Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Progress, Regress (a proposal)

Using real-time unemployment and labor market data to animate a kinetic sculpture.
Unemployment rates since 2008 have been and continue to be very high. But if you study a chart of unemployment data gathered by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics since 1948, history shows that “business cycles” (recessions and recoveries) have occurred every 10-15 years. The most recent recession was particularly severe, and the ongoing recovery period is markedly slow and painful. But this is not the first time we’ve suffered through a recession, nor will it be the last. 

Fluctuating unemployment rates, 1948-present

While the unemployment rate has constantly fluctuated between as low as 3% and as high as 10% over the course of time, the labor market is actually much more dynamic than these numbers suggest. Hundreds of thousands of people are either losing or acquiring jobs every month, and new people are continually entering the labor force. The U.S. economy must add $150,000 jobs every month just to keep the unemployment rate stable. And the unemployment rate doesn’t include people who are disabled, involuntarily working part-time, or who have lost hope and stopped looking for a job. 

Push button toy (inspiration for the sculpture's kinetic mechanism)
My goal is to humanize these statistics by using them to animate an object we typically associate with employment and success: a ladder. The ladder will be cut it into pieces that will be drilled and threaded with steel cable, and then reconstructed to function much like a push-button toy. The tension of the cable, and the subsequent position of the ladder, will be controlled by a motorized winch. A computer will collect real-time unemployment data from the web and use a microcontroller to activate the winch. If the unemployment rate rises, the winch will unwind the cable, and the extra slack will allow the ladder to begin to slouch over. As the unemployment rates drop, the winch will wind the cable back up, and the increased tension will pull the ladder into a more erect position. The ladder will become a kind of body, the rungs like its vertebrae, and the numbers will bring it to life.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Restating myself

Every time I write an application - to a grant, residency, or exhibition opportunity - I write a new artist statement. I am always so happy with and proud of my new statement at the moment I complete it. I always feel like I finally expressed what my work is all about. This feeling usually coincides with re-falling in love with writing and re-identifying it as a crucial component of my art practice. But both of those feelings are unfailingly and extremely short lived. It doesn't take long to hate writing again (it's so frustrating and inflexible) or to feel embarrassed by that statement I wrote a few days or weeks ago. Nevertheless, I just finished writing a new artist statement, and I'm really proud of it, so I'm going to share it. And I hope that every time I rework my statement I get a little bit closer to hitting the nail on the head. But give me a few days and I'll probably have a different perspective. I'll eventually see that mark on the wall that's several feet from the nail that shows me how far off I was...

"I received a bachelor’s degree in design and practiced at an architectural firm in New York for several years before earning an MFA in sculpture. My artwork remains strongly rooted in design, and primarily takes the form of electronic, kinetic and interactive sculpture. Inspired by highway billboards and neon signs, my work often imitates these familiar forms of communication, co-opting strategies typically used to advertise products for the production of meaning. I think of words as found objects and I manipulate language as if it were a sculptural material, constructing words and phrases in three dimensions and then assembling and disassembling them over time.

Because my work is driven by concept as opposed to process, my practice is collaborative and interdisciplinary, and I often explore the same idea in many mediums, including drawing, photography, video and installation. My work’s most common recurring theme is an exploration of the aesthetics of time. I believe that art can and should be affected by time, as opposed to frozen in it. Like everything else in the world – our bodies, the seasons, machines – my work often moves, changes, deteriorates, and in some cases, dies."

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Present Perfect

I want to make a series of sculptures based on works of art that other people tell me about having seen, but that I've never seen myself. This one is based on a piece Mike Fleming saw in the MoMA a few years ago. He said a marble-sized metal sphere was placed on a keyboard's letter G so that the computer was continuously typing GGGGG... and that you could see it had been typing G for a long time based on the page # displayed in Microsoft Word. He can't remember the name of the original artist.

So, I placed a large rock on my old laptop's keyboard so that it types the letter Y continuously and infinitely.


I think that if I ever show this in an exhibition I will use a rock that I find in that local area. When the exhibition is over, I will print out the document (however many pages, depending on the length of the show) and then display the stacked pages with the rock on top, as an artifact. Each exhibition at all the different locations will then produce its own unique artifact.


A thing I made real quick in my stewdio the other day... Feels good to be back at work!


One of the many perks of being a TED2013 Fellow was the opportunity to attend TED2013 in Long Beach, CA. This year's theme was "The Young. The Wise. The Undiscovered." I gave a 4 minute talk about my work on the fellows stage. I've also recently been interviewed for a Fellows Friday feature on the TED Blog. Check it out!