Netherzone
© 2001 Eve Andrée Laramée
NEW OBSERVATIONS MAGAZINE
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Eve Laramee


Photo: Anita Getzler ©1998
*
The rental car as home is full of dirt, roving crumbs, crumbling maps, torn-out telephone book pages, dirty clothes, empty water bottles sucked dry, a crushed hat, displaced stones, more maps, receipts for road food, and two figs freshly picked from a tree in downtown Los Angeles the "City of Quartz". I drive by the house I grew up in. It looks like a still photograph from another era superimposed on a movie of L.A.

Later. A room. Approximately twelve by fifteen feet, concrete block walls and metal furniture all painted the same "sand" color. A telephone with voice mail, a mini-refrigerator/microwave unit called a MicroFridge emits a drone, a single mattress on springs, a set of telephone directories, lots of maps.

I spend the days in the desert. I look for places I've read or heard about which I cannot find. I see time in the stones. A canyon filled with volcanics, metamorphics and sedimentaries is riddled with fossils. I feel queasy with astonishment and the heat. The extreme is divine. What moves is either reptile or machine.

The viewfinder of my camera as home. The quiet solitude of resting my good left eye against the cool black metal. The mind becomes quiet as it escapes through this hole. Light rays converge to fill the space inside. The stillness awakens cellular memories of earthquakes, floods, fires, riots, landslides, mud slides, debris flows, air pollution and drought. I think of the salty fluid surrounding my eyes as they blink in the sunlight coming through the lens.

Tonight I am back in the concrete room, and tomorrow will leave again. I think about access to information, gasoline, food, batteries and something for the itching. My skin hurts, but still I am happy. Two more trips into the Sonora Desert of Mexico and several to the Anza Borrego, Mojave and Yuha Deserts of California. At LAX, the rental car logs in at 2,627 miles. The heat of the desert bakes rather than stews as the New York heat.

Back home in Brooklyn for one week before returning to California. Here, I research the erratic boulders and folded metamorphic bedrock of New York City. The library is cool, it is crowded. Bedrock, the foundation of place. Is the bed the foundation of home? Somnolent. Amnesiatic. I feel myself slip into the fold. I learn the Hudson and East Rivers are in fact fjords carved by glaciation. I live at the confluence of the East Fjord and Newtown Creek, the natural border between Brooklyn and Queens, which was canalized during the Nineteenth Century by the restless Army Corps of Engineers. Not so long before that, there was a large village here, of people known as the Maspetches, Mathpeth, Mispat, Mespat or Mespaetches after which the town of Maspeth, Queens took it's name. It is now filled with industrial ruins.

I think of the baroque stratification of this place. I become restless.

Question: What are the links between particular spatial phenomena and the ideas of inhabiting nothingness, psychic rootlessness and falling outside of ourselves?

I believe I have temporarily lost my spatial/temporal geographic homeland. The zone between Mexico and the United States is the interstitial space of my recent meanderings. I have driven so many miles and walked and walked and I am tired today. Home in the past ten days has been a twenty-nine foot long boat, a rental car, and various rooms of differing sizes and degrees of hardness/softness. The cosmological systems which I habitually use to determine my sense of "hereness" are becoming brittle. Bit by bit they erode.

As often as I can I retreat to the cool and dusty concrete block room. My eyes follow the small black line leading from phone jack to modem card. I try to keep the line from getting tangled through an irrational impulse nagging me that if it does, I may become lost. I long to return to the edge of the map. To another black line separating land and sea. On the line, I sometimes find myself standing in water, sometimes on sand.

Breathing is easier in this fluctuating Netherzone.

A very strange phenomenon has occurred regarding my perception of space. I am beginning to sense the earth by degrees. The global positioning system I use, which triangulates signals from three satellites, gives me a digital reading of my exact position on the planet at anytime. I am getting a feeling - a somatic feeling - for what a degree, minute or second of latitude and/or longitude actually is. Somehow this is being mapped onto my body: the space of a breath, a stride, a gaze. The earth is even smaller than I thought. Much smaller than the insides of our selves, our cells. The interface of land and body, the collision of earth and water, the blurring of boundaries.

The place that is no place keeps calling me back. The Salton Sea. An engineering disaster that became a natural phenomenon. In 1901 the Colorado River had been diverted to irrigate the citrus groves in the Imperial Valley, formerly known as the Valley of the Dead. Four years later the river breached its canal and jumped control gates and was back on it’s old course, the phantom channel, the Alamo River, racing towards the Salton Sink, a geological depression 273 feet below sea level. A palisade of water surged across the Valley cutting into the fertile ground at a rate of one foot per second. Water flowed into the sink for sixteen months leaching millions of tons of salt from the earth. Fields were inundated, homes swept away as the river turned the Salton Sink back into the Salton Sea.

Facing West at Travertine Rock I look high upon a hill and see the mark of an ancient shoreline. Below are vast quantities of fossilized “coral” built by an ancient species of reef-building clams. Turning back towards the water I survey a strange and compelling landscape, not idyllic, but scorched and wondrous, alive with the buzz of millions of flies. Returning to the car I drive through a barren creepy suburban vista. Slab City. Acres of named streets with no houses, concrete foundation slabs for anticipated habitation, palm-trees now-dead planted in orderly rows, dry fire hydrants, unused sewer lines. A transparent infrastructure. In the post-war years lots were put up for sale in this planned recreational community which never took hold. It is simultaneously abandoned and never occupied. A desiccated dreamland for quixotic permanent vacationers. Developments with names like Mecca, Oasis, Desert Beach, North Shore, Bombay Beach, Desert Shores, Salton Sea Beach. The non-culture of these types of places fascinates. A group of iconoclasts live at Slab City. These individuals love it because they can park their trailers on the slabs and because “it's free". Because it’s there. Because they can.

This configuration which mazes between the utopian and distopian perhaps represents a place of past and future places, overlays of images, territory, names, desires, actions. Perhaps no distance is covered but a new terrain emerges - a place which is no place. An Elsewhere which is a technologically produced "disaster" as media or touristic spectacles, but also phenomena of such vast scale that they are seen as cataclysms. The scale of such events or spaces has the property of suspending consciousness and dissolving notions of self-containment. The way in which such cultural productions end up blurred with natural phenomena dusts my imagination with uncertainty and indeterminacy, and sets me on strange trajectories.

Anomalous zones are forever beautifully unsettled and unsettling.

It’s nighttime when I arrive and the air is foul and acrid. The glow of the nearly full moon reflects off the glittering salt. It’s brighter here than other places. And more corrosive. The salt crunches underfoot as I enter a portal to another mode of cognition. I understand this place. I savor being here. North 33° 17’ 17.5” West 115° 58’ 22.2”.

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*
WANDERING
by Eve Andrée Laramée and Lewis DeSoto

To "wander" is the Taoist code word for becoming ecstatic.
--Willard Johnson, Riding the Ox Home: A History of Meditation from Shamanism to Science, p. 52


I reconfigure the life I recognize as my own from the look of the hands and voice, the eyes to which I have become accustomed. This place. I am always at this place. The landscape changes, yet the place stays the same. This place likes other places. Movement. Automobiles describe time in an equation of distances. Certain music echoes better here. The configuration is a place of future places, overlays of images, faces desires, actions. The matrix of the banal explodes into grand glittering minutiae. The past becomes theater for the drama of this present place.

I think of a place which touches tangent to a primary geographical landmark of my life, the railroad tracks. These steely lines of flight are a way of locating oneself, of telling time. A vector. A path. A compass. My benchmark. Digging in the earth as a child I find a round copper coin with a square hole in the middle. Lost, perhaps, by a railroad worker in the last century. This treasure, a gift of the earth is contingent upon history. Years later, in the same garden, I dig up a tiny skull naked of flesh. The brilliant architecture of indestructible life collapses, crashes into powder. We dig and we bury things whose time it is to keep still, silently changing in their own slow hidden ways. And sometimes we dig and we find death or folly or fear. And sometimes we dig and we just find more dirt...we dig for the treasure of nothing, we dig for the pleasure of digging.

We are geographic wanderers in this uncertain terrain. Our dialogue passes through fax machines and modems, circuitous pathways of light and reverberant waves of interference patterns. Errant messages and meandering meaning, mazing grace. Grace, the beauty and the beautiful fall. Amazed am I at the blindness of the turn, so one wanders/wonders at the blindness of future desire. At night I can't sleep because of the anticipation. It hurts; therefore one moves away from the pain into novel suffering. It is the present wonder of delicious blindness that makes nonbeauty, a framework for graciousness.

Making words and work forwards a move into wandering. The undercurrent wanders back home again, revisits the past in new configurations. Perhaps no distance is covered but a new world (un)covered by (re)thinking. (Re)cognition. To think again. Covering one's tracks. The mazing is a result of the compromise between supposed linearity (here) and the bottom of the bucket dropping out, a satori(a) of simultaneity. It is not a duty given to artists, but a propensity, a burst of wandering among (or falling through) cultivated ciphers. One may characterize this post modern condition as a "loss" of "self" and therefore the loss of the genius, or perhaps we may recognize the multitude of genii within the wandering. In the world of history, there is time spent in the desert. But what about those of us who are born within it? There one finds the residue of the trace, the dust of attention. Grace mazes when we embrace uncertainty and indeterminacy. States of grace unfold into erraticism and I begin to drift. I surrender to the drifting currents of this state and move on a strange trajectory, grace flows around the drifter creating a spiritual buoyancy.

The geographical homeland and its peripheral, marginal surrounding territory carves us. The sense of "self" is (re)defined by one's sense of place, as mapped through a time matrix. The interface of land and body, the collision of earth and water, the blurring of boundaries. A semi-permeable membrane divides our cell, ourselves. The paradox of the cell: its architecture of incarceration, its function as incubator, its potential to create flow of current. In actuality is a cell a self-contained unit? A self-regulating structure capable of replicating itself? Cells function in conjunction with other cells: a part of and apart from the body. What of the interstitial spaces between cells, what is located there? A part/apart. A paradox. The cell is delineated by the language of the self. Our cells, our selves slip into the spaces between. Our lives are a series of slippages and errings. We dance in the domain between faith and error. Uncertainty, insecurity prevail in this unstable zone, but errancy also moves us into realms previously unknown.

There are traces left behind. We inevitably return to our geographic center, the one that owns us, a large rock on the edge of an arroyo, the ocean, the railroad tracks. Is grace an episodic form of forgetfulness? In our state of amnesia we wander around and pick up the pieces that have been dropped. The brain chatters; that is its job. The will is the stone I return to. It absorbs and reintegrates the little pieces; that is what shatters it. When it first lured me into the arroyo, it was whole, fresh as an egg. Now it shatters/chatters in slow motion. Still as a stone. The self(constructed)hood is located in this place: the geography of the body (water and time).

Self-consciousness wanders here. Myth continually tests consciousness, looking for harmonies. I unfold by the telling of many stories, therefore the eye cannot believe what it sieves, only that there is a vital matrix or location for listening and acting in this mysterious world. How is it that the body creates meaning with language and that language creates a self?

Post modern theories call into question many precedent and modern ideas about identity. In most cases, this self is believed to be immutable (soul) and revealed from within (romantic), a likely model for the artist of today (even its inverted twin is resolved by these notions, re: Warhol or Koons). Modernity has likewise accepted the residence of the homunculus, whether Freudian, Jungian or shadowy Behaviorist models. Buddhist philosophies and practice have dealt with the suffering of humanity since ages before Christ's first historical appearance. The crux of this suffering has dealt with the desire of the self for preservation, wealth, pleasure and connected antipathies: the rejection of desire is desire. Buddhism has attempted, with some success to devise a faith about the lack of something, and that this void is ultimately a strength, a compassionate presence in this realm of existence.

Presently, I am (re)collecting myself. By returning to the spiritual homeland. The Ocean. The Rock. The Tracks. Memory can be restored through substance. Matter is the antidote for amnesia. Substantial forgetting recoagulates into echoic memory when I return to the ocean. Seawater and our blood are chemically analogous, returning us to the mother-body (bios). Dive into the bain marie. The ocean has the property of suspending and restoring consciousness, dissolving notions of self-containment.

I write the earth with my body a geo-graphy to locate my "self". Dusty notions of inside/outside, self/other, here/there erode. We invent cosmological systems to map our being Here. Be Elsewhere. Once we are outside of ourselves, we want to go back in. At the heart of our being is errancy, a love of things circuitous. Beingness is not bordered by anything. (If beingness implies "somewhere" and nothingness implies"nowhere" does erring imply "elsewhere"?) The insides of our body- is vastly larger than the outsides. My body is a filter through which the world flows. An awareness of the breakdown of this boundary causes expansion or emptying. Expansion connotes limitations, whereas emptiness does not necessarily. Expansion is a dispersion like distant stars in the sky. We desire to constellate, to observe parallax. Emptying implies release. Through expansion/emptying we (re)approach the notion of boundaries. Boundaries as soft membranes, like skin. Skin is the point of contact. I touch you with my skin. I know you by my (delusion of) separateness. Separation become the bare necessity of consciousness. Like pulling the cork out of a bottle, what was once contained in a fixed space can now take on an infinity of possible configurations. One can see this as either expansion or emptying, or both. It depends on if you are looking at the bottle or its contents. Vapor: as a liquid evaporates, it goes from a dense, fluid state to a more dispersed, gaseous state. In alchemical imagery, it is the stage where the bird flies out of the bottle (again and again). "The trauma of rebirth...the winged child with the returning soul." You may say, "Oh, now I have an empty bottle," but you also have a free bird. There is a Zen parable about enlightenment. Imagine a pail of water floating in the ocean. Suddenly the bottom drops out of the pail and the water, which was identical with the ocean is now co-committently the same, yet the pail still holds its position. . . One remains one "self", yet one recognizes that the exterior/interior relationships are meaningless. It comes down to the question of the observer. Who looks at your bottle? Who recognizes the boundaries of the pail? The trauma of birth may be the attaching to the bottom of the pail. I look back at my work and I find that those works that yank at the bottom of the pail are the one's that keep me thinking.

Removing something from a system. Sometimes it is the removing of an awareness of a particular identity or person. Sometimes it is the removing of invisible considerations: dust from the floor, dirt from window glass. Sometimes it is the addition of a presence that reminds us that there is a hole in the identity of our consciousness, a sound: breathing. Return to breathing.

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*
MATTERS OF INVENTION
Interview with Eve Andrée Laramée

Jordan Crandall



JC: So, Eve, what is your household dust doing offered up for observation inside a bell jar?
EL: Do you think that's strange? That piece is about examining my private universe as much as creating a model for a cosmological system. It's presented as an isolated scientific relic or artifact. That has something to do with the methods of modern science, in terms of separation, specialization, and breaking things down. It's about measurement, and a kind of analysis that I find so appealing and yet so questionable.
JC.- You're dismantling that paradigm, those methods of inquiry.
EL: Yes, and I see it as a poetic process. And there is also part of me that wants to dismantle certain belief systems, and analyze them.
JC: Would you say that certain elements of your work operate as interfaces?
EL: Yes, like a semi-permeable membrane, where certain things flow through and other things don't. You can control it to some degree, and to another degree you can't. I'm interested in how matter transforms from one state to another--this again is related to my earlier work, where I'm working with very slow-moving fluids that appear to be solids, or fluids turning into gases, solids becoming liquids, dissolution, evaporation, all of those material processes of nature. It's the interface-zone between state changes that I'm interested in. This ambiguity reveals my delight in absurdity, in human fallibility, in my own fallibility. Metaphor operates through absurdity. The more illogical the connection between two concepts, the deeper the resulting metaphor. Metaphors are mediators between the mind and culture. They change the way we use language and the way we perceive and understand things. The Greek root of metaphor means "to carry between," and "meta" means "beyond." One could say the metaphorical interface carries meaning beyond or between, involving a transfer or alteration that bends language, or whatever, beyond literal absoluteness. Metaphors convey partial truth by intentionally expressing fallacy. In art and language, metaphor and metonomy operate in this ambiguous, interstitial space between concepts or images.
JC:This metaphorical falsification brings to mind your installation, Instrument for Communicating with with Kepler's Ghost.
EL: Yes, I'm fascinated by the fact that Johannes Kepler falsified his observational data to prove his theory on the harmonic/musical relationship between the planets in his treatise Harmonicus Mundi. It's a beautiful theory but it was wrong--although I've heard some dispute of this of late. So in a sense Kepler was really making art, and not doing astronomy. Interestingly, the High Museum audience thought it was a real functioning device, but of course that's absurd. The reason they thought it functioned was because it had the appearance of a scientific instrument or apparatus. And ifs interesting to me that the word "appearance" is related to "apparition" is related to "apparatus."
JC: Kepler was asserting a male, objective, authoritative stance, but he was really-
EL: --being subjective, romantic, and poetic.
JC: Your work is subverting that authoritarian structure of observation and determination.
EL: As with the use of flowers...
JC: What specifically with the flowers?
EL: In just about every culture in the world that cultivates flowers, they're a symbol of female sexuality and romantic love. In having them be a part of the laboratory apparatus of the installations, which refer to analysis and study, I'm disrupting that power structure and alluding to a feminine science, a science inclusive of desire and guess work--the "Physics of Venus," to borrow a term from Michael Serres. Interestingly, when I was recently reinstalling Apparatus for the Distillation of Vague Intuitions, I could hear the sound of a lawn-mower in the background. While I was twisting copper wires around this glorious ginger flower, I was thinking to myself, why does this feel more perverse to me than a lawn mower? There is something very uncomfortable for me about connecting up flowers and leaves electrically to scientific apparatus. Here we have cultivated nature--this ornamental flower. Here we have a lawn--another cultural construct of nature, a way in which nature is controlled by us. Why does the sound of lawn-mower, which is a very brutal way of a human being interacting with nature, not disturb us? And why is it disturbing to hook up an electrical circuit to a flower? There is an uncomfortability zone that I cross in doing that. There's something that feels so perverse but so incredibly--
JC: Liberating?
EL: And informative about cultural attitudes towards nature. And engaging. And seductive.
JC.- Is it an uncomfortable sense of domination--of domination over nature?
EL: Yes. For centuries we have cultivated nature through domination and control. We frequently treat it like a kind of pet.
JC: A curiosity.
EL: So to use a flower, a symbol of sexuality, romantic love, emotion, and memory, and to make it part of an apparatus or mechanism has a kind of Frankensteinian aspect. I was recently accused during a public lecture of being "sadistic" for doing this. I think that the flowers are read as being very vulnerable in those pieces--as being subjected to something. However it's really no different from the act of placing flowers in a vase: the sexual organs severed from the body of a plant and put on display.
JC: Flowers in a vase are ok because they're divided. To hook something up foregrounds the interconnectedness of things, and marks a dissolution of autonomy. You're hooking up when you're supposed to divide; it's more comforting to have something divided. What "you " are is that which is "not you," and thinking otherwise is a kind of assault on the self.
EL: Yes, this is a fundamental part of the way that I look at the human within natural phenomena. I don't see human beings as being separated from the rest of nature. The separation between humankind and nature is a concept put forward by science and is linked to Romanticism. Science is supposed to present itself as rational and objective, which of course is an impossibility for humans. Nature, which is thought of as wild and in need of being controlled, is the perfect object for scientific study. Nature offers itself to the scientistic gaze. Nature has been relegated to the position of "other," which relates to the notion of women and marginalized peoples being "closer" to nature. The separation of women from key metaphors of science happened with the birth of modern science. Evelyn Fox Keller has written about this, how the primary gender metaphor in Alchemy was the conjunction of opposites: the chemical marriage of the King and Queen. Woman was part of the equation, so to speak. With modern science, that gender metaphor shifted to Man over Nature.
JC: In your work, rather than seeking a reconciliation of opposites, you employ them in a complex dynamic. This is interesting in relation to the prominence that passages, zones of transition, and interstitial areas in your work which dissolve and refigure boundaries and institute a circulatory dynamic. It dissolves the binary, oppositional cognitive modes.
EL: Right, it blurs the poles.
JC.- Your piece The Eroded Terrain of Memory addressed this blurring of boundaries.
EL: Yes. The metamorphic stone used in that piece was collected from a site along a geological fault, which is an interstitial zone. And what's particularly interesting about that fault is that the stones on one side are two hundred million years older than the stones on the other side. The older rock is thought to be a fragment of Africa. You know, a portion of the northeastern seaboard is thought to have once been part of the African continent. The stones match perfectly to stones in Morocco. I think it is great that Connecticut is "really" Africa! That piece addressed the idea of interstitiality, of the arbitrariness of boundaries, of our will to create dividing lines--looking more at grey areas and ambiguous zones, and seeing just how wobbly they are.
JC: You had written that when you were young you liked to stand on the ocean shore and think of its as a black line on a map--that you liked being in that fluctuating, in-between place. Instead of being either on this side or that, you're in a nomadic passage that is itself a formational, gathering place--as Heidegger writes, "the bridge gathers as a passage that crosses within which new identities coalesce. This relates to "nature culture " debates, and their way of thinking, that you disrupt.
EL: Right, looking at that zone between. It's a highly dimensional interface.
JC: This relates also to the opposition between essentialism and construction.
Interestingly, Judith Butler's notion of "matter" is very close to your own--that of a verb rather than a noun. She calls for "a return to the notion of matter, not as a site or a surface, but as a process of materialization that stabilizes over time to produce the effect of boundary, fixate, and surface we call matter. " But she's very Foucaltian, and although matter comes from somewhere else for you, you meet there. You have common ground It's a very rich territory. What's missing in constructionist discourse is the biological. It is a very problematic area for them because they can't allow it any primacy--biology is a discourse.
EL: Yes. I am reminded of Frederick Turner's thoughts on biology and beauty. He believes that life itself is a response to contradictions inherent in matter, and in how cultural evolution, such as one's attitudes about "beauty," cause behavioral changes that effect biological evolution. Cultural change happens fast, but sets into motion slower biological changes, such as natural selection. Another metaphor I am reminded of is Deleuze and Guattari's assertion that language and knowledge are rhizomatic rather than like a root system, which is based in bifurcations--linear, predictable progressions. Rhizome systems are underground, completely interwoven networks that have clusters or pods or constellations within them--they're ever-spreading webs.
JC: This is very present in your work--that sense of networks of correlations, these rhizomatic constructs that interweave materiality, nature, language-
EL: --and cognitive processes--
JC.- Yes, because you can think of things like this as being very linguistic--hypertextuality, for example, is very oriented toward such language constructions--but there is a whole other area of the "matter" of it.- the materiality of it. The natural, the biological, the blood and guts--
EL: The wet stuff
JC: And your work engages this in a hypertextual, rhizomatic way. Discourse dances on the surface of something, but your work penetrates that "surface, " traverses it, deepens it. You've written about this "deep writing" in matter, and a dynamic cross-fertilization of substantiality and code--a mutually transformative process. "Body" and "nature " arise out of this cauldron@on. So your work has this sense of hypertextual materiality, this deep wiring..
EL: Very much about substance.
JC: Yes. There is a sense in your work of nature asserting itself, sneaking back in, seeping out from underneath.
EL: Uncontrollable.
JC: Yes, that sense of out-of-controllness. This is very powerful because the grid of textuality that we were just talking about, along with its power-constructs, is imposed on things, overlaid on them, but yet there is this.. ooze...
EL: Right! It's all going to fall apart anyway! [laughter]
JC.- Yes, exactly. You stage a reflection of this power dynamic only to subvert it, to escape it In the Apparatus for the Distillation of Vague Intuitions, a sense of imminent collapse was evident, not necessarily physically--but yes physically, because things were precariously placed--but also ideologically and experimentally. There's a sense of being outwitted by the very processes that one seeks to dominate. There's an earnestness and also an absurd hopelessness--
EL: Yes, or "doubtfulness"... or futility or fallibility.
JC: Yes Life and process asserting itself, seeping through the edges. You've written before about "the ooze of art"... There's the image of a boundary, and this ooze seeping under it--
EL: It's a semi-permeable membrane. Well, you know the brain is like that, it's like gelatin. It's the consistency of a ripe avocado. I think that is such a fabulous metaphor. It's such an intricate network of neural connections, and yet it's just this wet stuff, encased in this calcium shell--it's like a remnant from mollusks. It's just this mush, and it's capable of this amazing function of thought...
JC: Of techne... You know the Greek root of technology, techne? It roughly means "a system of making or doing, " and in this sense thought itself is a techne. But technology is felishized, in the Marxian sense, reified as this "thing" which does something apart from us, detached from its cognitive and social networks. Technology, in and of itself doesn't really do anything: we do things through technology.
EL: Right, it's vehicular.
JC: Yes. So what I want to say is that in your work there is the assertion of that sense of technology--in its basic function as a "system of doing, " of thinking, of extending of the body, perhaps in the sense of McLuhan, who saw electricity as an extension of-
EL:--the nervous system--
JC: Yes. Here I think of your Left-Handed Data Glove, and in general this "wiring up" that your work stages, which connects body, nature--
EL: --and technology--
JC: --through a technological means or construction--
EL: As a continuum, really. We think of technological forces as not being "natural." We think of electricity as being a technological force, and it's a natural force, in the same way that acts of human beings are a natural force. But we tend to designate or relegate them to different zones of how they play themselves out in the world. I want to draw attention to that circuitry.
JC: Yes. Resisting that reification.
EL: Right.
JC: Especially today, when technology is so seductive.
EL: And we think of it being a purely human created thing, yet there are animal technologies like beehives and termite mounds. These are also forms of techne. The Left Handed Data Glove is connected to a palm leaf rather than a computer and is powered by a salt-water battery. It's about a kind of poetic valence. It's also a very feminine fetishistic object, and there is this humorous aspect that addresses the male fascination with techno-gadgetry and "virtual reality." Practitioners of certain belief systems would say that reality itself is virtual!
JC: Which brings to mind the theatricality of your work. This was particularly evident in the Apparatus installation, which was staged as a kind of social arena, even the shadows cast on the walls becoming somehow a part of it. For the first time perhaps I was acutely aware of others' interactions with the apparatus--in a Duchampian way, seeing through the apparatus to the "other side, " resisting that locus where the gaze is trapped It was fascinating to see this social dynamic in addition to that which is "internal" to the work.
EL: This was even more evident in my installation The Science of Approximation, because it was installed as a theater stage, with black velour theater curtains. The other half of the gallery was left empty except for one piece, Salt of Sweat, a tiny deposit of the salt of the sweat of the glass blowers who made all the glassware used in the installation. And it was setting up a dynamic of "the work" being the residue of labor and the intelligence of the body that produces it, played against art's theatrical presence in the world. It also referred to the theater or spectacle of science.
JC: It's quite Marxian--constitutive relations of production and this staged apparatus, this theater of operations...
EL: I didn't really intend it that way, but more as a devotional object. One of the invisible parts of art is the labor part of it, and the devotional part of it; and the intelligence, not of the mind or ego of the artist, but the intelligence of the body--of the maker. I'm trying to pay attention to that and to give it as much importance as what goes out into the world. Because that's really the transformative part of it.
JC: Transformative for you, and for the spectator, for the people who participate in its creation?
EL: Yes. It has to do with seeing the unseen or unseeable. The material, this salt of sweat, is a record, of time. It has something to do with human activity within duration. It's process. And that often gets left out of the equation. I'm trying to reinsert that thing that is part of the body which is also part of love which is connected with the spiritual part of art making, which has something to do with creating a cosmological system. This has something to do with examining the role of art.
JC: In all of this, what is your role and purpose, as an artist?
EL: Jordan, I have no idea! I don't know!
JC: That question arises in the construct that you sketched out..
EL: Right. What is my ... ? Well... the first word that came to my mind is an "agent" of some kind. Just the word "agent"... But I don't know. That's a big question and I feel funny answering it. I like to make stuff.
JC: It's like asking, "what is art? " It's so strange, someone asks you a question like that-they seldom do, thankfully--and it just throws you, you just go, um .... ah.... And you think, why can't I answer that? Have I--
EL: --spaced out the last 15 years? Those are the questions I respond to with two letter words.
JC: Hmm.
EL: I guess I'm just trying to pay attention somehow.
[long pause]
[sighs of exhaustion]
EL: You know, we didn't really talk about memory.
JC: We forgot to talk about memory.

__________________________________


Secret History

More Permutations

100 Years 100 Stones

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