We've asked a coupletimes, and we're not going to force you and not puta whole bunch of peer pressure, so I won't even look up there.
But we would love the cozinessof coming towards the front.
This is our first artlecture in spring quarter, and we honored Dayof Absence on week 2.
So week 4, today, we have– I'm going to go throughwho's coming up this quarter.
It's pretty busy andexciting schedule.
Today we haveMargot Quan Knight.
And week 5, next week,we have Gregg Horowitz, who's a scholar and philosophyof art and aesthetics.
Week 6 is Jordan Abel.
He's a Nisga'a poetand editor and writer.
Week 8 we have Dawn Cerny,who's a 2 and 3D visual artist, and who has an exhibit up atthe Henry Art Gallery right now, and this Thursday, tomorrow,is giving a performance at the Henry.
Week 9 we have Meehan Cristcoming in from New York.
She may be actually–yeah, New York– writer-in-residence inthe Biological Sciences at Columbia.
And then potentially, week10, a [? pachockcha ?] of graduating studentsacross the board who attend the lecture series,which is this crazy speed dial through aproject, but there's something really nice about it.
It gives you a sense of whatsomeone has been working on without too much depth,but also it's fresh because it has to be so fast.
So it's not polished, andthere's something really nice about that.
So if you'reinterested, let me know, because it will happen dependingon how much interest there is.
I also want to alwaysbegin the series by thanking the peoplethat are invisible that put this work together.
Electronic media doesa really beautiful job with the recording.
We now have some ofthe best recordings of lectures that I'mseeing on the internet from various schoolsand institutions across the country withjust really fine quality, and that they are made up ofRaoul Berman, Ben Hargett, Dave Cramton, and many others,plus the student interns who do a lot of the work.
Julie Ron is the person who– she's one of theprogram secretaries, but she helps emailthe artists with these beautiful instructionsand warm welcoming and lots of detailsfor people to get here and to get set upwith what they're going to use for their media.
And then finally SusanKeefe and the people that help us schedule spaces.
So just so you allknow, there's a lot of infrastructurebehind this, and we just want to thank those people.
[APPLAUSE] Thanks for clapping.
So I'm going to introduceMargot Quan Knight.
I'm going to start withwhere she went to school.
She has a BA from Dartmouthand an MFA from Bard, and then she also studied atthe photo department in Fabrica in Villorba, Italy.
She works around the mediumof photography and video, which a lot of us think about– I work around themedium of painting, which is about its relationshipto a particular history, but it doesn't onlyreside in that medium.
It's also responding tophotography, video technology, all kinds of things.
So I think of Margot'swork doing the same.
She has been featured in over70 international publications.
She's exhibited at Gas ArtGallery in Turin, Italy; 911 Media Arts in Seattle,which is no longer; California StateUniversity in Chico; Centre Pompidou in Paris;Kunst Gallery, Galleria Museo in Bolzano, Italy; theDotmov Festival in Sapporo, Japan; Randall Scott Galleryin DC; Gallery for Culture; SOIL; James Harris– lots and lots of places.
So she sort of looks– like I was sayingabout photography, the potential ofphotography to push beyond fixed events oractual objects and time and looking at– she tends to look atits use as communication and a relationshipwith technology.
Jen Graves wrote about a showshe had at James Harris Gallery that "Margot's workhad no interest in ranking photography,only exploring the effects they have on us andthe ways we use and need them.
The work wants to make aphotograph that is unfinished.
What's unfinishedcan't quite ever die.
" So let's welcome Margot.
[APPLAUSE] Thanks to all forinviting me here.
I'm really excitedto be down here.
This is my firstvisit to Evergreen, so really excited totalk with you guys today.
Here we go.
Let me log in andget my PowerPoint up.
All right, that's my name.
Here we go.
I want to talk abouttransformation today.
I remember back a million yearsago when I was in school too, and it was such a timeof transformation– discovering what are allthese different subjects? Which one am I interested in? What am I going todo with my life? And I'm still inthat same space, and you probably will befor a really long time, even though it's very frontand center right now for you.
And the cool thingabout art is that it leaves a visual record– ripples in the waterof that transformation that you go through.
So I'm going to sharea bit of my history– of course leaving out a ton– but just see some of thosestepping stones behind me and talk about life.
Life is so– it changes.
Nothing ever stays thesame, and every person adapts in what they're doing.
And I think you'llsee that in the work.
These questions havebeen my guiding lights as I've tried to figure outhow do you do an art practice or make a life or figure outhow to balance things out? And so I'm always asking myselfat the start of every project as well as just in termsof broader life, what do I care about right now? And how do I wantto spend my time? Because life is so short.
Of course there are billsto pay and all of that.
But the driving force– if you're going to spendeight hours a day for five days a week, or evenmore, doing something, make it worth your while, right? So I was reallyfocused on that– as well as when Istart a project, I literally sit down witha piece of paper and list, what do I care about right now? Or who or what issues, orwhat's coming up in the news, or what's happeningin my personal life? And it's OK to put thosethings into your practice.
Art is very accepting of allthose outside influences.
And then later I thought abouthow do I make that possible? OK, is it part-time jobs? Is it grants? Is it gallery representation? All that kind of stuff.
But if you answer thebigger questions first, then you know what youneed to make possible.
These are kind ofdry, boring slides.
We'll get intopictures really soon.
This is something–if you do science, you probably are reallyaware of this kind of cycle of howyou develop ideas, or how ideas within afield get developed.
And so I think about thiswhen I'm making work, and I think about where I amin each part of the cycle.
So any time I'm awake– hopefully even asleep–I'm observing the world and seeing what'shappening out there, letting in all of those sourcesthat could be life events.
But they also couldbe very intentional– going to shows, going tosee art in other places, reading critical readings.
What is the dialogue that'sgoing on in my field? And just trying to absorband observe as much of that as possible.
And then there's the brainstormtime when I generate ideas.
And then separately fromthat in the ideal world, it's another sessionto look at those ideas.
And this does nothappen in a day.
It's a long, drawn out thing.
Choosing whichones of these do I feel strongly enoughthat I actually want to put the effortinto making them? And then I'll go to actually getout a camera or a paint brush or a pencil orwhatever, and start to make something physical.
And once you havesomething physical in hand, you can evaluate it.
Is this what I wanted? Maybe it wants somethingelse that I didn't think of.
Let me give it some freedomto do what it needs to do.
And bring in other peopleto help evaluate it– studio visits fromfriends or whoever.
And try and figure out– I made one step.
Am I going in theright direction? Do I need to shift a littlebit as I take the next step around the cycle again? So I feel like this is somethingthat I use in my art life and also in my regularlife of like, hey, I'm going to try outthis part-time job and see if it's somethingthat works for my life or that I'm interested in.
And then give it sixmonths to get in there and then evaluate–is that what I wanted? Is that working for me? And does my boss like me? Get that feedbackfrom others, and then think about the nextstep around the cycle.
So I feel like this canapply in lots of places.
Here are my quick tips for themore creative side of things.
I really think about– the key is to start your journeywithout knowing where you're going, because if youknow where you're going, that's just propaganda andit's also boring for you.
And one of the key thingsthat I've sought in my life in terms of how do Iwant to spend my time is, I don't want to be bored.
And if I'm going to makethe choice to do art– which you're not going toget a ton of outside income for that– well, at least I want tomake sure I'm doing something that's super interesting to me.
So not having thatdestination means it's going to be meaningfulfor you, and then hopefully for others as well.
Staying open tochanging direction.
You'll see that as I getinto all the pictures of– a person changes andgrows, and the work gets its owndirection, and you just follow it wherever it leads.
And then the other thingthat I've struggled with– and I make thismistake over and over and that's why I'mtelling you about it– is invest as little aspossible in an idea.
Which seems counterintuitive,but for me it's been really helpful, becausemy tendency as a type A person is to check everyt and get it just exactly how I meant it to be.
And you really don'tneed to do that.
If you're on this cycle ofiteration of trying things out, you just need to do enoughwork to see the idea and evaluate it.
You don't have to get it allthe way to perfection or– you need perfection interms of, OK, I can see it.
But you don't haveto go all the way.
So go quick and go fastand fail early and often, is the takeaway.
So now I'm going toget into pictures, and I'll start with where Iwas when I was you guys' age.
So I was in college.
This is my friends who Idid a lot of kayaking with.
And it was at thistime in my life when I realized the power thatphotography had in our lives.
Because I was living with abunch of gals, and all of them and all of our sisters– except for myself forsome weird reason– maybe because I hung outwith these people who don't care what they look like.
But all of these galsstruggled with eating disorders and with body image stuff.
And all of oursisters did as well.
And it was crushing to seethese incredibly wonderful, intelligent, talentedwomen all being subsumed under this awful power.
And so I couldn't figure outwhere it was coming from.
I mean, there areso many sources.
But photography seemedlike one of them– or one way through whichthat power was made visible.
And so I started toplay with how can I own that power for myselfand use it to talk back? And so that was what Ifocused on in college, was trying to constructsome kind of defenses for the friends andfamily around me.
So I started playingwith advertising images.
And advertising is sointeresting, because if you watch TV, watch theadvertisements with the sound turned off, you suddenlyrealize what they're trying to tell you, which is crazy.
It's like, there's anadvertisement for shampoo, and if you wear thatyou're going to be really in touch with kangaroos whoare with nature and smell like rainbows and– it's just soillogical and weird.
And so I startedlike, all right, if you want to be weirdand pull your logic out into this crazy place,I'll pull my logic out into that crazyplace too, and so play with extending the logicto its natural conclusion or what they meant.
So these were just fun things.
And I would paste them intomagazines at the grocery store and stuff like that and just– [LAUGHTER] it's so weird, right? Like what did those thingshave to do with each other? Nothing, but somehowyou can do that with the magic of image making.
So I was really into that.
And then, let's see,what did I do next? Then I finished school andwas doing PR at this place that is– I was trying tofigure out, do I want to do actual advertisingand PR, or do I want to do this weird art thing? And so I got a job ata PR firm, because you need to see what isit like in there? And if you even come in as anintern doing boring things, at least you can look up andsee, OK, the more senior people who I'm reporting to,what's their life like, and what kind of things dothey get to think about? And is that somethinginteresting to me? And it really wasn't, becauseat the end of the day, there's just a ton ofevent planning and brochure making and all of this stuff.
And so the nextthing I tried was this place calledFabrica, which is kind of communications based.
It's a communicationart research center that's run by Benetton,which we know as sweaters, but in Italy they're likea multi giant octopus of a company that ownspart of the highway system and does all these big things.
So they have this art centerwhere they bring students from all over the world.
You have to be under 25, orat least when I went you did.
And it was a great place.
It was kind of like, do whateveryou want, as long as what you want is what we want.
Which was fine, becausewhat I wanted was somehow in line with what they wanted.
And I continued doing thatresearch with the human body and why women arefeeling this pressure.
And so I'll mentionhere one of my sources.
My parents are bothin the medical field.
I would come downthe hall, and there's my dad watching some supergory video of the inside of somebody's knee.
And the person teaching howto do this new procedure is sticking theirfinger in there and pulling onligaments and stuff.
And I'd be like, gross! And my dad would say,now, now, the human finger is the most sensitive tool ofall the millions of instruments that a surgeon has.
And so this idea ofmanipulating the body to cure and to help, rather than to harmthe body, was really central.
And then one ofmy favorite books was my mom didpediatrics, and she had this book of all– it wascalled Smith's Recognizable Patterns of Human Malformation.
So it's all the teratomas andbirth defects and syndromes, and all of the waysthat the human body is incrediblymalleable and plastic and can come out lookingso different than what we imagined as a normal body.
And so I took that idea ofthe plasticity of the body into my work.
And I was having a ton of fun.
It was just so much fun beingthere and getting to do stuff, and having all these otherpeople my age who were all doing their own thing as well.
And I really developed my ownvisual language and my own sort of thrust, whichwas to take a motion and make it visible in someway, or to use the body to visualize theseforces or ideas that were happening on it.
This one was about breastcancer, which my mom had when I was in college.
And I think it was justso much fun being there, but also emotions aresometimes painful, and what do you do with that? You can decide.
I like this book that I'verecently read from my day job.
It's called Conscious Business:Building Value Through Values, and it's by this guy– I think his name is Paul Kofman,if I'm remembering it right.
But he talks about–you can accept things that happen to you askind of a victim of like, oh, this crappy thinghappened, and it's all because of these outsidesources, and woe, poor me.
Or you can take a moreactive stance and say, this thing happened.
Yeah, maybe 99% of it hadto do with outside forces, but where's my 1%? Where's my point where Ican come in and make change? And it's not about acceptingblame for these bad things that happen.
It's about finding aleverage point where then you can have power tomake things better, or to insert yourself into thesituation in an active way.
And so seeing sad emotionsor feeling sad emotions, I felt like, OK,this is happening.
Or I'm feeling this andit doesn't feel great, but I'm going to dosomething with it, A, so I can process it– yay therapy.
But also so– ifthis is real for me, it's got to be real forothers, and how can I get into those emotionsand use them for something productive for myself? Then I transitioned again fromschool back into regular life.
And that was scary because Ithink throughout my art time, I feel like the– what is it– the canI make art in a box? Can I make it with a fox? Can I make it in school? And so I'm constantlygoing through that, like, I'm not in school.
Can I make it all alone? Now I'm going toanother country.
Can I make it in aforeign language? You know, I'mconstantly doing that.
And after years and years ofdoing that and having that fear every singletransition, oh my god, yes.
No matter what happens,you'll find a way.
And I found a way.
And so I was always anxiousabout those transitions, but you get there.
And the way you get thereis you go out and get into that observation mode andsee, OK, I'm in a new place.
OK, I'm in a new space.
Personally, what again,what do I care about? And I really spend a lot oftime when I'm in that phase– not in the midst ofa making period– I really focus on absorbingand being out in the world.
So this was a time– I spent seven hoursin this museum, and there were these amazingpaintings by Fernand Leger– old things that have nothingto do with photography, but they had all thesedismembered body parts.
And that suddenlyresonated with me because I'm alwaysworking on the body, and also because I usedto do white water kayaking and always had myshoulders popping out.
And it was like, ohmy god, that's me.
Look at that dislocation.
And so I took that andtried to bring that into my visual languageof photography.
So I did things like this– which this is in the SkykomishRiver, not that far from here.
And I basically painted– I mean, the making ofwas really fun for me because it's so hands on.
And this lookslike all Photoshop, and there's definitelya little Photoshop to get the coloronto those objects.
But the objects areall physical objects.
So I'd paint wax onto myself formy really helpful friend, who's like, yeah sure, puthot wax on my body.
And I'd make casts and thenmake molds with plaster, and sand them down to makethese rounded body parts.
And then we'd huck them inthe water and do some photos.
So I was– yeah, I dida whole series of these all in different placesabout the sense of falling apart and fragmentation.
And I was looking againat all these different art sources from FernandLeger to– this is Jean Arp, who didthese amazing sculptures– and just thinkingabout the human body.
And I guess becauseof that work, I ended up getting pickedup by a gallery in Italy run by a guy namedPietro Gagliardi, and he was a great match for mebecause he had an advertising background.
And he also, weirdly,had the model that was more likean advertising firm, of where you pick youngtalent and then grow them up within the firm.
So instead of a normalgallery situation, he picked some young artist andsaid, I'm going to support you.
So we had this deal whereyou had more stable income.
He would get to pick and have alot of the work at a lower rate than you wouldnormally get or give for a gallery relationship.
But it had thisstability aspect, and it was an amazing thingthat allowed me to make work– not completelyfull-time, but almost full-time– for like 10 years.
And so that was anincredible gift, or lucky thing that happened.
Let's see, then I moved– so I've been in SanFrancisco for a couple years after being in Italy.
And then I cameback up to Seattle, and I was still kind ofthinking about giving physical form tothings or feelings and trying different ways.
I started using less Photoshopand more just the photography tricks that alreadyexist, like strobes.
This was in a homelessshelter south of Seattle.
And this was based on apainting by Caravaggio called The Death of theVirgin, and I loved that because I went and sawthat in a church someplace.
And it was– I felt so in touch with whatCaravaggio was trying to do, because here he wastaking a physical object– so normally when you see aDeath of the Virgin picture– I don't know how familiaryou guys are with all these old, religious paintings.
Normally Mary is on this cloud.
She is beautiful and youngand surrounded by cherubs, and she's going up into theair on this lovely cloud with flowers and raysof light and everything.
But when Caravaggio did it,he was a little bit more like a salt of theearth kind of person.
And he went and found at themorgue a dead prostitute's body and painted that, which waslike, whoa, horrifying for all the viewers at the time.
But the thing that hedid that was uplifting– above this very earthly,shocking scene of earthly mourning with people aroundmourning this bloated body– was this huge redcloth up in the air that was draped and crazy.
It takes up 2/3 of thepainting, and it's this huge– I should've put apicture in here.
Anyway, but that idea of givingthe object all the emotion and all of the spiritwas very in line with what I was looking for.
So really I'm alwayswalking around the world looking at art, lookingat things and saying, oh, I could have thatin my visual language, or like, oh, thatresonates with me.
And you walk around and pickthese things out of the world around you.
And then I went and didmy MFA at Bard College, which was really great.
Basically, you go to gradschool for art when you're ready to take off your coat– and the kind of workyou've been making and the way that you've beenthinking, and just drop it and figure out what'sunderneath there.
And you have to regenerateyourself from scratch, or at least that was theapproach that I took.
And at that time Iwas really freaked out because I'd had this near-deaththing of getting hit by a car while I was on my bike.
And the weirdness of timewhere things sort of stop or slow down when you arein that thing of like, there's the car hood and there'syou, and it's just still there, and then it happens.
And so I was really intotime and thinking about time.
And I also was getting reallyfrustrated with photography because I feltlike it couldn't– I was obsessed withdeath, like my own death.
And then, of course,I'd project that onto everybody else around me,like, they're going to die.
My mom's going to die.
My sister's going to die.
Everybody who rides abike is going to die.
And so I– I'll show you this two-minutevideo that I made at that time.
Let's see if I canget it to wake up.
Option F, here we go.
So this is what Idid at that time.
Thinking about how photographycan capture a person's life, if I can hold ontothem in some way.
[BABY CRYING] Oh, no.
I hate me.
–is a friend of mine [INTERPOSING VOICES] You.
–was the most difficultthing and we didn't– Be upset.
Back on– [CAMERA CLICKING] Get out of that.
So that was methinking about, OK, what can photographyreally do for me? What do you got forme here, people? If we're all going to die andall I have left is this photo, does it do the thingthat I want it to do, that we want vernacular[VIDEO RESTARTS] photography– oh, sorry.
Now you're done.
All right, go away.
OK, here we go.
Does it do thething that we hope that it'll do to preserve aperson or a moment in time? And I felt really frustratedthat it didn't do it, and I didn't getenough of real life into that flat little photo.
And even if I tookevery single photo that existed in theworld of my mother, say– because she happensto have a lifespan that was really great,because it overlaps with the photographypost-World War II, and it's black andwhite and then grows in adolescence into color, andthen she's digital by the end.
And there's that bulkof images of a person.
So her timing fit reallywell with the history of recent photographyas well as a person that I cared about and hadaccess to their record.
But anyway, I wassuper frustrated, like it's not enough.
The real life isnot in those photos.
First of all, only two minutesin the end, and all of them are smiling.
They don't show any of thehardship or reality of life.
And so I spent the next– whatever since then–number of years trying to squishmore of real life into the surface of a photo.
And so what Istarted with was, OK, can I somehow combine twoimages on one surface? And so in this picture,I'm using a projector to project one photo of ababy onto a photo of an adult, and just seeing like, canI compress time and things into one image that way? How does that work? And so I started making these– a couple differentworks in a series that were about projecting videothrough photographs and sort of to bring thephotographs to life.
So this setup was–yeah, the setup is there's a photo hanging,and it's hanging in the air, and then there's aprojector behind it that projects thevideo of the same image basically onto the photo.
And so, let's see.
I'm not going to showthe video, but the idea is that the photo showsthe eyes are always closed, and then the videois dark except when a car headlight comes by– which was really my friendrunning by with a light.
But in the video,her eyes are open, and she talked about whenyou get to be a grown-up, I guess you wake up in thenight and worry about stuff.
So I'm a grown up now.
But that was this thing ofshe looks like she's sleeping, but every time the lightgoes by, she's awake, and it happens every so often inthis sort of eerie, live photo.
And then I tried a wholebunch of different ways to squish lifeinto flat surfaces.
So I took mirrors and Ietched the back of a mirror so that if I stand injust the right place, I can fill in my own image–or whoever the portrait is of.
They'd fill in their ownface so you'd see them aging on that flat surface.
I tried a light box,where instead of– like a regular light boxadvertisement like what you'd see in the airport.
There's a picture and there'sa bank of lights behind it.
And so I took that andthen added a two-way mirror on the front so thatyou see the image.
In this case, it was a referenceto this Italian artist, Pistoletto, who wasfamous for doing these mirror-like,tall, vertical sheets of polished stainlesssteel that had then silk screens of people.
So they looked likethey were a doorway.
And if they werein the gallery, it looked like you wereseeing into another room, but there was this person.
But his name inItalian also means– Pistoletto is pistolbed, which was weird.
But so I just rotatedit and turned it into some kind of film thingand where there's this– so here's the picture,but it's also a mirror.
And so you can kind of confrontyourself across this thing, like who's goingto win this battle? And then anotherapproach I took was trying to add a time factorinto the photograph itself.
And I really love– photographs are made ofsilver in the old days, which is such an incredible material.
And so I took a big sheet ofbrass and had it silver-plated, and then I silkscreenedan image onto it.
But instead of silkscreeningon it with ink, I silkscreened acidonto the image.
And so there's nopigment on there.
It's just that where theacid touched the silver, it tarnished it.
And so here's the finalpicture, and then the idea is that over time the restof that sheet of silver will also tarnish– justbecause air will eventually tarnish it and eventuallyobscure the image.
So when I get an idea andit's really gnawing at me, I try to take– I often take the Helen Kellerapproach, which is like, OK, what is this thing? I'm totally blind, and I'mgoing to just feel my way around and try and get theshape of this problem by getting at it with allthese different fingers– which in my case, are allthese different mediums.
So what with the mirror? What with glass? What with this,that, and the other? Silver, all these things.
So you'll see me do that a lotin these different projects.
This was in graduate school.
I did a another project– an installation projectstill about bringing life into a photograph.
So out in the parking lotoutside the gallery space, I set up a bunch of mirrors,and they're exactly– I found some crappy broken glassor whatever that was cheap– but they're angledspecifically so at a certain time of theday, they send a ray of light into the gallery door– whenthe door is propped open, they send it in.
And then I've gotanother mirror propped up in the hallway, which thenshoots that ray of light into my gallery space.
And so I had thisimage of the sky, and then it would beilluminated by whatever the conditions were outside.
And this was inupstate New York, so it was reallyfun, because then like 4 o'clock every afternoon,there's a massive thunderstorm.
And so the clouds are racing,and the light in that room would just go crazy, so Itimed it to work for that.
But just trying allthese different ways of how can I get more life– more of the world–into this flat surface? And let's see.
Then I came backre-entering regular life.
And so I was playingagain and trying to take my advice of playingquick and fast and cheap, and so I'd be in my parents'backyard trying to figure out what I'm going to do next.
And I know some of you guysare in the course doing Northwest Coast art.
Is that right? All right, cool.
I love NorthwestCoast art, and one of the things that isso amazing about it is what a constrainedset of visual items you have to choose from.
You have an ovoid,you have a form line, you have– whateverthat shape is called that makes fins andwings and those kind of things.
And you can always addsome claws and teeth, but you basically have veryfew pieces to put together, and yet the incredible varietythat comes out is amazing.
And it speaks tothat human creativity within a set of constraints.
And so as an artist,I, through my practice, have evolved into here aremy visual items that I have to choose from, and how can Icombine them in different ways and add some clawsand teeth as needed to see what happens with that? And so this idea ofreflection of glass surfaces– that's definitely one ofthe items in my toolbox.
And so when I wasready to play again, it's like, all right, I'lltake a couple little pieces of mirror from Home Depot–they sell these little tiles– and go out in thebackyard with a camera, and just see what happens.
What's interesting about that? And so, OK, this is apicture of the glass surface.
And I can see throughthe camera that I can see the laundry line.
But then if I focus onthe glass surface itself– and you can see there'sscratches on it– then I see the surface,but I can't really see the laundry line anymore.
So it's really hard tosee what the picture's of and what the picture'son at the same time.
This is my continuedpreoccupation with this surface and how I can turn itinto a stuffed crust pizza and put more stuff in there.
And so I went througha ton of iterations.
I'm not going toshow you all that, but building grids,cutting glass– what can I do with this thing? And I eventually got toa place of turning it into a quilt where youcan see the surface, because now it has thisvery strong pattern.
And you can also see what'sreflected on all of the pieces.
And this is so– I mean, quilts andphotography are so similar.
Part of this ideacame because I would use my parents' houseas my studio a lot, because they'd go to work andI'd come from my apartment and do stuff there where theyhad space and a wood shop.
And then I'd leave at the endof the day and they'd come home.
And I actually have never hada studio in my entire life– except when I was atschool for a couple months in the summer– andI've always had to make do with other spaces.
But it's been fine.
But so walking throughtheir house, there's this– that's my heritageas a kid, right? It's all there.
And this quilt onmy parents' bed– suddenly I looked at it,and they have a quilt.
It's made of all thesedifferent fragments of fabric, like the curtains we used tohave and somebody's jeans that wore out and the same fabric mymom had made bell bottoms out of in the '60s– all these different fabricsthat were part of our lives.
And then up above the bed areall these photos of the family.
And it's like, oh,there's that moment where we went on a vacation.
There's that moment ofthe kids looking cute.
There's that moment of that.
It was like, oh my god,they're the same thing.
A quilt and a photo doexactly the same thing.
They reference thebroader life that's outside of that family space.
And so it seemed like thequilt was a perfect thing to turn into a photograph,or in this case, more like a camera lens.
And so I would take this–this is my neighbor's house in her basement.
So I took my quilt to like20-some-odd people's spaces, and, OK, this is what Iwant to take a picture of, is her space.
And then I would setup my quilt in there with my lights and everything,and then I would actually photograph the quilt itself.
So here is the kind ofimage I would get out of it.
And it's on fabric, so it'sreally wobbly and clattery.
And I would stick a broombehind it to pooch it out so it would avoid thecamera a little bit.
And then I would spend likethree hours on each photo shoot wadding up tissue paper ortoilet paper into little balls and sticking it undereach piece of glass, because each of thoselittle fragments could face adifferent direction.
So yeah, up closeryou see all these kind of fragments of this spaceand this person's history.
And I was doingthis at the time– this was 2008 when McCainand Obama were campaigning for president.
And I liked the idea thatthis very American surface– the quilt– could gointo anybody's house, because they were always arguingabout what are American values.
What's America about? And here's a quilt,like a camera, that can have infinite imagespass across the surface, and none of thoseare definitive.
They just come and go.
And so no matter whosehouse you take it into, this quilt turns into itself.
And it was– yeah, a lot of fun.
And then as I was doing that,I'm also thinking how am I feeling around this project? And I realized one day as I waswalking up and down the hallway in their house, like, oh mygod, it's happening again.
There it is.
There's their family photosort of thing on the wall, and there's another photodown at the end that's getting reflected on those.
And so those photos areturning into mirrors.
I mean, there's so much writtenabout photography versus– photography as a window versusphotography as a mirror, and that's a whole thing.
I'm not burdening you guyswith all the art theory stuff that I was– I'd always be reading at thesame time as doing these.
So I started– I spent a year kind ofbeing a moth and circling around the house,around these photographs that were hung on theirwalls in their house, just over and over, goingback to them as time changed, as seasons passed, andphotographing the photographs themselves, but witha mind to capture what was passing over the surface.
Because we talk about aphotograph as a moment from the past, but you cannever see the past as itself.
You always see itthrough the present.
And so instead of seeing thisas a static object, I saw it as, here's a momentfrom the past that is constantly hurtlingforward through time to be with us in the present.
And so we can only ever seeit through what's around it– through its current context.
And it was really fun to lookso closely at these photographs and see– sometimes it wouldget really crazy, because you could see onein the other, and ugh.
And this is actually a– this is a shot ofit in the gallery.
This is an installationview, so I framed it– trying to frame it withthe same color frame as shows up in the picture.
And then, also, usually youtry and put non-glare Plexiglas on the front, but I purposefullychose the really shiny finish so that it would happen again.
And that as people putthese in their own homes, it takes on that life againand reflects its surroundings again.
So that was a whole series.
And then we moved to the UnitedKingdom, to London, and– how am I doing on time? We're OK.
And then I had the terrorof can I do it in a box? Can I do it in the UK withno studio and just a kitchen table, and no community? One of the things Ilove about this area is the really warm andfriendly arts community.
I think that whenI did kayak racing, it was a very friendlycommunity because there's no money in the sport.
And the same thing aboutart, because it's not this competitivething where you're going to get someone out andget this lucrative gallery representation or something.
It's very friendly becauseof that, for better or worse.
But so here I wasfeeling very alone.
My husband's workinglike 80 hours a week.
And I was trying to meetpeople but, you know, you're brand new, and Iwasn't in an art school because I'd already done that.
So one of my sociallifelines was to use Skype and talkto friends and family who are around the world.
And I started realizing– as I'm using this just fortotally personal means of like, hi, what's happening– that also this is a differentway of using images than I've thought about in the past.
In the past, when I think aboutwhat we use photography for, I think about saving amoment, making a record, capturing something.
And there's also apower dynamic that's usually inherent inphotography and has been a problem that manycritics have talked about, that here's the photographerwho has the camera and has the ability todecide how someone else is represented, becausethey get to take that picture at thesecond and the framing and the lighting and all that,and so there's this imbalance.
And there's also beenthe sense of the camera as being very invasive– surveillance.
Or if you wanted to getintimate photographs, you had to really getinto that community.
So, for example, NanGolden is a photographer who is reallyfamous for breaking into this diaristicbranch of photography.
And so she photographedher own people in her community who happened tobe in a very exciting subgroup.
But she could only take thosekinds of pictures of people cross-dressing and doing drugsand living this very hedonistic life– she could only get thosekind of intimate photographs because she was oneof the community and was super embeddedwithin that world.
And for anyone else to takethat kind of photograph would have been very invasive.
So there's this sense of howcan a photograph get in there without taking advantageof the other people, or the people it's representing? And so with Skype,all of a sudden, it felt like all ofthat was upended.
This image is no longer to save.
It's to communicate now.
It's no longer apower imbalance.
Both of us on both sides of theline get to decide how we look, and we can see each other, andwe can see the other person.
And so this sense of– when I even take a photo,like I'm in a store– hey, should I get this? And I send it to my friend.
Do you like thisshirt or whatever? And it's like, it'sabout communication so much now– the waywe're sharing photographs.
And so I thought,OK, that's a project.
And I started takingpictures of people when I talk to them on Skype– just taking screenshots.
And I took thousands andthousands of screen shots.
And it was so weird,because normally when someone pulls out a camera,the instant response– even if you're two yearsold– is you just put on your smiley camera face.
But on Skype with video, itwas about the connection.
It wasn't aboutthat kind of filter.
And so I felt like,wow, the emotions that are coming through inthese images are so direct.
It was different, because I'mnot a street photographer type person.
I could never getinto people's lives in that way to take thesecandid shots in real life, but on Skype it was alljust landing on my laptop.
And so what I did isI started to think about how I couldrebuild those images and use that source material,which often was very jagged and messy because of thepixelation that would happen, especially if there's a lag.
You guys all probablyhave experienced that.
So I started collectingbroken screens, like broken carwindows, and then I started to rebuild thepictures pixel by pixel and to embed theminto the screen.
So luckily we werein an area of London where there were lotsof source material– not a fancy part of town.
And it turns out that thereare different colors of glass on car windows, like there'swhite which is really clear, and then there's slightly green.
You can also get smokey,but that's harder to get a hold of if it'slike a sunroof or something, or it's not just atint layer on top.
So anyway, I startedrebuilding these things with just that verysubtle difference between the light green andthe clear, and pixel by pixel by pixel.
And I would use this agarstuff, which is really sticky, to stick each piecedown onto the paper.
And then when you glue themdown, you can then just wet it, and the agar melts again andthe paper peels right off.
So I'd glue them ontoa solid sheet of glass.
And then here'sthe picture of it.
So it was kind of likerebuilding a screen– or the surface– with theimage embedded in the surface.
And what I liked about it wasthat it was light sensitive.
So if there was lightbehind it or shining on it, all you could seewas the crackles, and you couldn't seethe image at all.
But then if the light was fromthe front and more diffuse, then you could seethe image coming up.
So they were veryfragile images.
And they were alsoincredibly laborious, like psycho, OCD laborious.
I think I listened to everysingle episode of This American Life that's on the archive.
But I don't know– I guess I had to do that kindof work at that time in my life, because I didn't know whatelse to do with myself.
I've always been like quick anddirty, let's get another idea.
I like art because Ican iterate in a week.
But this took months, andthat was probably dumb, because when I did godown a wrong route, it took months toget off of that.
But I was kind of buying myselftime, like if I'm doing this, then I can figure out whatthe heck I'm going to do next.
So that was that phase.
And then I tried a wholebunch of other things, feeling aroundthe problem again.
So what else is light sensitive? What else is translucent? What else is impacted by lightjust like photographs are? So I tried using a batikmaking tool to make dots of wax on paper.
You know if you'reat a restaurant and you get a greasy spaghettinoodle on your napkin, suddenly it's see-throughwhere that oil is.
So that was theidea– so the wax would make these oily spotsthat would be translucent.
And then if I framed themwith glass on both sides and hung them up in the air,if the light's from the front, it looks one way.
And if the light's from theback, it looks a different way.
Kind of like how photographsgo from positive to negative.
And there's a wholebunch of them hung up.
And then another way that I wasfeeling it out was with paint.
And I loved how Shaw said, I'mworking around photography.
Because people always say,oh, I'm a photo-based artist.
And it's really, yeah,I'm a photo-based artist, but I'm not even using acamera for years on end.
So I think around isa nice way to say it.
So these are paintings.
So I would recreate those Skypescreenshots pixel by pixel with little dabs of paint.
And the paint was clear– it was actually just varnish.
And so under somelighting conditions, you don't see anything at all.
And then under otherlighting conditions, the light would reflectoff of that shiny paint, and you would see the image.
And these are really funto live with because they were so like photography in thatyou have to wait for the light.
One of my mentors is alandscape photographer named Joel Sternfeld.
And so when I would goup to school to Bard, he lived in New York, and Iwould stop by and see him, and I'd stop by and seehim on the way back.
And he had beenfriends with my mom when they were both incollege, and so that was how I got accessto someone like that who was a father oflandscape photography.
Sometimes I would callhim and say, hey Joel, are you in the city? I'm coming through.
And he'd say, no, I'min a field in Vermont, and I'm here withmy 8 by 10, and I've been waiting for hoursfor the light to be right.
It's like, whoa, you'rea real photographer.
I don't know anything aboutthat, but that's amazing.
And so I was like, gosh,he's the real thing.
That's what photographyreally is, is you have to wait for the light.
And Skype was like, god,I have to wait for the sun to come up on the otherside of the planet so these people I like willwake up and talk to me.
And so I thought,if I have to wait, there's this thing aboutlatency and photography.
At least in the old days,you had to wait for an image to show up.
And then here, you have to waiteven to see the image itself.
And so I liked adding thatwaiting into all the aspects of picture making and viewing.
I think this is a videothat doesn't actually work.
Let's see if it plays.
No, all right.
That's my bad.
But basically, ifyou walk by it's really cool becausethe light kind of rolls across the surface as you go by,and then they disappear again.
And so I'd have them all–when I was making this show, they were all aroundour apartment, and they'd be all white.
And then at a certain timeof day, some would show up, and it was like, oh,my people are here.
But you don't have to be herelooking at me all the time, which is nice– see you later.
So they're good housemates.
And again, just peopletelling their stories from all over the place.
OK, then I had a kid.
And this was another,can I make it in a box? Can I make it when I have a kid? I was so terrified aboutthat, like so terrified.
But it was fine.
But I also kind ofkilled myself making that show that I just showed youwhile my kid was really tiny.
It was not easy.
I think if I didit again, I would be a little kinder to myselfand have a little more faith that you don't have to doeverything right now because of that fear.
So then continuing withthis sense of invisibility and latency andimagery, I did a project where I photographed silhouettesof all of the women in my baby group who had become thesevery important other humans who I interacted with andspoke complete sentences with while my first kidwas really, really small.
So this was in London.
And normally a silhouettebust of someone is very important,famous, usually male.
And so I thought, OK, it'llbe these women who we– and all of us have babies.
And so I took photographsof their silhouettes.
You can see it.
And I silkscreenedthe silhouettes onto clear plexiglasswith clear varnish again.
So this time youdon't see it at all if it's just in thedim light, but if you shine a spotlight on it, thenthe varnish makes a shadow.
It casts a shadow onto the back.
And so these are mountedan inch or two away from the back of the frameso that shadow would be cast.
And so I did a wholeseries of those.
And you can see the actualvarnish is just that little– in the back of the hair.
And this isn't me.
This is another gal.
But in the back of the hair,that's the actual varnish.
But the black line yousee around is the shadow.
And then we came home, andI was showing with SOIL.
I was really excitedto be home and I joined SOIL, which is an artcollective in downtown Seattle.
And it was really fun to bepart of a community again.
And I did a project where Ikind of hypothesized, like hey, I've got this kid.
I don't have time to doanything for myself right now besides make some moneyand take care of my kid and do family stuff.
And so he can make the art, andsince I made him, whatever he makes is kind of mine, right? So I did a showof his paintings.
And yeah, that was him.
And he ran around the galleryscreaming, mine, mine, mine, which was kind ofwhat every artist does at their opening.
He was two years old then.
Yeah, so I wroteup a whole thing, and I interviewed himabout what paint he chose and why he choseit and all that, and we wrote it up andput it in a little zene thing that went with it.
So that was kind of fun,except since then when I've had other shows, this oneart critic in Seattle who's more disdaining willcome up and be like, is this another show of workthat your children have made? I was like, well, maybe.
What do you think? But yeah, SOIL'sgreat because it's a place where you canexperiment and do things that aren't your normal thing.
And you're not trying to make agillion bucks out of your show there, which I never do anyways.
But it's an experimentalspace, so that's what you're supposedto do there.
And so that was afun thing to do.
And then I started thisproject called Synecdoche, which, of course, I didn'thave a title at the start.
But what synecdoche meansis, a part for the whole.
So if you say, hey, we got– how about this one? Our website got 500 eyeballs.
Well, you're sayingeyeballs, but you're really referring to a whole person.
So that's a synecdoche.
And photography is alwaysa synecdoche, right? It refers to this otherbigger whole thing.
And so I started playingwith the printing press, and I got access to thisgreat printmaking studio.
And I started with puttinggarbage through the printing press, and like, wow, it comesout the other side all flat, and you can see a picture ofit if you put paper on top, and that's so cool.
And then– I don't know why–somehow I ended up on doilies, and I got totally obsessedwith buying doilies on eBay, which is unfortunate.
And every time a packagewould come to our house, my two-year-oldwould say, doily, and it's like, I thinkI have a problem.
But they were so beautiful,and they were so much about women's work.
And they were so disgustingbecause they were like– they call it ecru, whichreally means brown.
And some of them werefrom the Victorian era, and they've beenstained by tea– like they'd dip them in teato dye them to cover a spot.
And so they were thisdisgusting off-beige.
And some of themwere clearly made– or lived in the homeof a chain smoker, so then when you'diron them, they'd just reek of stale cigarette smoke.
And the aesthetic is likecompletely the opposite of a modern taste.
So they were really appealingto me because of all that.
Because here is thisepitome of women's work.
It's so like art in that massivehours of labor went into it, and yet it cost $5 on eBay.
So there were allthese things about them that seemed very in line withthe things I was thinking about– labor, women'swork, things that are more beautiful intheir representation than they are in reality, whichis what photographs often do.
And so for lots of reasons,I was drawn to them and bought too many of them.
And so I would dodifferent things with them, feeling around this problem.
So what if I embossedthem into paper? Yay, a blind embossment.
And then I got into foil.
So I'd get extra heavy dutyaluminum foil, which is so– you use it in the kitchen– another women's thing.
And yet it was unbelievablewhat would come out.
Just this thing that cost$0.
02, plus a $5 doily, and you run it throughthe printing press, and it's like, oh mygod, transformation.
That's what image-making does.
It transforms the object.
And so I made lots of thoseand they were really fun.
And then I got into alsotaking photographs of them as cyanotypes.
And these are all one-to-onerelationships, right? There's no size transferwith an embossment.
It's just the size of the actualthing that you squish it onto.
With a cyanotype, the way Iwas making it was the same.
So you get this fabricthat's impregnated with photosensitivematerial, and then you lay the doily orwhatever object on top, and you blast it with UVlight, which could be the sun or it could be aUV light source.
And then anywhere thathas been in shadow, that chemistry rinses out.
And anywhere where the UVlight has hit the chemistry, it hardens and goes throughthis chemical reaction– Fe2 turns into Fe3– I don't remember–but it turns blue.
And this is really cool,because it's like, oh, it's fabric again.
It was fabric andit's become fabric.
And the first photographybook that was ever made was made by a woman namedAnna Atkins using cyanotypes, and it was a science book.
So she tookcyanotype silhouettes of all these differentkinds of seaweed.
And so I thought this allseems to fit together.
And I made these–they were enormous.
This doily's 5 feet across,so that piece of fabric is 8 feet acrossor 9 feet across.
Yeah, it seemed like giving anew life or a more beautiful life to theseobjects that were– been demoted in the aesthetichierarchy in our world.
And I also collectedstories about them.
I didn't think toput any in here.
But people have amazingstories, and they're all once removed because of our age.
So if you ask someone– I asked my coworkers and I askedfriends and I asked just people I knew– hey, do you have anystories about a doily? They're like, oh yeah, mygrandma used to make those.
So like a photograph, it's onceremoved from the actual maker.
And so I felt so sadfor these doilies that I'd find on theinternet, because they don't have any value ifthey're disconnected from the person who made them.
And so I'd give them stories,like each of the pieces had their own titlethat was a long story.
And it'd be things like, oh,my friend gave me this doily.
She brought it withher from Romania because when theyleft Romania, they were being persecuted becausetheir government there thought that they were gypsies.
And so they had to flee,and they stuffed doilies into the children's clothingbecause those were small and they thought they'd beable to sell them and have some money when they got out.
And other ones were like,oh, my friend Alex– my boyfriend, when he was only21, he got his own apartment, and he decorated itthe way his parents decorated their house,which means he had a doily on top of everything.
And then his sister came tohis apartment and was like, you know you don'thave to do that.
So they were anything fromthese historical, deep thoughts to silly things about howour aesthetics have changed.
And they were just–yeah, really appealing.
And let's see.
I'm almost to the end here.
Sometimes I know when Iam feeling out a problem, I kind of go too far andstart crossing my arms over, like gettingrepetitive or whatever.
But I'm in a weird place rightnow because I'm not making art, and I haven't made artsince my second kid was born almost two years agonow, and it's very weird.
And I'm not surehow I should feel about that, because it's beensuch a big part of my life for so long.
It's even weird tobe talking to you now as an artist who's not actuallydoing anything right now.
And what I think about is,what do I miss about art? What was the thing thatit did in my life that was so appealing for so long? And hopefully asthings evolve, I'll be able to find aspace for it again.
But right now it's not– I just can't.
It doesn't meet myneeds right now.
But I think that one of thebest things about doing art was that it's adesignated place where it's safe to experiment andto make mistakes and to fail.
And I think about that all thetime anyway, because like, oh, here's a book that I'mreading to my kids.
And the guy says, it'sOK to make mistakes.
Everybody does it.
That's how we learn.
It's like, yes,that's how we learn.
If you don't makemistakes, you can't grow.
And in my day job now,if I make mistakes, somebody doesn't have whatthey need for a presentation or whatever.
It's not supposed tobe part of the process, whereas in art, you'resupposed to make mistakes.
You're supposed totry a bunch of things that don't work and thenpick the one that does.
And so it was wonderful tobe in a part of the world where mistakes arenot just how we learn, but you have to make themif you want to learn.
And so I would encourageyou in your regular life to take that to heart,because it is something that in the rest ofour culture it's harder to find a safe place for that.
And so this last shotI'll show you is– I call these rocks of failure.
And so I took all of thealuminum foil doilies– the embossments on aluminumfoil that didn't work out or, oops, I dropped abox of them on the floor and they got allbent on the edges.
So I'd ball them up and justsquish them and turn them back into a rock– which was kind of like whatI imagined they came from– and grind them down andmake them smooth and– yeah, get them backto their source.
And they're reallylovely objects because they look like rocks.
And then you go to pickthem up and they're nothing.
They're so light.
So I'll end onthere, and I hope you can think of somequestions, because I'm here and we've stillgot a bit of time.
So that's that.
[APPLAUSE] The microphone is goingtoward the middle– so can you pleasetake your questions to the microphone [INAUDIBLE].
I had a mentor awhile ago who said, whenever you meetsomeone who has an important career ora career, don't ask them for their advice.
Ask them the best advicethey've ever received.
So could I ask you,what is the best advice that you've ever received? That's a great question.
I think when I was livingin Italy at that art center, I did a lot ofcycling because that was a big pastime over there.
And I got adopted bya group of old geezers who were in a social bikeclub, and it was so fun.
They were all like my dad'sage, but nobody my age.
I couldn't keep upwith the guys my age, and there weren't manywomen who rode bikes.
So I ended up riding with allthese old guys every weekend, and it was great.
And one of them– I mean, he was the guy whohad that white jersey with all the stripes on itthat means he's an Italian championfor his age group.
And so we did acrit one weekend– when you go around in acircle and see how fast you can go around it.
And he had greatadvice, because he'd lived through World War II.
He was the guy who waslike, I won't eat corn because that's all I ate duringthe war, or blackberries– because he'd livedon that, basically.
So he'd seen a lot.
And his advice to mewas, just keep pedaling– well, no.
He started– he said,when you're in pain, just keep pedaling.
That way, you always havethe option to quit later.
I have a– hello.
I have a lessinteresting question.
I hope that's fine.
When during yourprofessional career did you start using digitalmanipulation, like Photoshop? I was still incollege when I did.
So it was weird,because I guess– I graduated fromcollege in 1999, so during the coupleof years before that while I was in school.
But it was a time whenthat wasn't really normal for the art department.
I mean, even though atDartmouth there were– you could check emailin the library, or you could checkit in the gym.
You could check it anywhere.
But the art departmentdidn't have computers, and so my photo teacher letme get into the staff lab so I could use it.
And he bought a printer, but itwasn't part of the thing yet.
And then by the time I left,they got a budget in place so that everybody was doing it.
But that was kind of battingaround on my own at first.
So you spoke about, withphotography particularly, trying to bring lifeinto a flat surface.
And so the piece you did whereyou had the glass outside, bringing the sunlightinto the gallery seemed like an experimentin bringing life not just to the flat surfaceof the picture itself but to the gallery space.
And so I guess I was wonderingwhat that relationship was like for you.
If you thought– for you,bringing life to a flat surface and putting that surfacein the gallery brings life to the gallery– especially as somebodywho didn't necessarily have a studio space.
Maybe working in thehome, and so much of your work in yourparents' house and such wasn't at home and– that relationshipthere, I guess, for you? Yeah.
Yeah, that was a fun project,and it was also sort of– I don't know.
At art school– at leastthe one that I went to– it was really about, put upan idea kind of as shoddily as you can, and then ripit down the next minute when you realize it'snot going the right way.
And I did a lot of variationsof things that didn't work before I got to that thing.
So yeah, I mean, it was.
It was lightingthe whole space– just trying to make a spaceout of a thin little piece of plastic thathas an image on it.
And can light go into that, andyes, it fills that whole room.
Some of the otherstuff I had in the room was I had just taken apiece of white butcher paper and taken a floor fan, and Imashed the paper on the fan until it took theshape of the fan.
And then I just propped thatup in the corner, because it's kind of like, here's this roomand this environment with light and wind and all of this.
And it's all kind of onceremoved from actual nature, because we're insideand the light's coming inside through thisweird labyrinth of reflection.
And there's no windin there, but here's a thing that would make wind,but it can't because it's just a sheet of paper.
So yes, I was definitelythinking about the space of this environment.
It was all a little bit awayfrom real outdoor space.
So it seems like somany artists have to balance thisreality that you need to make a living ina day job, but also have time to make your art.
And I was just wondering howmuch your day job and other day jobs that you had in the past– do you look for stuffthat can inform your art? Or are they just alwaystwo separate worlds? Or I guess how thosetwo things interact? That's a great question.
And there are about 100 waysto do it, and I've been– every time I meet an artist, I'mlike, how do you do this thing? Because it is– it's areally hard nut to crack.
And in my case, Itried doing jobs that had to do with photography,and then I realized quickly that if I spent eight hourstaking photos of products, for example, and then went home,the last thing I wanted to do was pick up a camera andtake more photographs.
So for me, justbecause of how I am– and it may bedifferent for others– I had to separate those.
But I did have a verystrategic list of, say, I'm going to have my ownbusiness as an artist– not God's gift to littlelucrative business, but it's a business.
And I need to knowhow to run it.
I need to know howto do my own books.
I need to knowhow to book travel and ship things fromcountry to country.
I need to know howto archive my work.
And so I was very strategicabout taking jobs– I'm going to work for thisgal and manage her office, and through her, get coachedon how to do QuickBooks so that I can dobooks for her company, and that will teach me howto do books for my company.
I will take an internshipfor a couple weeks at a professionalphoto studio so that I can learnhow they archive all of their digitalfiles, and then I can adopt that kindof system on a smaller scale for my own work.
So I was very– always thinkinglike, yes, I need to get a job that isgoing to get me income, but also going to get mesomething to move me forward on this path to my goal.
I am interested– Ithink that you actually– from that last question,I feel that your work is very close to life,that you're low on pretense and you're low on theorizing.
And yet I know you to have quitea bit of history and theory behind you.
And I'm wondering about– so I see your work is veryindexical, very in the world, and also that indexicality hasto do with the material itself.
And so I'm wondering about whatyou think is the relationship– a lot of the studentsare working on research simultaneously, trying to makeobjects or make things or– and those two things can informeach other and be at odds.
So I just wanted youto talk a little bit about your backgroundand theory and history.
That's a good question, too.
Yeah, I guess at this talk Ididn't pull up all my theory references, so I didn't knowif they'd be of interest.
But that's definitelya huge input as much as going andlooking at other art or living in the world.
Reading theory and beingpart of a bigger conversation has been tremendously importantand interesting to me.
So I think yes, I've helped runreading groups for many years so that I would have a chanceto talk and read and bat ideas around with another groupof people who wanted to talk about that at that level.
It definitely–who's your audience? Are you talkingto a couple people in your small tight-knitart community? Are you interestedin the conversation of where photographyis at that's happening at an international level? Where do you want toplay, and who do you care about speaking back to? I've definitely looked moreat that larger audience– not that I think that my worknecessarily will reach them, but they are talking aboutconcepts that interest me and that I want tothrow my two cents out into the pot based on the themesthat they're talking about– about materiality, about therole of photography now, which is changing.
And, of course,this discipline is having a major crisisconstantly of like painting did, of are we still relevant? And now photographyis like, where are we? We're 5,000 things spreadall over every discipline.
Where is our heart and soul? Is it gone? Is it analog photography? Analog itself is going away.
What's happening with that? So all of thesethings have definitely been tremendously important.
And I like thinkingabout them, and I like participating on that level.
I was trying to think– when you're making stuff– I just rememberbeing in college, and I was takingpainting 1, and I was learning art historyof 1940 to the present, and Greenberg said this andthen somebody else said that.
And it was just like,ahhh– like I could hardly dip the paint and paintbrush without being totally tied up with all the stuff Iwas learning about the theory.
And yet, then now whenI read things in theory, it's so helpful.
They explain things aboutthe medium or their concept of the medium that I can eithersay, well, that's total crap, and I'm going tomake something that's exactly the opposite of that.
Or, yeah, that reallyresonates with me, and I'm going to takepieces from each strand.
So yeah, it's wonderfulto have a relationship with that material,because it can be– reading it, you can recognizethings that you're working on and so that's nice.
And then you can alsoabsorb some of it.
So yeah, I didn't push thistalk as much in that direction because it wasn't aphoto-only audience, but it's definitely beena big part of my thinking.
Does that answer–? I was wondering, when youstart with inspiration from a broad kind ofsource like surgery videos or body image orsomething like that, how do you file itdown to knowing what you're going to do with that– like seeing– or starting like,heels, muscle flex, thumb, on heel, you know,stuff like that? And so starting from thesource and then figuring out what you want to say? Or if the image comes beforeit, what you want to say? Something like that.
So I used abrainstorming process at the start of any project– and that may not be on a day.
It may be over weeks of,God, what am I doing? I've just finishedthis other big project.
The show's happened.
Now I have post-show bluesbecause I don't know what the heck I'm going to do next.
And that's when I sit down.
I spend a lot of time goingout and looking at stuff, and I also spent a lot of timesitting down just with a pencil and paper.
And then I start pickingup materials as well.
So there's kind ofthree input streams– playing with materials–materials that I happen to like, like shiny objects– caw– and going andseeing stuff and reading, and then sitting downand thinking about what's coming from in here.
And so I do a brainstorm.
And in a brainstorm, youusually have a problem statement that you're pushing against.
And I usually start with whatdo I care about right now? And the idea is to list outas many things as possible, like fill the whole pageor two or three pages.
Don't worry about what itis or the quality of it or what's right.
Just list it all out.
And then later, you can go backand be like, yeah, that thing has been really on my mind.
And you hold those inthe back of your head as you're looking at stuff.
Or it could besomething unresolved from a previous project of like,that thing was interesting, but what about this other part? And so I definitely doa series of brainstorms.
And then when I get tosomething that's interesting, like this thing about thissurface and this scratch was on the surface,and I couldn't see the laundry and thescratch at the same time.
What can I do with thatso that I can see both? And then I start brainstormingon that, and like, oh, I could try somekind of crazy lens that can see everythingwith an infinite f-stop.
Or I could try– trying to focus on thesurface rather than the image, and see I get allthis blurry stuff.
Or I could try this other thing.
And then you go outand do those things and see which oneis totally stupid and which one seemsinteresting or still confusing.
So it's just this roundabout ofwriting and thinking and then doing.
And you have to doboth parts of it, because if you go toofar writing and thinking, what about actually– you get so much fromthe doing– the hands on– that that cuts off somany options immediately, which is really helpful.
Oh, Shaw, I was thinkingabout what you said too.
I went to see a show once of– oh, now I'm blankingon the painter's name.
It was an old, classic, classicpainter and super famous– in a whole museum.
And I remember seeingthe work and thinking, this guy was at the cuttingedge of what was happening in painting at his time.
That's why he's sofamous, and that's why he's got this whole show.
And not being apainting buff and not knowing the wholehistory of that, like, these are really incrediblywonderful to be in front of.
There is scenes of the circus.
There is all of this stuff.
And it's like, I want to playon both fields at the same time, and I think the best work does– where there's somethingabout theory and then there's somethingabout the heart or common human experience.
And the strongest workhas a piece of both.
My teacher at schoolused to talk about it in terms of being hot and cold.
Well, theory's cold, andif you just have theory, it can get very dry andcold and kind of boring, and it's a lot ofsquares or something.
And if you just have themushy-gushy stuff, what's the point? But to have a little bit of eachmakes Goldilocks really happy, and me too.
I couldn't remember how long agothis show of your child's art was, but I was wonderingif in the time since then, they had, I guess,developed feelings about that experience andthings about making more things.
I don't know.
What effect has that hadon them as a growing being? That's a good question.
Of course his paintings didn'tsell for millions of dollars.
So he's got one above his bed.
And he'll still go up toit sometime and be like– and when he was makingit, it was not anything.
But now he's like, thatis Antarctica, and goes and points to a red blob.
So he likes his paintingand he likes drawing.
He's obsessed with dinosaurs.
He's five now and isobsessed with dinosaurs.
But we just havea bunch of paper around for him to draw on.
But it hasn't been a hugefocus for him since then.
I let him take acamera, actually.
I am kind of collecting hisphotographs, because he loves my phone and he loves Siri.
He and Siri have a reallystrong relationship, although Siri apparently is– like if you tellSiri mean things, she is spicy enoughto not take that lying down, which is nice to hear.
Siri, you're a stegosaurus.
And she'll say thingslike, if you say so.
Or she doesn't totallyagree with you.
But anyway, so he likesto look up images, and he likes to use thephone to take pictures.
And so now I let him take mycrappy point-and-shoot digital camera, and he'll take alot of pictures of things that he finds interesting.
And I find themreally interesting because they're so unfiltered.
And sometimes there's 10of almost the same thing, or they're super blurry– all the things that look likereally cool German hipster photographs, and yet they'reby this five-year-old.
So I don't know, maybe I'll dosomething with them eventually.
But so many peoplehave done that.
Like Alec Soth is adocumentary photographer, who I saw his work– he did aproject that was commissioned in the BrightonPhoto Biennial, which is in the south of London.
We went down to it.
And Martin Parr had invited– was curating that,who's a big name in documentary photography.
And he had invited Alec Sothto come and do a project.
And so Alec Soth came with hisfamily to also do a holiday, because Brighton's a beach town.
But he didn't have a workvisa, and so border patrol said, if you takephotographs during this trip, you will be penalized andwhatever– the full strength of the law– whatever it was.
And so he said,fine, OK, let's go.
We've already got this far.
We'll go to Brighton, but Iwon't take any photographs.
And so he had hisdaughter, Carmen, who was like 8 or12 or something– she took all thephotographs, and then he and she together edited whichones they'd put in the show.
And it was a fun thing,because it's kind of like pin the tail on authorshipof who made this work.
We always talk aboutphotography as being defined by the definitiveclick, like that's the moment it's captured.
That's the artistic ding.
And in this case, itwas spread over time and amongst different people.
And so he and otherpeople have done projects like that, where they've usedtheir children to kind of ask questions like that.
And so I feel like that'sbeen asked already, but still, there issomething appealing about my son's photographs.
I just don't know what I'lldo with them, if anything, at this point.