Statement (April, 2012)
What is art?
Most artists I've talked to really dont like that question. A while ago, I would have told you that it's something someone intends as art, by placing it in an "art context". But, coming from a mathematics background, I recognize that as circular. What is the art context? The context of things that are art. What kinds of things are art? Things within the art context.
From there, I developed the idea that art is something that is being looked at more closely, or more in depth. Things in the “art context” are subject to more scrutiny and more analysis than things in the “non art context”. I started to understand gallery and museum settings, and the practice of image making, as devices used to make people look at things “more closely” (my use of quotation marks here indicates an increasing skepticism).
Another way to achieve this is to point at something. This happens all the time, if you hang out with artists. You will be walking down the street and all of a sudden someone will say, “wow, look at that! That's really nice.” and point to something, and it will launch a big discussion about the various implications of that phenomena, etc. The thing has entered the “art context”, it is now art.
Now, it's not that I resent these kinds of occurrences, and I definitely have nothing against the conversations they provoke, but is art really just something that you point at? The underlying question here is, what happens when you point at something? People look at it “more closely”. But what happens here?
The thing becomes something other than what it was before.
An old spoon becomes a symbol for someone's late grandmother. An oil slick on top of a puddle becomes “beautiful”. A urinal turned on its side becomes nothing (the genius of Duchamp's readymades was to select objects that did not grow on him over time, so that upon further examination in the gallery context instead of becoming something more, they became nothing, but still different from what they were before, and therefore art).
A painting of a sunset is often not art, because when we look at a painting of a sunset we talk about the colors, and the scenery, the sense of space, etc. All qualities that a sunset is already evaluated on in most “non art” cases. A painting of a sunset showed in a way that demonstrates that a painting of a sunset is not art, becomes art.
In this way, art is not something that is restricted to objects or images. Something that is wholly banal in one setting is amazing and new and wonderful in another. It is not restricted to the “author”, namely because the concept of unique authorship is dated and irrelevant. It is not restricted to the “viewer”, because it is very possible to see something one day and regard it is art, and disregard it the next.
The object, and the author/viewer (I believe them to be the same), combine to form “the art”. Without both parts, there is nothing. A tree that falls in the forest, with no one around to hear, does not make a sound.
Art is relative, transitive, and ephemeral. Art is not a “context”, but rather an indicator of a moment of a change of context.
So now that that's out of the way, I feel it's important to identify my goals as an artist. Based on the above, I think the central issue is the study of the way people experience the world. What are the implications of this tendency of context to constantly shift and change? This seems to me to be an indicator that our preconceived notions of the world, what the viewer brings to the table before viewing my work, are just as important as the physicality of the work itself. Also important are the mental processes that happen as the work is experienced, and afterwords.
In other words, I try to pay equal attention to each element of the art circumstance: the prior context (preconceived notions, or shared experience), the subject of, and catalyst for change (the work itself, what I'm doing, objective physical reality), and the post context (the mental processes that occur as a result of the experience of the work).
When people ask me what mediums I work with as an artist, I say “usually sculpture”, but what I should really say is “the shared experience, objective physical reality, and mental processes”.
My work has evolved over time to encompass what I feel is simultaneously a broader and more specific set of issues. Initially, I was concerned with creating narratives using images. I was interested in the idea that most everything around us has a history, and that this history goes unnoticed, but it can be brought out through storytelling.
However, I found myself moving away from two dimensional media and towards object making, and I realized that I was more interested in creating narratives than sharing existing ones. The narrative I am creating is the story of the viewer's experience of the work. The rising action is the prior context, the climax is the subject and catalyst of the change, and the falling action is the post context.
I am finding more success exploring this narrative arc in three dimensions than in two, because people interact with objects in a more dynamic way than with images. However, thinking about it in this way led me to realize that I am missing a big piece of the puzzle. The shared experience is built through interactions with not only images and objects, but other people too. More recent works are an attempt to explore this, how to make an interaction with another person something outside of the ordinary, made difficult by the wide variety of interactions people have with each other every day.