For two months in fall 2016, Breathing Lights illuminated the street-facing windows of hundreds of vacant buildings in the neighboring cities of Albany, Schenectady, and Troy, NY. Warm light filled each window with a diffuse glow that pulses with the gentle rhythm of human breathing. Concentrated in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods with high vacancy rates, these installations transformed vacant structures from pockets of shadows into places of warmth. This massive installation helped illuminate the region’s struggle with vacancy and its effects on residents and neighborhood economies, and regenerated interest in once-vibrant communities.
Funded through a $1 million Bloomberg Philanthropies "Public Art Challenge" grant, Breathing Lights was led by myself as lead artist, and Barbara Nelson as lead architect.. This project brought together local architects, students, engineers, artists, and product developers to design and install custom light instruments. Illumination kits consisted of miniature LED strip lights bound in adhesive fabric, affixed to interior window frames. The lights shined through windows covered in diffusion material, powered and controlled by batteries. In a region that pioneered electricity, a project centered on lighting technology infuses the installation with history and place.
video of public performance / digital prints 5-minutes / 16 x 24" 2013
As part of the Art in Odd Places performance festival in New York City, I crawled along 14th street on my hands and knees, scraping up the blackened pieces of gum that are stuck to the sidewalk. The scraped up gum was melted down in a small stove that I would set up on site, forming it into a series of primitive figurines that were left on the street.
The title refers to a conglomeration of mythic characters from different cultures, all of whom embody the act of transformation:
Kodama: a spirit from Japanese folklore believed to live in certain trees, they occasionally speak and can be heard when someone dies
Azoth: the essential agent of transformation in alchemy, a universal medicine or solvent, the animating spirit hidden in all matter that makes transformation possible, and the Arabic word for mercury
Golem: an animated and anthropomorphic being from Jewish folklore created from inanimate matter, also used to describe an uncultivated, dumb, helpless, or clumsy person
Nkisi: pronounced Nikishi, it is a general name for a spirit or for an object that a spirit inhabits from the Congo Basin, considered to reside in charms or power objects with their power coming from the ancestors
wood, fire, performers public performance / historical recreation 2012
Years ago while on vacation in California I found out about an event that took place for almost a century at Yosemite National Park. Known as the "firefall," it involved shoveling large piles of hot embers over a cliff face as a nightly spectacle. Because the park officially ended this man-made event in the late 1960's, I was immediately bothered by the fact that I would never get to see it. So in 2010 I interviewed one of the last remaining park employees alive who took part in it to teach me how it was done.
Where I live in the northeastern part of the US, the only place you can find a sheer cliff is at a stone quarry. A nearby cement plant with an open limestone mine took an interest in my project, and with their help we were able to stage the first firefall for a public audience since the event last took place almost half a century ago.
"Reunion" is a project that involves two friends of mine from high school who, as adults, find themselves in the same prison: one as an inmate and the other a guard. Through visits and written correspondence the three of us have been separately recounting our small town upbringing, as well as our hopes, needs, and regrets from the two decades since we were last together. As we look into our past to better understand who we've become, I asked three 18-year old students at the rural high school we graduated from to improvise each of our roles in a hypothetical reunion that will never be able to take place in reality.
Rather than make a documentary about our differing trajectories, "Reunion" will present a disparate constellation of facts, documents, and imaginings that create the outline of a story. Presented as an installation of video, sculpture, photographs, letters and drawings, "Reunion" will replicate an experience akin to the incomplete yet inventive act of remembering.
In the summer of 2010 I sustained an injury that caused me for weeks to have to walk very slowly. Being a fast-walking person by nature, my perspective on my surroundings were altered dramatically by this simple shift in speed. I wanted to share with others the peculiar sense of presence and invisibility that walking slowly over an extended period of time induces. Conceived as a 1-mph participatory walking event that would last for three hours, each participant moved silently and deliberately by themselves. The first iteration of "SLOWWALKER" took place along Broadway in Manhattan. A second iteration took place through the Cape Cod National Seashore as part of the 2011 Provincetown Green Arts Festival.
group food performance performance views 2010
A collaboration with Jack Magai. Eight guests were served a six-course meal without any utensils. Each course offered a novel gustatory situation:
Q-tips were flavorful but without being food (wasabi molasses, powdered green tea and cherry port syrup, garlic juice and buckwheat honey),
Eating off a leaf, the collardy smell overwhelmed that of the lobster and asparagus schmear,
Guests bob for custom-made crackers, and brushed sauces on them,
To intensify the aroma, hot beef tongue was inserted onto the guests' tongues on and ice chip infused with horseradish,
Thirty-three different foods were cut into small cubes. Without knowing what a food is, its taste is broken down into its component parts, and
Squirty toys were filled with warm creme anglais and guests serviced each other
Shine Your Light
single-channel video 3-minutes 2006
Having worked on projects with mirrors before, they have become a reoccurring element in my visual vocabulary. What started out as an experiment resulted in something unexpectedly poetic: try to shine the light from a lighthouse back onto itself. In the video two men wander towards the ocean with spools of string and a small mirror attached to a helium-filled weather balloon. They carry it across the breakwater towards a lighthouse on a windy night. Through great effort the men attempt to position the floating mirror in front of the revolving light. On a few, rare occasions they actually manage catch the lighthouse's light in the mirror, casting an imperceptible amount of it back onto its source.
single-channel video 2-minutes 2005
While in residence at the Vermont Studio Center I recreated an absurdly long ladder, the image of which I had come across in a 19th century mining photograph. Initially I planned to use the ladder in a restaging of the historical photograph, but while watching my friends carrying it through the forest to the shooting location I knew it would be more interesting to utilize it as a performative prop. Like a film strip, the rigidity and starkness of the ladder contrasted with the organic lushness of the forest. The precarious journey of the performers was marked by a continual negotiation between the object and the landscape.
Unobstructed wind helped roll a large mirror ball across a dry lake bed at night. Following the ball with a flashlight, a performer created a moving, kaleidoscopic spray of light across the ground.
single-channel video 3-minute and 11-minute versions 2004
A car clandestinely follows a vehicle towing a running construction light along the freeway at night. The following car first moves in closely to identify what is creating this light and then drifts back, maintaining a safe distance. The light is followed from an urban to a rural area, where it is finally surrounded by darkness. The light then begins to go in and out of the camera's focus, abstracting into a hexagonal shape until it finally disappears.
single-channel video 4-minute and 35-minute versions 2004
In 2004 I was commissioned by the Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis to create a new video piece that would be screened at their museum. Near to where I was living at the time I witnessed the pulsing of blue light emanating at night from the windows of a housing complex. The blue light was produced by televisions illuminating a darkened room. Because different people were watching the same station, their windows pulsed in perfect unison, though it occurred at varied and unpredictable intervals. In a series of anonymous apartment buildings and hotels I restaged this syncopated, yet random effect. The result inadvertently alluded to a collective loneliness that we, in the modern world, might be asked to share together.
5-Gallon Water Transfer
water, bucket, performer performance views 2001
A 5-gallon bucket of water was filled at Queensway Bay in Long Beach, California and emptied into Lake Mead near Boulder City, Nevada. Because a portion of the Colorado River is diverted toward Los Angeles, this small amount of water might have looped back to it's source.