Last year, I was interested in museums and the way they display their collections. This was particularly directed towards collections relating to national identity because I am uncomfortable with the way that they tend to represent identities as unchanging, or a continuous narrative that demonstrates positive progress. History, as we teach it, or write about it, like the displayed collection of a national museum, is chosen out of a multitude of facts, we highlight the parts that support our thesis and hide the parts that don’t. It is aspirational, and relates more closely to what we hope for our futures than necessarily what happened in the past. I think we do this on a personal level too, hiding the parts of us that are uncomfortable or difficult in order to be accepted by our peers. We make up a story based on our pasts that tells us we can be who we want to be, and say “look, I’ve always been like this.” So, I’m interested in the changeability of identity, and the impossibility of its being stagnant.
Last semester I experimented with gears and machines. It seemed like the wrong metaphor for me, since it limits possibilities or outcomes. Every place along the track of the gear is pre-determined, there is little space for surprise, or the unexpected unless the machine breaks or is sabotaged. Over the summer at Pilchuck, I experimented with pinhole cameras, projection and animation. I am interested in pinhole cameras and camera obscura, because they bring the outside in, they made the environment surrounding the object smaller, and, if it is a small object, recontextualize it into something that the viewer can interact with by holding or carrying, or even wearing it.
Last year I was working with juxtaposing the interior space of an engraved object with it’s surface through the combination of painting with cameo engraved surfaces. Many of the metaphors we use when we speak are related to surfaces and interiors. Surfaces are often represented as changeable, inauthentic, disingenuous; it is what is on the inside that is seen as truthful or authentic. We also like to see our identities as unchangeable. I think that if there is one thing about identity that is interesting and authentic, it is that it is always changing, always in flux, always responding to new experiences and influences. I think that it can be dangerous if we hold on too tightly to our associations. The pinhole camera integrated into engraving is interesting because it makes an object that has an ever-changing interior, and a stable exterior, positioning the changeability in the place of authenticity, and the part that is unchangeable on the surface, reversing the normal association.
I intend to run an event at the ECA fair on the 24th of October, in which I will set up a table with some camera obscura that have been built with a glass plate or paper as the “film.” I will invite people at the fair to draw on the film over the projected, upside down image of the sculpture court, responding to the space. I will need to come up with prompts, questions to direct the drawing. I also plan to continue to work with the laser engraving and painting technique that I was exploring last year. Possibly using the drawing and responses to the objects in laser engraving on glass, to create objects that gradually change with user interaction.