ideas

the accursed items

by J. Robert Lennon

A bottle of pain reliever, brought along on a business trip, that proves, at the moment it is most needed, to be filled not with pain reliever, but with buttons.

Sneakers hanging from the power line, with one half of a boy’s broken glasses stuffed into each toe.

A Minnie Mouse doll you found by the roadside, and brought home, intending to run it through the washer, and give it to your infant son, but which looked no less forlorn after washing, and was abandoned on a basement shelf, only to be found by your son eight years later, and mistaken for a once-loved toy that he himself had forsaken, leading to his first real experience of guilt and shame.

Love letters, seized by federal agents in an unsuccessful drug raid, tested in a lab for traces of cocaine, exhaustively read for references to drug contacts, sealed in a labeled plastic bag, and packed along with a plush bear holding a plastic red heart, into an unlabeled brown cardboard box, itself, loaded into a truck with hundreds of similar boxes, when the police headquarters was moved, and forever lost.

Nude polaroids of a thirteen-year-old female cousin.

An icicle, preserved in the freezer by a child, which, when discovered months later, is thought to be evidence of a problem with the appliance, leading to a costly and inconclusive diagnostic exam by a repairman.

A gay porno magazine, thrown onto a ball field from a car window, and perused with great interest by the adolescent members of both teams, two of whom meet in the woods some weeks later, to reproduce the tableaus they have seen, leading to a gradual realization that they are in fact gay, an incident, the memory of which causes one of the two, when he is well into a life that is disappointing emotionally, professionally, and sexually, to fling a gay porno magazine out his car window, as he passes an occupied ball field, on his way to what will be an unsuccessful job interview.

A biscuit, crushed into the slush of a Kentucky Fried Chicken parking lot.

The orange tobbaggen, whisking her to her death.

A resume, that portrays its author as utterly unqualified for the position for which she has applied, but which, because it smells good, leads its reader, a desperate, experientially undernourished middle-manager at an internet-based retail corporation, to invite her into the office for an interview, which, although further portrays the applicant’s complete unsuitability for the job, provides the middle-manager with a physical impression to complement the good smell, which impression is intensely exciting, forcing him to hire her as a supplemental secretary, much to the bafflement, chagrin, and eventual disgust of his extant secretary, who, during her employer’s lunch hour, removes the resume in question from his files, and personally delivers it to the CEO, and is with the CEO when he barges into the middle-manager’s office, and finds the unsuitable supplemental secretary standing beside him, crying silently with her dress half-off, while he sits in his reclining office chair, sweating profusely, and holding a plastic letter opener in a threatening manner.

The houseplant that will not die.

Fifty pairs of old blue jeans, found at second-hand clothing stores, and brought at great expense, on a trip to eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics, where rumor had it, old blue jeans could be sold for a lot of money, but where this was no longer true, as so many previous visitors had heard the same rumor, and done the same thing, creating a glut of old blue jeans, which were not even all that stylish there anymore, and causing the entire trip to be ruined by the necessity of hauling around these huge suitcases full of other people’s jeans, which smelled kind of bad, as if those other people were currently wearing them.

The urine sample, produced for the cancelled doctors appointment, and forgotten in the back of the fridge.

My eyeglasses, covered with a thickening layer of dust that I never seem to notice, and simply adjust to, until, at last, I clean them out of habit, and discover a new world, sharp and full of detail, whose novelty and clarity I forget about completely within fifteen minutes.

Your signature, rendered illegible by disease.

((I heard this read on This American Life-Plan B and was really struck by the clarity of some of these moments))

compression

My work is visually inspired by materiality and the demotic; and conceptually inspired by intangibility, entropy and personal experiences. It explores the spaces that exist in between one thing and another that tends to go unnoticed. Whether it is between one page and the next or one definition and another, there is an intangible beauty in these changing times.

Finding ways to translate the moments between two things has found many outputs for me. I have created a series of photographs that compress the images on the front and backside of a printed page by shining light through and capturing the image at the moment when they are both showing at the same time. In another vein, by coating balloons with various materials while they are blown up I am able to allude to both the state of inflation and deflation as the shell shrivels around the collapsing balloon. They are depictions of something unattainable, yet the result is something new and strange in and of themselves. Each of these illustrated moments about these non-states can translate as anything from uncanny to feelings of loss or gain. I am interested in seeing what happens when each of these representations are combined with each other as they embody a similar idea but exude such different content.

I first consciously connected with this idea of transient beauty in Reineke Dijkstra’s beach series. The subjects of these photographs were neither children nor adults, they were neither clothed nor naked, they stood partly in the water and partly on land. The scenes are completely awkward and beautiful at the same time which was completely riveting for me.


Rineke Dijkstra

I finally own the book that contains these images! What a great Christmas gift…thank you!

[algorithm – lossy – data compression – artifact – stress – tension – buckling]

Fuzzzzz

I spent this past week out of my studio and in our installation space in the sculpture department at Cranbrook since my biggest challenge lately has been after I’ve made my objects or images knowing what to do with them! It was great to see everything I had made come out from under the shelves in my studio and sit out in the same space together! The following images are from one of the practice installations I did. I definitely could have spent more time arranging and hanging more of the fuzz that I have, but I was thinking of this exercise more as a sketch. As with most of my projects, I found an interest in this material a couple of months ago and have been living with it in my studio.

I’m hoping to complete a video concerning the collecting of the material, but we’ll have to see how that goes.
Green Fuzz

Red Fuzz

Fuzz Installation View

Waiting

Waiting is a transitional state that I often find myself in and tend to be quite impatient with. Whether it’s waiting for Rob to head out the door (although I’m pretty sure he waits for me more than I wait for him), waiting for a balloon sculpture to deflate since my prodding only messes up the process or waiting to get an answer from say, a graduate school or something like that, I tend to twiddle my thumbs, tap my fingers and get myself all worked up. Time is a precious thing in my life since there is always more to do than I have time for. My time has become quantifiably valuable in the photography business since we bill by the hour and I can also see a monetary value for the time I am putting in at Cranbrook since this experience is an investment. The laborious nature of my art work is also very time intensive.

These thoughts about waiting were inspired by some images in the series “New Londoners: Reflections on Home” and Louise Bourgeois’ “Insomnia Drawings”.

The New Londoners are a group of refugees from around the world now living in London who were connected by Photovoice with a “new and upcoming” photographer from the area to create a series of honest photo’s based on life in a new city. There were at least 3-4 photo’s titled “Waiting for… (so and so)” which got me thinking about what I do while I’m waiting and how that changes based on the place I am in. If I’m at home, I busy myself in that waiting period. If I am in an unfamiliar place as these photographers are, I tend to sit and look. I’m less interested in the photo’s themselves than I am in the idea of transplanting, seeing for the first time, collaborating and waiting.
View Slideshow of “The New Londoners: Reflections on Home”

I had an individual meeting with my artist is residence, Heather McGill and she suggested I look at Louise Bourgeois’ Insomnia Drawings in relation to my work. I am still working on tracking down the book itself but the images and information online also lead me to thinking about the state of waiting. I came across an article referencing the drawings the New York Times (read the article) Louise talks about the lulling nature of making the drawings while she is waiting for sleep to come.

saturation

Saturation as a metaphor caught my interest today as I listened to election coverage. It was quoted numerous times in relation to the media (i.e. “our media saturated culture”). I began to wonder if you could relate the idea of media saturation with color saturation? Not sure.

Exploring Themes

Transitional, Liminal, Intangible

If you like something, you usually want to have it, hold it, put it in your pocket. This is a problem for me, since the very thing I like is “intangibility”. Relationships. Decomposition. Longing. Masked. Dusk. Fog. They exist in between. In between me and you, this and that, absence and presence, clarity and abstraction. I find it a high form of beauty to have to experience something briefly and for that to be the last time.

In Plato’s Symposium, love and beauty is described as in between, which I think is the most appropriate and most beautiful description as it is neither about one person or the other, but the connection that exists between them.

Reineke Dijkstra’s photo’s of adolescence on the beach floored me because of their transitional nature. The subjects were neither children nor adults, they were neither clothed nor naked, they stood partly in the water and partly on land. The scenes are completely awkward and beautiful at the same time.

One time I was taking a walk along a river in Grand Rapids and I came across a dead fish on the trail. I was first disgusted by site and smell of the carcass, but as I looked for a longer period of time, I was able to see the beauty in the life cycle as the fish was picked away at by bugs, weather and animals.

Balance
Not in the sense of symmetrical. Teetering.

Luminance
Light is an important aspect of anyone’s daily experience, but as a photographer, it is an especially conscious experience for me. I can remember the development of this sensibility. Suddenly the way light hit an object/person/space was exciting! What the hell?

Compassion for Styrofoam
I hate waste. No matter how hard I try, I am constantly leaving a large trail of shit behind me. I compost, I recycle, I reuse, yet there is still so much left over. Everything that is shipped is encased in styrofoam and bubble wrap, taped up and then sealed in a box. Our food comes in styrofoam and plastic and then is taken home in another plastic bag. I hate the misuse of resources and I hate the fact that I can’t escape it.

As a person who can’t throw things away, who imagines the landfill and the perservation of these objects for years and years after it is taken away, the time spent over the trash can is a conflicting and complicated one. Once I cut an itchy tag from a hat I walked over to the trash can to throw it away and literally stopped mid-toss as I noticed how much of an object this thing was. It had deep colors and shapes, information about where my garmet had been made. I thought for the first time about where this pesky tag had been produced. I’ve had similar experiences with packing materials. I am plagued by the clutter they cause when saved and the waste they cause when discarded. I have, however, come to enjoy their properties such as weightlessness, cushion, color, shape and feel. Ads in magazines have a similar disregard paid them as they are only current for 4 weeks if that. Once their purpose is up, they only serve as a reminder of what once was…if they last that long.

There is something about the overlooked that really gets an emotional response from me. I cried the first time I heard the Ben Folds song, “Fred Jones Part 2”. I feel for the shy kid or the disregarded elderly person. Maybe it’s because I grew up being the shy kid, although I don’t feel any sadness or shame for myself in remembering those experiences. It might sound funny, but I almost dare say that it is out of compassion that I want to deal with the small, mundane, disregarded objects. Can you feel compassion for styrofoam?