Thursday, February 26, 2009

Process Is Concept

The dean is paying for the publication of a limited edition artist book titled "Process Is Concept", featuring work by all the 2nd year grads. We each get to design two spreads and these are mine. The top one is documentation from a project I did last semester called "The Length of Now" and the one with the rocks is a collage... perhaps I will call it "The Weight of Now".

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

rumination #8

Dear Thesis,

Today was a beautiful day. I slept until 1 PM by accident, so unfortunately I missed half of its beauty. But I was determined to make the most of it, so I took a bath and sat outside for a spell wearing only a light sweater, and read an article in The Sun - actually, I read the article in both suns, the star and the magazine! -  titled "Why I Am Not Going to Buy A Computer". Then, with my face turned up toward the sun - the star, not the magazine - and my eyes shut tight, I listened to the sounds of the birds returning for spring, the creek behind my house, the wind in the evergreens, and the noise of the cars passing by on the street. Have you ever noticed how the distant passing of cars sounds just like waves crashing and receding on the beach? I had never noticed that before.

I think I have a somewhat untraditional sense of place. To me, place is not a static thing. It is dynamic, fluid. I, myself, am not stationary, both literally and metaphorically speaking, so I perceive my surrounding environment as constantly changing due to my movement through it and my continuously shifting perspective of it. Perhaps this is why I love to make large-scale sculpture, because of its ability to provide its viewer with multiple perspectives, and therefore multiple experiences. Sculpture resides in real time and space, and therefore, in a certain sense, can become its own kind of place.

According to the dictionary on my computer, 'home' has many definitions, the first being "the place where one lives permanently". That sentence is absurd to me. Why would anyone live anywhere - or for that matter do anything - permanently? The very idea of permanence makes me cringe. Nothing in the natural world is permanent; everything is constantly, ever-so-slightly changing. But people crave permanence, and are always trying to fabricate it in their lives in one form or another. It's like playing pretend! Why do we do that, I wonder? Is it because, in order to live, we need to pretend we're not going to die?

My favorite definition of 'home' is the one listed towards the bottom, which is "a place where something flourishes, is most typically found, or from which it originates." That's the kind of place I want to live in (but still not permanently).

Yours truly,

making a model

Victoria and I are in the process of making a 1/2" scale model of our thesis show space and all the work we are going to put in it. Tonight we made little paper footprints of the things that are still in progress or indefinite.

3 AM


Tuesday, February 24, 2009


This past week was spent mostly dancing, both on stage and in living rooms. Here is a video of Friday night's performance. The dance was choreographed by Caylin Janet to music by Brian Eno. (I am in the very middle during most of it and I am part of the duet towards the end... but you probably won't be able to see me since this video is so small).

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

rumination #7

Dear Thesis,

I apologize for not being more consistent. I am not the type of artist who can be alone in my studio work, work, working all the time like a creative recluse. I need to be out and about in the world, living life, getting inspired by the people and places and objects found within everyday situations. I thrive on social interaction. I love people! That's basically what it would boil down to if I could fit it in a pot.
When I began graduate school I was so excited to set up my studio (I had never had a studio that wasn't my living room), and to arrange and organize what few belongings and materials I had brought with me. That initial excitement evaporated when I realized what a lonely place a studio can be, especially if you feel, as I did, that you were expected to spend the majority of your time there, "making things". 

Last year I made a sculpture titled 'It's Nice To Meet You!'. It was inspired by those "wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube men" seen on the side of the road (and in the show Family Guy), advertising for grand openings of car dealerships or party stores. I was driving by one such inflatable in the car with a friend, and I randomly mentioned something about how funny it would be to have one of those tube men made to look like me. So I did! I found a caricature artist online to draw my portrait, and I hired an advertising company to design an inflatable of my height and proportions (but with a slightly larger head and longer arms). When you walk into the room, I am nothing but a deflated sack of colorful plastic lying on the ground. But when a person approaches for a closer look, I jump up and wave my arms to say hello! 

People bring me to life! 

I often question whether there is really any such thing as an individual. I, myself, do not feel like one. I like to imagine I have blurry edges. I think there is more freedom in being one of many than one alone.

Yours truly,


(photos courtesy of Claire Bresette)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Boom Is Over. Long Live the Art!

from this NYT article by Holland Cotter:

"It’s day-job time again in America, and that’s O.K. Artists have always had them — van Gogh the preacher, Pollock the busboy, Henry Darger the janitor — and will again. The trick is to try to make them an energy source, not a chore.

... There will be many, many changes for art and artists in the years ahead. Trying to predict them is like trying to forecast the economy. You can only ask questions. The 21st century will almost certainly see consciousness-altering changes in digital access to knowledge and in the shaping of visual culture. What will artists do with this?

Will the art industry continue to cling to art’s traditional analog status, to insist that the material, buyable object is the only truly legitimate form of art, which is what the painting revival of the last few years has really been about? Will contemporary art continue to be, as it is now, a fancyish Fortunoff’s, a party supply shop for the Love Boat crew? Or will artists — and teachers, and critics — jump ship, swim for land that is still hard to locate on existing maps and make it their home and workplace?

I’m not talking about creating ’60s-style utopias; all those notions are dead and gone and weren’t so great to begin with. I’m talking about carving out a place in the larger culture where a condition of abnormality can be sustained, where imagining the unknown and the unknowable — impossible to buy or sell — is the primary enterprise. Crazy! says anyone with an ounce of business sense.

Right. Exactly. Crazy."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

stacks of paper = extended horizon?

I am interested in the way that, if a photograph is printed full bleed and then stacked on top of itself, the sides of the stack of paper become vertical extensions of the image that's on top (you can see it in this tiny image here, of a stack of prints by Felix Gonzales Torres). I am thinking about using this visual phenomenon to "extend" a photograph of the horizon, but I'm trying to figure out how it would work. Ideally, I'd like the stack to be very tall (above a person's head, so they have to get above it to see what the photograph is of, so there is some wonder/investigation involved in the experience), but the printing will be really expensive. And if I orient the stack horizontally as opposed to vertically I have to figure out how it will be held together, and whether it would be on the ground or elevated somehow. Here's an example of paper clamped together and suspended horizontally:

Drew Goerlitz's "Slump"

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

not one of those snowflakes landed on my tongue

rumination #6

Dear Thesis,

I am awake with ideas. 

I laid in bed for a long time, staring up at a full moon between the crack in the curtains above my head. I was trying to keep my eyes open, trying not to blink, like the moon and I were having a staring contest. I wanted to watch it as closely as I could. I thought that if I stared long enough, hard enough, I might be able to see it move, actually perceive its movement.  I lost, of course. 

But it's not really the moon that moves, is it? It's us. Sometimes we forget that the world turns. Sometimes I hope that, if I just focus, I will be able to feel it turning.

One night a few weeks ago, while riding in the car with friends, we all noticed the moon rising on the horizon at exactly the same moment, and we all screamed in unrestrained amazement. Its enormity was directly centered between the tall buildings at the end of the street, its girth stretched from curb to curb. It felt like if we kept going we would be able to drive right up to it, get out, and touch its yellow bumpiness. So we decided to drive to the very end, where the street met the river, attempting to get just a little bit closer. But the closer we got, the smaller it became. That's when I learned about "the moon illusion", which is a theory that explains why the moon looks larger on the horizon than it does higher up in the sky. Its size doesn't actually change at all, but our perception of it changes. The ability to compare a low-hanging moon to objects in closer proximity makes it appear larger than when it's up in the sky, all by itself. Scale and movement only exist by comparison.

Perception is an underlying element in much of my artwork. I am obsessed with creating things that move so slowly that the movement can't be immediately perceived. My Coffee Cup Conveyor Belt Calendar moves a mere 5 9/16" per day. Movement that gradual cannot be detected by the naked eye, but it is made evident by the soft ticking of the clock motor that drives it, and by the pile of broken cups on the floor adjacent to it. The viewer is required to notice that evidence, to invest time and energy in exploring the situation, in order to understand what's happening.

My favorite word associated with time is "now." How does one measure the length of now? How can we possibly perceive now? It is both always and never now. "Now" I am typing this sentence. "Now" you are reading this email. "Now" I am 28 years old. I am infatuated with this expression and the many ways it can be interpreted. One of my most recent projects takes measuring "the length of now" very literally, in terms of both duration and physical distance. I have been soaking pieces of red wool yarn in water, writing the word 'now' in cursive with their line, and then placing these 'nows' in a freezer. Once frozen, each now can be removed from the freezer and hung on the wall, where it retains its shape and meaning for a very short period of time before it begins to melt (they sometimes even melt in your hand). The duration of each 'now' depends on its previous construction, its size, and the style of handwriting used to write it. Once it has completely melted, the 'now' returns to that which it once was... just a piece of yarn, that was cut to be however long at the time of its creation (the time which was once now, but is now then).

Jonah Lehrer, author of Proust was a Neuroscientist, said "the past is at once perpetual and ephemeral…. the past is never past." And so, too, is the present. I have a whole freezer full of 'nows' to prove it.

Yours truly,

Monday, February 9, 2009

Letters to a Young Poet

You ask whether your verses are any good. You ask me. You have asked others before this. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are upset when certain editors reject your work. Now (since you have said you want my advice) I beg you to stop doing that sort of thing. You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise or help you - no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple "I must," then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse. Then come close to Nature. Then, as if no one had ever tried before, try to say what you see and feel and love and lose. Don't write love poems; avoid those forms that are too facile and ordinary: they are the hardest to work with, and it takes great, fully ripened power to create something individual where good, even glorious, traditions exist in abundance. So rescue yourself from these general themes and write about what your everyday life offers you; describe your sorrows and desires, the thoughts that pass through your mind and your belief in some kind of beauty - describe all these with heartfelt, silent, humble sincerity and, when you express yourself, use the Things around you, the images from your dreams, and the objects that you remember. If your everyday life seems poor, don't blame it; blame yourself; admit to yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth its riches; because for the creator there is not poverty and no poor, indifferent place. And even if you found yourself in some prison, whose walls let in none of the world's sounds - wouldn't you still have your childhood, that jewel beyond all price, that treasure house of memories? Turn your attentions to it. Try to raise up the sunken feelings of this enormous past; your personality will grow stronger, your solitude will expand and become a place where you can live in the twilight, where the noise of other people passes by, far in the distance. - And if out of this turning-within, out of this immersion in your own world, poems come, then you will not think of asking anyone whether they are good or not. Nor will you try to interest magazines in these works: for you will see them as your dear natural possession, a piece of your life, a voice from it. A work of art is good if it has arisen out of necessity. That is the only way one can judge it. So, dear Sir, I can't give you any advice but this: to go into yourself and see how deep the place is from which your life flows; at its source you will find the answer to the question whether you must create. Accept that answer, just as it is given to you, without trying to interpret it. Perhaps you will discover that you are called to be an artist. Then take the destiny upon yourself, and bear it, its burden and its greatness, without ever asking what reward might come from outside. For the creator must be a world for himself and must find everything in himself and in Nature, to whom his whole life is devoted.

(from Rainer Maria Rilke's "Letters To A Young Poet", which I learned about here, and found here)

what's your time horizon?

(found here ... from another google image search)
(I love graphs!)

found while google image searching for the term 'extended horizon'

(I have a habit of google image searching my ideas, to make sure someone else hasn't already made them)

take your time

“Observe the street, from time to time, with some concern for system perhaps.
Apply yourself. Take your time. … 

Note down what you can see. Anything worthy of note going on. Do you know how to see what’s worthy of note? Is there anything that strikes you? 

Nothing strikes you. You don’t know how to see. 

You must set about it more slowly, almost stupidly. 

Force yourself to write down what is of no interest, what is most obvious, most common, most colorless. … 

Force yourself to see more flatly. … 

Carry on.
Until the scene becomes improbable. 

Until you have the impression, for the briefest of moments, that you are in a strange town, or, better still, until you can no longer understand what is happening or is not happening, until the whole place becomes strange, and you no longer even know that this is what is called a town, a street, buildings, pavements…”

(Georges Perec, from Species of Spaces, 83-85)

Save the Date!

MFA Thesis Exhibition
May 2nd, 2009
Hornell, NY

You are cordially invited to the opening reception of the re-commitment of Victoria Bradbury and Alicia Eggert to their respective studio art practices.
The celebration will take place in the ballroom of the Benevolent Protective Order of the Elks, in Hornell, New York, on the 2nd of May, 2009. The exhibition will be open to the public from 6 until 10 in the evening.

The Master of Fine Arts Thesis Exhibition will feature 
Alicia's Mechanized Textfrozen "NOWs", and Extended Horizons, paired with Victoria's Video Mutoscope Raree ShowMetamorphosizing Blue Boar, and Interactive Colonial Vegetables. 

We hope to see you there.

Victoria Bradbury

response #1

I have begun to ask specific people to read my thesis emails and respond to me with questions, the idea being that those questions would provide me with some direction. I am interested in exposing the generative process of thesis-writing, and how the guidance I receive from my peers and mentors influences the final product. Lately, I picture incorporating this back-and-forth dialogue into my final thesis 'presentation', possibly in the form of a book. Here is my first official response (below). As I said before, anyone can participate, so if you're interested please log into the dearthesis@gmail account with the password mfanyscc09, and write me an email (you can write to dearthesis from dearthesis, and number your responses sequentially with the others that have already been sent... therefore, you will maintain complete anonymity). 

dear alicia, 

your thoughts on religion, community and the ordinary really struck me and i am trying to wrap my metaphysical brain around them. religious stories/tales are based on something out of the ordinary happening that brought people together or broke them apart. you could say art does this too. 

you must be doing a lot of reading to help you with writing me and the making of your show. well, i have been reading too and here is something i read only yesterday: 

"god can't be resisted or stopped, but can be shaped and focused. this means god is not to be prayed to. prayers only help the person doing the praying, and then, only if they strengthen and focus that person's resolve. i believe in something that i think my dying, denying, backward looking people need." parable of the sower by octavia e. butler (the main character's father is a minister too.)

how do we pass on what we know? really, really KNOW...? what we believe? art strengthens and focuses an artist's resolve and hopefully the viewers. are you interested more in how you do this or artists at large?

(another thought: your project of "my's" is sort of like building yourself a collection of deities. you depend on each of them as a source of something.) 

maybe the woman you will never know is the zenith, she represents what is on the otherside. there is physical understanding that you share. you know her, but she doesn't know you. and you could never see her face, it would destroy your compulsion to know, to wonder. 

i am feeling very inspired but scattered, i apologize. the sun is setting here and i am distracted after too much coffee too late in the day. i am interested on hearing more of your thoughts on these musings. i need you to have a good impression of me too, as you need to like me for this to work out. and hey...get some sleep. 

yours truly, 

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

work in progress

(working title is "The Ecstasy of Influence" - ripped off from the title of this article)

This text will be mechanized with servo motors and a proximity sensor in the same way as the word HERE in the project I did last semester. I am most excited about the noise this thing will make - it's going to have 33 motors! But when all the letters come to rest it's going to get suddenly, shockingly quiet.  

Monday, February 2, 2009

quote of the day

"Life is a process of burning oneself out, and time is the fire that burns you."

-Tennessee Williams

Sunday, February 1, 2009

my thesis wrote me back!!!

and this is what it said:


Dear Alicia,

I very much enjoy your messages to me and feel that they will be very helpful,  but why have you stopped,  I long to hear from you,  tell me more.

your Thesis

P.S.  Nothing like a needy thesis.  (talk to you soon,  brett)


(Brett is one of my thesis advisors, and he is amazing. 
Can't you tell?)

rumination #5

Dear Thesis,

This past Saturday marked my 28th revolution around the sun. I feel awfully dizzy. 

I made an overdue trip to the laundromat tonight. All my clothes, towels, sheets, blankets and kitchen rags filled four washing machines. And after loading them up, I decided to let myself sit and wait and be bored for a change, instead of spending my allotted 26 minutes running errands to keep busy. I had my i-pod with me, but no headphones, so I just sat on the folding counter and waited. I listened to the sounds of the machines with my eyes closed for a while. Then I looked around and read everything I could possibly read. I read and re-read the instructions on the undersides of the open washing machine lids, which had pictures showing how to load the machine properly, and listed reasons why one should choose hot, cold, or warm water, depending on clothing color (I always choose hot because I like to imagine it disinfects, but my clothes have been slowly growing smaller and smaller). I also read all the flyers on the bulletin board, the instructions on the fire extinguisher, and the backs of the detergent bottles. Then, after the 26 minutes were up, I loaded my clothes into the dryer and decided I wasn't sufficiently bored enough, so I waited some more. It took another 60 minutes for my clothes to tumble out their moisture. And it was at that time that I began to think.

It's funny that it took four loads of laundry and 86 minutes of boredom to inspire me to write you, Thesis, but it also makes sense. 

I have been thinking a lot about time lately, probably because I just had a birthday. My specific thoughts on the subject are scattered, and mostly in the form of questions - for instance, does the fly that just landed on my arm experience time differently from me? ... do I look like I'm moving in slow motion to him?... (that encounter and subsequent thought occurred at the laundromat tonight) ... has my perception of time changed as I've gotten older? ... it does seem to increase in velocity exponentially from year to year ... does time have a terminal velocity? ...  is my sense of time directly related to my present state of awareness? ... when I'm unaware, distracted or busy, time seems to increase in speed ... whereas, when I'm fully aware and present in a moment, time slows down, often dramatically.

Sometimes I like to stand by the stove and watch a pot of water slowly heat up and begin to boil, just to prove the saying wrong.

I am obsessed with all the different ways of measuring time - the typical measuring systems, like clocks and calendars, as well as the atypical systems that I discover through daily observation, like the little ball of lint produced and discarded by my lover's bellybutton every day, or the collection of yogurt containers my roommate has acquired under the sink by emptying approximately one per week during her habitual late-night snack sessions. Our days are numbered by our daily rituals. The time passes, often unnoticed, but evidence of its passing is everywhere around me. At this very moment I can hear my neighbor snoring in the apartment above mine. The rhythm of his breath is like its own form of clock, punctuated by the ticking of his snores. How many snores did it take me to write that sentence? About 8 or so, I would say. 

During the year and a half I worked in Manhattan I would begin every morning with a cup of coffee and a Peppermint Patty (there is no better way to begin a day of work than with candy). I was grateful for my job, but the daily routine and predictability of my schedule eventually made me extremely unhappy. One night I had a dream, and in my dream I came upon a strange conveyor belt. It was built on a long, steep incline, so high that I could barely see the top, and so long I had to walk for quite a while before reaching the other end. On the narrow belt was a single-file line of coffee cups that were slowly making their way to the top of the hill, where they would eventually topple over the edge, fall gracefully through the air, and then smash on the floor, forming a huge pile of broken cups at the bottom. I woke the next morning with the realization that the disposability of a single day can seem justifiable, but those days pile up so quickly. Shortly after, I quit my job.

I eventually made that dream into a sculpture, titled "Coffee Cup Conveyor Belt Calendar". Except, in reality the conveyor belt can only hold seven cups - one for every day of the week - and the cups are made of unfired porcelain. Once all the cups have been broken, the unfired pieces can be gathered and reconstituted into clay slip, and the slip can be used to make a new batch of cups. That way, the cycle can begin again, and again, without end.

Yours truly,