Visual information can allow for a nonlinear interpretation of any given element. Instead of one word following another in a narrative, any single image can interface with any other image in the visual field. That’s not to say there aren’t visual systems that have their own ‘language,’ and that’s something I’m thinking about a lot when I incorporate two more specific visual systems, like a technical schematic and a computer interface.
The World Wide Web
Something I think has been misunderstood about the web is this notion of all information being equal on the web. My experience of the medium suggests not a leveling of information, but a reorganization of the way we interface it. I remember when I was a kid spending hours in the library, learning how to find things there: originally we learned the Dewey Decimal System, which organized all of the books into general categories. It took a long time to learn how the system worked, and even then I still did a lot of the navigation by space rather than the actual system. Then the library switched to the Library of Congress system, which has many, many more categories than the DD system did. It was cataclysmic in that I could no longer find anything. As frustrating as it was, I stumbled on a lot of really interesting things I don’t think I would have found otherwise. I think that is where we are with the web right now, that point before the organizational system is really in place. I think it’s a temporary condition, but amazing things have come of it, personally speaking.
I’m really interested in the moment of realization that occurs when your assumptions about something are destroyed by actually looking at what is in front of you. The ‘is it two black faces or one white chalice’ images from visual psychology really strike me in the way that something visual can be one thing one instant and then be something completely different the next. What fascinates me is that the image can never be both, it’s always one or another, and that we can see both only in time, by actually focusing on what it is we are looking at, and then realizing that there is more than one visual system at work. That’s what abstraction is to me, the act of bringing an image forth and allowing it to reveal its fractured nature.
Creating a sense of depth or volume in a two-dimensional plane has always been, to me, the everlasting paradox: I always think of the book Flatland, a story about a being in two dimensions given the revelation of three...I try not to consciously create a space, and I’ve learned how objects themselves create a space in relation to one another by our visual assumptions. By ignoring traditional Western perspective and using imagery that refers to space in a schematized manner, perceived ‘space’ will collapse on itself given further inspection.
It’s a notion I can only begin to relate to when I think of ideas. I mean, you can’t imagine a body or a thing in those terms, it’s a very metaphysical concept. It becomes interesting when you look at the history of ideas, then you realize that it was all there from the beginning, that every ‘new’ idea has an analog somewhere in the past. It jars the here and now attitude, the obsession with the contemporary. I like wrestling with the notion because it puts our immediate surroundings on the same level as any daydream, novel or half-baked what-if scenario.
Stuart Davis’s paintings
I had never thought of making a direct connection with his work, but I can see some connections, especially with reference to abstraction. I could never really pay attention to the subject of his work because I was so inundated with what other people thought his work represented. There always seems to be a Mondrian in the eyeshot of one of Davis’s works in a museum, and I remember having that ‘what is abstraction’ revelation making the transition between the two.
This goes back to the idea of timelessness from before. If you look at our attempts to represent information visually, you recognize how similar the languages and the content are throughout time. Astrological charts from the Middle Ages look strikingly similar to modern astronomy maps, partly because there is a history linking them, but also because the diagram attempts to present the information in the most efficable manner. When you look at these similarities and differences in the context of time, the ‘facts’ presented become so seated in their time, so subjective. As for the future, I love how bound our dreams are to our present and past. The differences between the original Star Trek and The Next Generation for example, both worlds have such different visions of the same ‘future.’
Why draw on the wall?
When I started working on the large scale paper, I simply covered my entire studio wall and began working. They seemed so overwhelming in the studio confines. It was something I really liked, the way my field of vision couldn’t encompass the entire scene. It very much reminded me of the Mexican muralists or the government sponsored murals of the WPA. I also remembered as a kid going to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and standing in front of the “space” mural. When I first saw the large drawings in a gallery context, I was struck at how the space could actually contain them. The wall piece seemed to be a way of recapturing the all over feeling of the drawings in my closet studio.
The way people invent themselves is fascinating. I was infinitely moved by the Heaven’s Gate/Hale Bopp events. Here was an example of a self created belief system using all manner of found symbols and events to rationalize and justify their actions. The use of the black Nike shoes was really profound to me: they understood the symbolism of the product better than the marketers did. What’s more, they weren’t the ones who started the rumor of Hale Bopp hiding a UFO, the web was rife with rumors and explanations of an anomalous second tail on the comet long before they acted on this information, so the use of the comet wasn’t just symbolic, it was another found object in that sense. The ability to mold symbols and ideas to invent a reality was so profoundly apparent in this situation, but it happens everywhere. What we believe, it’s made by us...
Sometime back you described your drawings as a “drawn clash of esoteric belief systems.” I keep wondering, what’s the clash?
Most of the imagery I’m using is from what I call un-popular culture. Some hide themselves, some are high profile, some are virtually American institutions, but they are all marginalized to some degree. I was fascinated with the idea that all these sub-cultures constituted the reality of American culture, not the so-called consumer culture. I was amazed how much the imagery from these seemingly disparate groups spoke to each other.
Information becomes life
I think people are becoming more actively engaged in the information they receive. There’s so much information available, from so many sources, that people are becoming very conscious of how constructed information is. The press has characterized this new consciousness as the “death of trust,” but I think it’s one of the greatest things to happen. People are finally realizing that things are never as they seem, and that’s making people have a more active relationship to their environments.