around my room, coming inches from my bed, ew ew ew, while it gnawed on my doll beside me.
|wednesday 12 august 2009|
|so first, i took these one of my first days here and forgot to include them... my apartment:|
|philip did the styling; kristan bought the groceries. on the morning i arrived, andrea and kristan greeted me at the apartment after jorg picked me up from the airport in the PICA van. i found him waiting right beside me at the baggage claim.|
|keiko, this picture from my apartment is for you, obviously.|
|so the past few days i've been thinking about failure a lot. it started on sunday, when i visited mt st helens. on the way home i got into this brooding state, and realized, maybe for the first time - while still being in the phase during a project - how much i need to cherish it. how valuable and crucial it is to the formation of a work. my work. and how much it relates to the kinds of spaces i make, that ask for 2 simultaneous positions of experience to happen at once. as i'm learning to acknowledge and integrate this fear of failure - the proximity to failure - the closer i find myself with a fuller sense of creative freedom, and also at the core of my necessity to do the work.|
|so a selection of today's events:|
|sam found an old boyscouts shirt in the FEMA katrina donation pile in the basement, adorned himself with it and subsequently arrived at the library on the 2nd floor to practice being a fake forest ranger. here we see him offering directions to the park via my maquette.|
|john brodie, proprietor of Store for a Month came over for a visit. such a sweet guy. he brought me some goodies from the project- flourescent dyed socks (so my fave), some walnut ink!! a limited edition poster, and the flyer for Store for a Month.|
|two of my helpers: jax, and for the first full day- michelle liccardo. both are so incredible and i feel so lucky i get to work with them. i also feel no words for how moved i am to see them so inspired and eager to learn and help. what you see here are the events immediatley following jax calling into his job at 4 to find out if he had to work and then learning he didn't have to go in, and instead could spend the evening building with me and michelle, for which ensued a delicate but expansive prance around the half-erected set. you can also see in the picture that our legs are now on the stage!!! well, technically, under the stage. and actually, technically, on the stage too! we still have a few platforms to go...|
|an oregon sunset.|
|friday 14 august 2009|
|lots to discuss.|
|first on the agenda, is the magazine jorg took for me from his chiropractor's office yesterday.|
|we will take a walk through it together. now first, this hamburger (above) seemed the most interesting to me of those featured. the bun is real, for one, and there's a lot of blood and it's all soaking into the bun, which is good. of additional value is the substantial pickel slice.|
|this is an arbitrary use of bread as far as i'm concerned. i understand the schtick is that it's both a grilled cheese and a hamburger, but there's no way of repackaging a cheeseburger, and really, there's no reason to. i have no respect for this hamburger.|
|now this hamburger caught me by surprise. it's been a bit scary for me when i mix hamburger with another meat, like bacon, for instance. but i couldn't help but notice that my curiosity was peaked by the pastrami/hamburger combo featured in this photo (above). the frenchfries seem unnecessary.|
|who thinks they can get away with fake buns and flourescent cheese anymore?|
so yesterday: apparently the measurements of this one really notchey (electrical boxes/cables) part of the wall was off, so i had to do some mini-demolition work. jorg set off the fire alarm in the building attempting to use a circular saw on it, which included a rusted blade from roughly 1983.
|michelle (left) with new assistant: lydia rosenberg. lydia's been away in pittsburgh with her family and just returned. she and jax are in the bfa program at pacific northwest college of art (pnca). michelle is a grad student at portland state university. in this photo michelle and lydia are putting legs on one of the stage segments.|
|this is the layout of the stage sections.|
|we decided on beers for a second wind around 7pm. i'm still on yesterday, by the way. from left to right: kent, kristan, jorg, michelle, sam.|
|i rocked out a new entry, with a soon-to-be wheelchair ramp!!! sam did all the framing, while i worked on the legs with michelle. jorg nail gunned.|
|we're still on yesterday. i set up a fake studio, in this kitchen/book checkout section of my library. i just received the photos i had printed, which i want to draw on and cut up, as a more private and direct thinking process that can parallel the building. to the left is my maquette, which, if you look closely, in the valley is now concrete. then there's my National Park binder, which includes notes and stuff.|
|am interview with sean ongley of KBOO (portland radio station). we made some concrete music today, with a sawzall, chopsaw, jigsaw, and drill gun. a taste tester of our conversation can be found here. UPDATE! sean sent me the link to our interveiw. here it is.|
|lydia and jax connected the entire stage from underneath today. jax experienced both claustrophobia and erotic space, all within a 2hour time gap. lydia said it felt like being in children's space. love it all.|
|also of note: kent's new sneakers avec fake wound + stitches.|
|saturday 15 august 2009|
|i got to washington high school early today to smudge. i wanted to do it earlier, but jorg was afraid that the fire alarms would go off from the smoke, and then lead to an ensuing fiasco with the water sprinklers. but after he set off the alarm yesterday with his 1983 chopsaw blade, he learned that it was disconnected to the central alarm system, and agreed i could smudge the space.|
|so jax, lydia, and michelle worked on the mountain cave. it's inspired by the ape cave i didn't get to go to at mt st helens, and also by a backyard yurt across the street. it will be covered by car carpet felt.|
|ok here it is finished. can you even?! i wanted a head shape-- i like the idea of the head as a cave.|
|meanwhile, kristan finds a yosemite puzzle in the basement.|
|when the cave was finished, michelle started on her bear outfit, which she's making to occasionally drop by National Park in, so some visitors will get to experience a bear siting.|
|maggie, a totally great volunteer came by in the evening and helped us clean up. she went to syracuse university for fiber arts and now works at the craft museum here in portland|
|dinner w/michelle & jorg in the evening at someplace with an outdoor garden that i can't remember the name of. LOVE michelle.|
|sunday 16 august 2009|
my ny assistant, annabel roberts-mcmichael, arrives! she is entering her senior year @ cooper union and helping out until the 26th of august. yippy!!
annabel wants this journal to have a comments option, like a blog. does anyone know how i could make that happen on this page??
|i told annabel about my smudging the space that morning, and realized, when she inquired further about it, that although she's worked with me quite a bit, this part of my process is often invisible to mostly everyone involved with the work except the programming/curatorial person who secures the space for me to do it. the conversation led into my showing her the stones i had been working with, and what it means for me to work with a space as much in physical and conceptual parameters as it does energetically and spiritually. i showed her my stones, held in a little pouch that i'm regularly moving around the space to areas that feel stagnant or unacknowledged.|
|right now it's sitting in a shelfless bookshelf.|
|broken chunk from outdoor sculpture at sans souci|
|souvenir fabrication has begun. i wonder what a fake keychain or snowglobe would look like. gotta think more about this...|
|maquette addendum photo.|
|monday 17 august 2009|
so a few days ago sam brought in a violent femmes cd, which i needed immediately. on saturday i played it 4 or 5 times, then i took a jog to it on sunday morning, played it 3 times during the day, and began this morning with another run through. yesterday i asked my assistants if they knew what we were going to do first, and they responded in unison with 'violent femmes?'. i couldn't really figure out why i had a compulsion to hear it again and again, until i realized that my obsession with that album was in high school, and here i am, building a stage within a high school. i guess listening to them is helping to transport me back to the psychic space of high school. high school, specifically, of another time, with notes instead of emails. and high school of a universal time, with all of the awkward and alienating elements involved in first locating love of choice, as opposed to love of circumstance.
as a sidenote, michelle and i came up with a term for our after-lunch lull, which now includes an ice-pop. it's called post-apopsicle. as i write this entry, i've just exited today's post-apopsicle, and will play the violent femmes cd.
|another topic is that my favorite jeans keep making holes in the crotch and i keep on having to find a private classroom to sew them up, otherwise i'll be leaning over the chop saw with a big hole in my pants. but today i gave up, and decided to make it a press conference with my assistants. patrick, here's material for PICA's publicity archives...|
|photo copyright annabel roberts-mcmichael; courtesy of PICA archives|
|photo copyright michelle liccardo; courtesy of PICA archives|
|photo copyright jax gise; courtesy of PICA archives|
|a topography of my jean crotch:|
|jorg and i went to 'perfect fit' to pick up more car carpet felt and vinyl for my cushions. they didn't have the green vinyl colors i wanted, and in the process i found myself drawn to a rusty red and a mustard yellow canvas, as i sat on the floor of gary's office. here's a picture from that perspective.|
|i couldn't figure out why these colors felt right, until jorg said maybe it's desert, and i thought too of season. i was in the middle of my process there on gary's floor. i like how public space becomes immediately intimate in moments like this.|
|jorg liked these chunks of foam. i think it's because they're archived into a catalogue, each with its own corresponding code number.|
|as i was stapling my carpet felt to the cave/mountain structure, one of the old pieces of plywood from the structure had a huge staple-gun staple sticking out that pierced my knee. again another operation involving my pants coming off. at lunch i started to worry about when my last tetnis shot was, and someone mentioned i'd see a black line leading to my vein, which i thought i did when i took out the staple. so michelle and i went to the bathroom where she pointed out that the appearance of that vein was normal, along with all the over veins she found on my legs. thanks michelle!|
|after lunch i've been meeting collectively with my assistants to assess our work and establish goals for the remainder of the day. i especially like doing this with jax because he always pushes me to set my goals farther. today he added 'mantra' to our list of goals. ugh, so good.|
|so i think this journal might be famous.|
|tuesday 18 august 2009|
|today i begin with a feature on sam.|
|sam skate-testing National Park|
|a karaoke tribute to me with with annabel & jax|
|giving jax a piggyback ride|
|i've been covering the fake ape cave with automobile felt.|
|jax and annabel have been making foam ramps, amidst jax's occasional metaphors with the caulking gun and caulk.|
|while michelle has been busy with her fake bear outfit.|
|last night michelle asked me to help her throw out the paintings her ex-girlfriend and she made together, which she just got back from her. on the way to the dumpster, we started crushing and ripping them, and throwing them on the sidewalk. a real letting go.|
|but then when we returned to the car, i realized one of the cloud things stayed behind...|
|supply trip to the dollar store mit jorg. arrived back with a fake hand and foot.|
|next, i've been thinking about the two wings of National Park, a structual layout i've imagined from the beginning. i've maintained inclinations of how they differ in terrain, but realized yesterday that what i had been doing, really, was putting all of the culture on one side (cave/mountain; cliffs/seats), and more landscape or openness on the other. in attempting to articulate this, i find myself uncomfortable with every word that explores this dichotomy. for instance, "civilization" in place of "culture" denies communities that did/do not record their histories as we understand the act of recording today. and culture in opposition to nature is ridiculous, since culture is nature. so i think i've arrived again, sort of through the back door, to that high school discovery, of choice vs provision. what do we make, and what are we given?|
|i'm finding myself at a new arc of the project. i'm feeling homesick and moody. being here has quickly become my life, and as the piece nears its realization, i am remembering that there is an end to it. i'm also beginning to hear it as its own body, separate from my own. through that recognition, the work has begun to ask challenging and deeply personal questions of me. i feel a melancholy, and a heartache in the necessity to face an inevitable letting go. and a gratitude for the opportunity and courage to risk what i know for what i don't.|
|wednesday 19 august 2009|
michelle with her friend kristy.
|followed by the felt from northwest felt & abrasives, which came in one big, long, thick black mass. jax proved himself to be the most knowlegeable in how to handle it.|
|my souvenir production continues. i'm working with scraps from the installation, and with the tools and techniques i've been implementing throughout the project. i'm thinking a lot with these little things about attachment. not just in terms of the way two materials connect, but in the way memory and desire mediate touch and emotional proximity.|
|nic petersen helps out in the evening. thanks nic!|
|it's been so wonderful seeing my assistants form bonds with one another-- looking out for each other's needs and safety. here is jax feeding annabel a morning orange while her hands were all sticky with glue. i know i know. so cute.|
|thursday 20 august 2009|
|woke up today with boy george's 'miss me blind' in my head|
|annabel and jax covered almost the entire platform structure first with plastic tarp (so the platforms could be reusable), then with chickenwire, to hold the 3rd layer-- canvas tarp soaked in glue/water solution. then they went over that with an occasional chickenwire slice every so often, which will hold concrete. the process really made it possible, for the first time, to see the entire structure as a whole form-- one huge sculpture. while they were doing that, i was upholstering the desert cliff/seat area.|
|annabel performed quality tests on the seating at every stage to ensure the structures can sustain rugged use.|
|friday 21 august 2009|
|FINALLY i get mel ponis. i've been waiting to take her away from the robbinschilds' geodesic dome-building project in one of the other classrooms faw-eva. she's mine now. here she is in the middle, avec annabel and jax, laying the first batch of concrete on the patio/entrance of the Park!|
|in preparation for the concrete and tar, i have a discussion with mel and annabel and jax about touch. i tell them first that this new set of processes may call for another way of moving around and through my process, because it requires a certain kind of emotional surfacing for me. i ask for their patience - ahead of time! next, i ask them to think about their erotic hand-- a hand that expresses both crassness and tenderness. i say that for each person this is different, that i'm not looking to simulate a fictitiously uniform aesthetic between multiple hands, but for a retreival of individual, very personal feelings that connect each of us through universal sensations and memories within the body.|
|the fake wall is complete!|
|the ape cave floor is done! i made a little pillow for casual naps, and placed it in there.|
|saturday 22 august 2009|
|a trip to crater lake. here you're in jorg's passenger seat, almost there, after 5hours of driving. as hard as you try, you find yourself incapable of deciphering the scrawl on the notepad in front of you.|
|sometimes you feel like you're about to fall off a cliff as jorg drives 50miles/hr on curvy cliff roads with no shoulder. here you see the no shoulder part, and annabel's shoulder.|
|on the way to the gift shop, you stop at the toilet shop. this is the landscape constructed around those sites of consumption and evacuation.|
|next you go shopping with sam, who asks you what you think of this option for his fake park ranger outfit.|
|this is actually your hand, and it's picking up a souvenir viewfinder thing, that contains a scenic picture of crater lake. notice how clean your fingernails are, for reference later. you think crater lake is a bit disappointing, because it's really just based on the idea of a pristine landscape, as opposed to a mythically scaled event (in both time and space) like mt st helens, where you were 2 weeks ago. but you're enjoying the journey and the company, plus you're doing an incredible job dj'ing on the car ride, with a primary emphasis on fleetwood mac and dolly.|
|all the campgrounds are filled up, so you go to one a half-hour north of crater lake. you collect firewood and try to break it into smaller pieces with sam and annabel. meanwhile jorg buys a toy plane for $10, constructed from coke cans, and made by the husband part of the couple who owns the campground.|
|sunday 23 august 2009|
|a morning marshmallow.|
|another marshmallow ritual: sam makes a sacrificial offering, involving a trader joe's ginger snap, a marshmallow, and possibly leaves and a rock or something. then he smashes it with a rock, as a separate but intertwined gesture.|
|you guys stop at some pumice fields that surround the lake. jorg shows everyone that if you rub two pumice stones together, they carve one another. mutual shaping.|
|this is your pumice sculpture. it's entitled Perfect Fit.|
|corner installation @ casey's diner in roseburg:|
|it was here that you first discover patty melts. now you sort of don't know why hamburgers exist anymore, if there's patty melts in the world|
|the shadow of my family, on my last trip to crater lake, in 1984.|
|i've been thinking lots about the relationship and distinctions between attention and care, particularly in relation to the expression of love. when my work asks attention of me, my response comes from an entirely different place than when i care for it. attention feels more tactical, more scientific in a way. i can feel that care comes from the same place within me as courage.|
|monday 24 august 2009|
|tom making pumice stones|
|that he and lydia iced with concrete.|
|tuesday 25 august 2009|
|ok, so i'd like to discuss impression; where and how we leave the trace of our presence on places. here we see some tushy prints on the desert cliff area. i love them. it's not so much because they point to use, but because they speak of support, comfort, and the courage involved with entering and participating in threshold space-- the 'space between' what is known and unknown. i love when material remembers the body, and i love when the body asks us not to forget its imprint, pressure, and weight on the things that hold and carry it.|
here's annabel and her friend who's visiting portland, jose deleon, in the process of 'printmaking'.
plus! the fancy felt is down!!
sidenote: jose took these pictures of shrubs on stone walls for me, when annabel and he went for a walk together today
|tom and annabel laying down the felt, while i work on the beginning of a field, opposite the ape cave.|
|i spray paint the foam that jorg and philip picked up from a kid park. i'm imagining this section as a sprawling, compressed landscape, and at the same time corporeal to the touch. specifcally a landscape that feels like a woman's body, with soft curves and contours.|
|in the evening i find jorg and sam in a groping session with it.|
|here's a picture of jorg's hand and foot, hidden on the canvas underneath the foam, like a cave painting.|
in the evening, i go to a pica event at elizabeth leach gallery, where malia jensen has a good show up (including a foot sculpted from a salt lick). she's presently also working on a huge and amazing beaver costume on the 3rd floor of washington high school, which will be featured in a TBA performance at the local zoo. i eat 3 strawberries.
i felt so proud and grateful to be able to be present for pica at the event, and to support their practice of complete love and care of art and artists. i'm learning so much from the pica family.
|i want to test out the tar before i begin filling it in the spaces between the foam lady body field. so later sam, annabel, jorg, and i attempt to recreate robert smithson's ASPHALT RUNDOWN (1969). jorg videotaped, so it'll be some time before i can upload it. but in the meantime, here's some photographs to hold you over:|
|the blue foam in the center i prepared earlier for the test. first we poured tar mixed with mineral spirits on it, and then wood glue. next, sam made a sculptural contraption-- a beer cozy of sorts, to hold his favorite drink: fourloco-- which we caulked on top of and then poured wood glue on it. the blue heron beer bottle on the left has glue poured on it. i like the anti-climactic nature of that one.|
|annabel placed rags on the excess pours to make more prints, after the tush ones she made earlier in the day, on the desert cliffs.|
|kristan returns in her amazing shoes.|
|as you can see, jax has reappeared, arriving after a full shift waiting tables, asking to do more. so adorable.|
|you see, earlier on in the week, jax discovered the performative possibilities of the vacuum (above). so when i asked him tonight if he'd like to vacuum, he was more than eager to return to this project. he inevitably 'packed' the vacuum tube, which he and jorg then decided to activate, by turning the vacuum on. the whole production seemed frightful to me, but clearly they were enjoying themselves.|
|wednesday 26 august 2009|
in the morning, i have a conversation with annabel and jax about their feelings with the work so far, reflecting on some of the assocations and experiences they've made. they feel drawn to the 'crawl spaces,' or underside of the stage, which i've chosen to leave exposed as an alternate route to take in terms of walking through the piece. i like the idea that multiple scaled audiences (children and adults) will approach the structure with different offerings for entry.
we spoke about the piece recalling a pre-adolescent way of constructing play space- with blankets and patchworks of domestic materials. as though a visitor is walking into an imagined landscape. we spoke of the distinctions between the words 'imaginary' and 'fantasy'.
i was curious how they felt about the industrial materials like tar and concrete and if they felt that along with the adolescent memory of constructing an alternate reality, there is also a kind of violence in the work. they felt that the actions of constructing were violent.
jax also had this to say about the content of the piece...
|annabel patching up the step/patio area|
|in the process, she makes an andy goldsworthy with the cast-away cement chips|
|meanwhile, mel vacuums the prairie|
|yummy pizza and beer for dinner, provided by jana bauman. thanks jana!!|
|for many days i've found myself putting off the tar part of this project. it's the most powerful material in this work for me, because it deals with the genocide and erasure inherent to the construction of an american landscape. but i think it's also a material- and tool- whose mark is irreversible, which in a way, is not disconnected to the violence i'm speaking of. as much as i believe in process and the experiential as the work itself, there's something to be said for the act of completion as part of a process, as part of a letting go, or simply, as part of developing an understanding of the depth with which attachment reaches. maybe completion is really the biggest commitment in this all. it's much more difficult to walk away than it is to enter, despite our intensive training in passive spectatorship. i don't think we ever give up on wanting more. we just forget, maybe, that there's no deficit of the things that matter most. and that sometimes we just need to ask.|
|thursday 27 august 2009|
|updating my journal today, and reflecting on the past few days as well as the larger part of the journey i've taken here, brings me back to the first (and last) time i was in portland, on my family cross country trip.|
|we drove in the black van featured in this photograph at a campground in oregon. i especially remember this one night and morning. it was a moment when i realized i was on my own, and at the same time, completely watched over. like i understood in some nonverbal way what i come from and what i don't, and that the scale of my sense of belonging was woven inside out.|
|mel, annabel, and jax tarring the prairie...|
|friday 28 august 2009|
interview with jenna woodward in National Park! jenna is one of sam's roommates, and she has worked in many national parks as a wilderness therapist with youth.
|listen to our tawk here|
|as you can see in the photo above, instead of using the fake cement stones, i've decided to carve fake stones from all of the gray foam scraps that philip and jorg had picked up from the kid park. the process quickly became a social circle including me, annabel, and mel, stone carving and talking about our cervixes and women artists. when victoria frey, pica's executive director, asked me a few days after this began how things were going, i told her 'oh, good, we're subverting the historical precedent of stone carving as a patriarchal canon'.|
|at first there were just a few stones, but through a perfect balance of wanting more and more stones and the apparent addiction that happens when carving gray foam with exacto blades, the stones multiplied into their own terrain, one that is moveable and holdable. i am really interested in the potential moment when these stones might function for visitors similarly to stones at other national parks...|
|meanwhile, jax and tom prepare the glass cabinets for install...|
|also, philip helps me to decipher my back-pocket hanky code signals. i've been concerned that my hapless schmatta pocket-stuffing might be miscommunicating. for instance, i routinely switch my schmatta from right to left pockets, and i have a striped with flower one, red and blue traditional cowgirl ones, an indian paisley style one, and sometimes even a scarf. how to make sense of all of these variations and what picture are they painting of my true self?|
now here, in this earlier photo, you see it in my right pocket... i'm having trouble finding left pocket photos, which i think is also often where the schmatta can be found. anyway, the point here is that although the navy kerchief- in either pocket- is fine by me, it's rather ubiquitous in terms of hanky politics. so i've asked philip to find me a red gingham schmatta, which would fit my project perfectly.
|hamburger at blue hour, with secret pieces of bacon squished in i think.|
|saturday 29 august 2009|
|i wake up today sad feeling. it's the end of having private space to work, to think, to process within. staff and volunteers fill the halls and rooms. strangers are everywhere and constantly entering my space. i am interrupted with so much new need and curiosity and confusion. annabel and i make a dramatziation of the situation.|
|i've arrived at a painful place within my process. a letting go, not for others to share the project with me, but of a kind of attachment that requires me to separate what i want from the work and what the work asks of me. i play judy collins in the morning to help me move my sadness into self-reflection and gratitude.|
i smear tar on the pastures. it's necessary, urgent, erotic, fluid, and violent. i want to lay it on thick, but know that the material won't dry in time for others to walk on, and if they mistakenly did they'd drag tar all over the school on the soles of their feet. so i make an important compromise. caring, through my process, is a necessity, and i will put everything on the line for it.
|sometimes, like today, it was a challenge to get to caring, as volunteers kept coming into the library, watching me cover myself in tar, straddle a fake hilltop in a tanktop and then ask questions like where's a tape measurer or if i can i hold the door open for them? jorg locks the library door for me so nobody will interrupt us. that gem.|
|i get so overwhelmingly dirty with tar that i need help cleaning myself. i take on my hands and arms while jax and mel are appointed to the ritual cleaning of my feet with mineral spirits.|
Lucas Cranach the Elder: Christus, from Passionary of the Christ and Antichrist, 1521, woodcut.
|a sign happens...|
|sunday 30 august 2009|
i take mel, annabel, and jorg out for brunch at doug fir, a restaurant down the street from washington high school that's fake made from logs.
we all met up beforehand at the school, where, while waiting on the grass for the others, mel discovered some family photographs in her bag.
-- mel ponis cover story begins --
|mel on left, with dog.|
|so mel gets obsessed with the foam stone carving and can't stop. she finds a foam stone in her bag while in a meeting with the dean of pnca.|
|this photograph was taken as we come close to the end of our gray and blue foam reserve. mel is seen here savoring her last remaining days of stone carving.|
Andrew Wyeth: Christina's World, 1948, tempera on wood, 81.9 cm × 121.3 cm, MoMA NYC
Marcel Duchamp: Étant donnés: 1. La chute d’eau, 2. Le gaz d’éclairage (Given: 1. The Waterfall, 2. The Illuminating Gas), 1946-66, Philadelphia Museum of Art
|big discovery: i start creating fictions with the stones (stone carving, ancient stone stacking rituals, etc), through pretend instructional videos while taking a break with my assistants. the performative playfulness opens up a big door; what are the mythologies intertwined with the creation and use of this constructed land? the question comes at the right time, as i start to bring my serious video camera in to document the completed work. the question essentially allows me to merge my documentation tools and material into the narrative fabric of the work.|
|in the late afternoon, kristan brings us ice cream pops. there were so many pops and layers of pops that we decide to create a renaissance image in which the depth of the picture is cultivated through various proximities and scales of pop.|
|homemade fried chicken dinner at topher sinkinson and nic petersen's house with kristan and jorg, and beautiful boys everywhere. nic wears red suspenders to die faw. jorg buys me a chocolate donut eraser when we stop at a grocery store to get wine on the way. i overhear nic say the chicken was fried in crisco right after i finish my last bite.|
|monday 31 september 2009|
|-- cataclysms all day --|
during the epic vacuuming of the library today (which now has spanned roughly 3 days, give or take), i've been making souvenirs involving fake geological cataclysmic actions and videotaping them close-up for my National Park origin documentary.
for one souvenir, i lumped concrete together, then poured glue on it, and then shaved blue styrofoam on it like parmesan cheese. the next day i chiseled it apart until it broke in two. for another souvenir, i slowly tore chunks of foam apart, piled them together, gave them a flourescent green spraypaint rainshower, poured tar all over them, and then squished them with my hands.
|(so i'm in the process of importing the video of this stuff, and will get some stills up of cataclysms shortly. promise.)|
|yesterday i was speaking with teryl saxon-hill, my new obsession, and a beautiful and brilliantly creative artist and pica volunteer who designed and made the "Sugar Shack," a room at washington high school that's intended for inspiration, regeneration, experimentation, and contemplation. she told me that the design idea was like a crazy teacher who just kept on adding and adding. can you even? so 1) teryl's magical, and everybody knows it.|
2) we were talking about our energy sensitvities and the tools we have to manage and work with all that we absorb. i told her i'm looking for energetic protection, which i often am drawn to when my work, and my working process, involves a public component.
|today teryl arrived with two bottles of homemade mugwort essence just for me! she sells them, and i imagine is very successfull at it because she smells great. one is a necklace, and she told me to dab a little of the oil on my 3rd eye before i go to sleep for good dreams. SO into it.|
|in other news, the bear costume is complete; annabel models.|
|tuesday 1 september 2009|
|cataclysms/souvenirs still happening|
|install of the glass cases outside of the library. jax and annabel slip into the tiny spaces while i say things like 'move that one inch to the left'. totally embarassing, but my jogbra can only do so much.|
|in the process of embedding their bodies in these slim, windowed passages, they both become artifacts of, and performers within the work's creation.|
|nobody can tear mel away from the stone carving. and now we're in the last vestiges of gray foam. we've resorted to cutting the ripples off of the ripple foam chunks so we can get more flat surfaces for a stone.|
in the evening, as we neared the end of our cabinet install, i found jax getting teary-eyed. he spoke about his realization that we were coming to a close of our process, and expressed his immense gratitude for all he has learned. annabel talked about her similar feelings, and they both shared with me some of their experiences. they spoke about learning how to organize a project, communicate with an organization, treat the people who work with you, protect your work, hold a drill gun, build something that people can stand on. how to pace themselves, how to consider every possible element and to how push things as far as they can, and need to go.
i came into this project with over a decade of teaching experience- and with some frustration about the divisions between teaching and art practice- both in my own work and in the fields themselves. i saw this residency with pica as an opportunity to experiment with a process in which a pedagogical structure could merge with my own artistic practice. this is not to say that i don't see some inherent conflicts and challenges in this methodology, but that i wanted to develop sustainable ethics surrounding my questions that could emerge from concrete experience. this hope was specifically tailored to a knowledge that portland works so much in the spirit of volunteerism and collaborative effort. in listening to annabel and jax tonight, i learn that National Park has all of this within its seams.
|wednesday 2 september 2009|
|linda kliewer brings lots of pnca students and faculty over for a discussion within National Park. seth nehill joined them, a buddy from grad school (bard college) who currently teaches at pnca as well. one smart student said the space felt joyful and sad at the same time.|
|we spend the rest of the day finishing off the last few details and cleaning. in the evening we have a secret dance party. video to come-- it's on my hd camera, which is more of a production to process. in the meantime, here's some video from the tail end of the party...|
|advance invitation to victoria for our next dance party.|
|thursday 3 september 2009|
|a couple weeks ago i snagged a box of cardboard bricks from the basement. i have always always wanted these bricks. my favorite part is that in order to let you know it's a brick they have to make each brick be a picture of lots of little bricks. my second favorite part is that the most weightless, ephemeral, disregarded material- cardboard- is used to simulate extreme weight and permanence (brick). also, they come in 70s red, green, yellow, and blue. i love how color is so subject to time. which makes sense, i suppose, since it's carried by light. anyway, back to the trivial, so at some point i realize i cannot take the whole box with me back to nyc, so i decide to put one brick in my bag, and then decide to keep it in there. so i've been carrying around this red brick for a few days, and today when sonya and layla from robbinschilds arrived and came by National Park for a visit, it was coming out of my bag, and they said, 'are you carrying around a brick in your bag??'. it was so adorable that i felt a little guilty for having stolen mel. but i couldn't help myself; mel had National Park written all over her.|
|after finishing with the last details of the glass cases, and right before the opening, i went out to crash, a restaurant down the street, with jax, mel, and jorg, and got a fake hamburger.|
|the opening is totally intense. stones and kids are everywhere.|
|i liked seeing people inhabit the space, and be within different stratta of the structure simultaneously.|
|i've been thinking a lot about how public differs in portland from the public of my city, nyc. there is so much public space out here- space has permission to move outward instead of always going upward, and in a way, my social understanding of this public is similar, with the crowd- and individuals- expressing a profound confidence to move toward something unknown, to enter it and find their own place within it. in contrast nyc is so restricted in terms of available, inhabitable public space, so it continually seeks alternatives, often moving upward, or inward. maybe this takes the shape of a certain kind of thinking and fantasy space, as much as it does skyscrapers.|
|kent on top of me on top of jorg on top of jax, on top of the beergarden.|
|friday 4 september 2009|
in the morning i do studio visits with a number of mfa students attending pnca, a program chaired by my friend arnold kemp. i first meet with allison halter, a performance artist who has lots of smart questions about humor and feminism; then with nashoba temperly where he and i speak about the gallery as a space of captivity; then to daniel glendening's studio where we explore a set of characters and relationships within his sculptures and videos that assume roles of prop, action, and subject; and lastly to cathy cleaver's studio, where we talk about necessity, utility, and the complexities of giving and taking through an art practice.
pizza at hotlips; jax and darya marika farhoodi- another great pica volunteer and pnca student- drive me back to washington high school, to meet in National Park with the revered, heavenly pnca professor, nan curtis, and her soft-sculpture class.
a great question by a student that came up in this discussion was about 'waste', and how or if the materials used to construct the work were and/or would be recycled. i spoke a bit about the main technical challenge of ensuring the risers provided by pica- as well as the ones created to surround them- could be re-used. in an effort to protect them from the concrete and tar, we had to cover them first with plastic, and subsequently with layers of chickenwire and canvas immersed in glue to re-create the receptive surface otherwise offered by plywood. this made the brittle and inflexible nature of concrete more vulnerable to breakage, and the tar less likely to dry as fast. it also consumed much time and labor. but this was a compromise that was important to me.
however, the more interesting and exciting discussion for me came out of a consideration of what we determine as waste, and how we measure the value of non-material things. i spoke about experience and exchange as a form of recycling and economy, and the importance of not affirming a paradigm of value or substance exclusively based on consumable goods and pre-determined notions of quantifiability. i'm not sure if i used the word 'quantifiability', though i really hope i did.
this led to a brief discussion about the vision and courage required to support these kinds of exchanges. and how inspiring it is that we live in a world where there are people who believe in making this transformation real for us as artists and audiences.
|later i take some photos of people visiting the Park|
|these people are reading my interview with kristan in the visual art program i think!|
|i'm so interested in, and looking really carefully at, the ways children are negotiating the spaces within National Park.|
|blackberry mojitos (new obsession) with jorg, arnold, and david eckard at blue hour, then off to young jean lee's 'the shipment'. almost got locked out of the theatre because i had to pee, which made me think a lot about the audience's body and climates of agency.|
|saturday 5 september 2009|
|in the morning i meet with my assistant tom at the library, and discuss his work. he shows me some video and photographs of a performance project he did that was sort of like a combination sermon-vampire gathering. he was the minister, his face painted white, and at the end he retires into a coffin. tom, send me a photo and i can put it here?|
|next i continue videotaping and photographing michelle in bear.|
|kids keep on coming in while i photograph, and want to engage the bear|
|the next day i realized a visitor had taken the bear head from a shelf far off from the stage, experimented with wearing it, and then left it in the park for others. after explaining they had simply found the bear head on stage, this child's parents asked me if it was ok for him to try it on.|
aside from the obvious excitement that the bear head would take up one-third of a kid body, i was amazed by the psychological possibilities this revealed to the content and experience of the entire project. here were visitors asking to look outward from within, to experiment within a position of otherness through perspective and identity shifts, and to offer their family, friends, and other visitors another layer of narrative in which to relate to the work.
|another munchkin on their way to bearhood. with this one the percentage of bear-to-kid ratio is probably closer to 50-50, or even 70%.|
|followed by malia jensen's beaver costume debut with pink martini at the portland zoo. oh, yes.|
|split a burrito from the PICA burrito truck with jorg.|
|sunday 6 september 2009|
|in the afternoon, kristan and i hold a public talk in National Park. a few special things happen.|
1) someone asks me about the relevance of the site- a former high school- to my piece. though the site was selected by pica, in this moment i was given a new opportunity to articulate a connectivity i've felt all along but put no words to. and actually wouldn't have been able to until now. i had already understood the work, situated in the former library space, to be an archive within an archive, but something else had been happening, something i had begun to locate earlier with my intensely renewed obsession with the violent femmes. in response to the question, i speak about a universal experience of later teenage years as a time when we awkwardly wrestle with distinctions between self and other, between individual needs and our participation with and responsibility in a larger whole- what i speak of as citizenship. how the boundaries of what feels good and what is right or constructive are often confusing and unclear. it's a moment of sifting through experiences of alienation and belonging, reaching thresholds of vulnerability, exposure, and isolation. in this moment i realize that the rawness of my hand had surfaced in this work through the psychological collisions, boundaries and margins of the piece; in the ways it presents conflicting opportunities for permission and trespass, caution and play; being a child, being a loner, being a guest, being a participator, being a witness. the synthesis here was as much a recognition of the full context of the work, as it was an empowered, and remembered awareness of the vital difference between trust and expectation.
|2) an interesting set of questions were posed about the limits with which the structure could be mediated through movement of the stones or the use and subsequent crumbling of the structure. i said that i left minimal to no maintenance instructions for the pica staff to perform during the 2 months of the show's duration, however i believe both here and everywhere else, in the practice of cleaning up after oneself. the notion, i realized, posed a critcal impasse, since, on the other side of this argument rests the belief in the impression of use and experience. i like that there aren't easy answers.|
|3) sam approaches me afterward and speaks a bit about his exprience and relationship with National Park, carrying lumber up 3 flights of stairs during a late july heat wave. he expresses that he felt very much a part of the work, despite concentrating mostly on other projects during my stay here - like cooking us great meals, making the amazing zig-zag windows with the art institute students, and overseeing press corps. he says that there was a time when he really had to make a choice whether to work further with my project or not (i basically asked him like everyday), and that although he ultimately chose a certain kind of distance, he sincerely felt a deep connection with the work and what he had learned through his relationship with it. he asks me if he could write a bit about all this, and share it with me and all of you on this journal. we look forward to reading, sam!|
|miguel gutierrez's 'last meadow' in the evening, then sushi with jax, followed by a robbinschilds performance.|
|before all of this, i photograph the installation a bit|
|the pencil sharpeners, which are anchored atop the bookshelves become flush with the ground of National Park. the windows do a similar thing. the idea is that, when someone walks up to the windows, they can physically feel the drop, and connect with the 'view' in a visceral way, as if they were on a cliff.|
|both the tar and foam are petroleum products, a non-renewable oil which is made from plants and animals buried beneath the soil for millions of years; felt i think of as a form of nomadic domestic architecture (yurts), a simultaneous insulator and muffler, and a material with limitless boundaries; concrete, for me, is as much a material of war and permanence as it is an impressionable, brittle, and vulnerable medium.|
|there are different environments held within the structure- a barren prairie at night, a stone basin, a valley, desert dune (sofas), mountain cave, fence part. there are also different ways of inhabiting these settings- behind, under, through, on top of, within.|
|the library has 2 murals in it that must have been painted by students while the school was still active. you can see one of globe slices above the tourists in this photo. the other mural appears in a number of the photos i've included, it's a wpa-style industrial progress themed image. prior to arriving in portland, i was a bit nervous about these murals, as i was about the empty bookshelves, and wondered how they'd inform my installation. in the end, i chose to keep everything as-is, including the overhead lighting. it felt right to allow the space to fully be what it is, in all of its memories of what it once was, and its availability to what it has become.|
|the blue stuff is like a geoglogical cross-section, or sandwich. a land hamburger, if you will.|
i also document the souvenir/learning center cabinets, which are situated in the hallway, right outside the library. mel models for a few, and chooses to share her sketchbook doodles with all of us.
|for the case farthest from the entrance to National Park, and the closest to a visitor upon entry onto the floor, a number of artifcats are included that construct a mythology around the formation of the Park.|
|the next case includes many tools and materials implemented for the actual making of National Park, in addition to some souvenirs|
|like this one, below, made from tar squished between multiple layers of robbinschilds carpet scraps, atop maquette cardboard originally discovered in the lockers of washington high school.|
|the next case contains a top shelf of stacked, long and thick chunks of foam, with some squished in 2x4 studs and felt. it suggests a compression or subteranean quality to the shelves below it. the items on the shelves speak of sequence, and previous or subsequent inhabitance, positioning this cabinet as a sort of anthropological diorama that explores the construction of a social space.|
|the final case, which is situated right beside the entrance to National Park, is a mock gift shop. it contains souvenirs, postcards, and fantasy ideals of place, in a fabricated, scenic environment.|
|monday 7 september 2009|
|returned back to nyc this evening. for now i want to simply say how grateful i am to pica, and to its amazing incredible public who is curious, generous, and so physically confident. i have and am continuing to learn so much from you all. additionally, i will miss your hamburgers and beer.|
|monday 14 september 2009|
this labor, sandwiched in between two periods, began with my thoughts that there's a distinction to be made between a love of consequence and a love of choice. what i've come to realize is that they are really the same thing. and that the real distinction is in my embrace.
what is a stage for if not for becoming?
it's an honor every time we put ourselves out into the world, and must confront what we make, what we do, what we've become... with who we were, who we think we are, and who we want to be. the farthest journies are undoubtedly the ones from within. i suppose all of us are tourists.
|-- journal continues w/deinstall --|
|friday 18 september 2009|
|my first postcard from National Park arrives!!|