INFORMATION RETRIEVAL, 2015:
The ubiquity of technology in almost all aspects of daily life has furthered our dislocation from our physical environment, rendering the weekend trip to some natural “Eden” all the more problematic. What can we learn from a concerted exploration of our mediated experiences of the landscape? How does this mediation affect our sense of community?
Information Retrieval explores the effects of technology (information technology, transportation, surveillance, GPS, etc.) on our experiences of the landscape. The project will consist of repurposed filing cabinets - an obsolescent form of information technology (IT)- arranged into a form reminiscent of Stonehenge -an ancient form of IT as well as social gathering site. Each drawer will contain a solar-powered, kinetic diorama representing a specific memory of the landscape. The dioramas will be viewed through door peepholes installed in the front of each drawer. The designs and concepts for the dioramas will be developed in collaboration with members of the San Diego community through a series of workshops. Through dialogue with the participants, we will develop small narratives about the landscapes, and how our experiences of it are augmented, altered, or even impeded by our technology. The final dioramas installed in the cabinet drawers will be my reinterpretations of the collaborator’s proposals and prototypes created during these workshops. These dioramas will incorporate movement, lighting, and sound in order to create an expressive reinterpretation of community member’s lived experiences of the selected sites. The completed project will be displayed to the public at EAP’s Municipal Gallery and/or in the park at the corner of E Grand Avenue and N Juniper Street.
The concept for Information Retrieval evolved through an ongoing exploration into interactive sculpture and peephole dioramas as evocative forms of narrative. While my work has always included kinetic elements, I have been working with the diorama format for just five years. I am interested in exploring the accessibility and expressive power of dioramas through a collaboration with the larger San Diego County community. My interest in the accessible and expressive qualities of the diorama coupled with my extensive explorations into our relationship with the “natural” and “built” environment, make this project integral to the development of my creative practice.
The scale of this project falls somewhat outside the scale that I have been operating within as an artist. I am very interested in tackling the formal, technical, and administrative challenges inherent to this project, as a way to push my creative practice towards larger scale public art. Another critical aspect of this project, is the integration of community members into the design and development of the content of the piece. One of the great challenges for the publicly engaged artist is to find a way to balance their interests with those of their collaborators. Rather than simply having the community members go through the motions in order to execute a design that I have envisioned, I hope to invite them to direct the very content of the piece. Thus, in this way, even I will be surprised with the resulting sculptural installation.
My conceptual goals for this piece draw upon and extend my previous bodies of work. I have long been interested in creating or altering viewers’ awareness of the impact of technology on their experience of the world. The continuing development and deployment of sophisticated technological devices within our culture directly and indirectly affects how we relate to one and other and to our immediate environment, broader society, and the world at large. Like most Americans, members of our community are trying to find ways to come to terms with this ever shifting technological landscape. I think that community members will embrace the conceptual direction of this project and will engage in productive dialogue during the design workshops leading to the creation of the dioramas.
In preparation for this project, I have begun to develop both the format of the community workshops and the design for the public installation. The format for the community workshops, which will be crucial to developing the content for the piece, will be further developed in concert with the staff of the EAP. The workshops will bring people from diverse communities together at the Municipal Gallery and other sites in San Diego County, and create a context for them to explore their relationship with their local landscape. I have begun to develop a series of prompts which will help get these workshops started and hopefully lead to participants contributing personal narratives to be included into the larger project. The final installation will be a large scale sculptural installation. In order to visualize the design, I have made a series of computer models to explore potential arrangements and dimensions of the filing cabinets that will be used in the final piece. I have also developed a plan to source the filing cabinets and other building materials from Craigslist, Freecycle, secondhand shops, and other venues that will help me pull my materials from the brink of entering the waste stream.
The CCF Fellowship Program will give me the opportunity to create this large scale community project with institutional support of the EAP. A venue like EAP is essential to the completion of a project like this, as they have the advantage of an existing community with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. They also have the physical infrastructure necessary to accommodate the groups participating in the workshop sessions. As I mentioned above, this sort of risk-taking work will allow me to further develop my work towards the completion of significant works of socially engaged public art. Working in the public sphere is a natural fit for my work, as I consistently engage with contemporary issues in a thoughtful, engaging, and interactive manner. My hope is that community members will come away from the workshops and the completed work, with a renewed interest in and appreciation of their local landscape. Whether they live in the urban centers or the rural areas of San Diego County, I believe that they will come away from the experience with an increased sense of engagement with the region as a whole. The public will also come away from the completed installation with a greater sense of the interconnectedness of their various communities and the landscape of San Diego County. My hope is that this oddly inviting assemblage of filing cabinets will draw the viewer in and reveal its secrets to them as they peer into its many drawers and listen to its whispered stories. Long ago, Stonehenge drew a line between the heavens and its users’ immediate surroundings. If all goes well the viewer will consider this familiar, yet strange, experience as a portrait of this place we call San Diego County and a snapshot of our larger cultural climate.