Deinstalling turns out to be a sort of cinematic, archeological time travel.
I wasn't expecting it to be so strange but with each piece of paper I unstick from the wall there's a twinge of memory and a soundtrack too depending which of four albums I was listening to when I was creating it.
I lift the corner of a piece of paper and pull, the tape resists then peels from the wall I take hold of another oh THAT night (long strips of white, the peculiar dream, White Stripes) THAT day (red yellow orange blue green violet, fiddly strips why won't the black bits stick, date gone wrong Gang of Four) THIS part (is this working or is it dumb gold and gold more gold that was an odd text, Beggar's Banquet)...
It's as if the walls contain the temporal, experiential sequence of their making and deinstalling them unravels the sequence.
I've never experienced anything quite like it. You don't get to unmake a painting stroke by stroke not a non-digital one anyway, once it's done it's done, there is no >edit undo<. This is different.
I'm composing the walls subtractively as I go or I suppose decomposing them.
But I'm also undoing the doing of them.
It leads me to think about what it all means I mean what art is ultimately. Once these pieces of paper are gone is the art gone? Oh god there's that question, did it ever exist? If it isn't these pieces of paper then what is it? What did I make?
I took these thoughts to Twitter where I sometimes go to kick a thought around in the void but it isn't a void. A fellow artist responded and what came up for me was that perhaps in the end the most permanent thing about art is the effect the making of it has on the maker. And the viewing of it on the viewer.
Are you taking it all down the boy in the black hoodie looks up at me on the ladder with fistfuls of collage paper in my hand, yes I say, even THIS he says pointing to the water fountain looking stricken. Just moments ago I decided to spare nothing on each pass of deinstallation, I would take down parts of everything till all of it was gone including the fountain, well I say I'll leave that whole thing till last how about that. He nods a satisfied nod. He gets a drink of water at the fountain. He steps back, because you know why he says why I say, when you step back at a certain angle it looks like there's water shooting out.
Just a few more days to see my installation at it's fullest!
I've treated the walls and ceilings of this historic, 110-year old school as art, highlighting the native features of the building from wainscoting to fire alarms, vending machines and water fountains to call attention to them in a new way.
It's been gratifying to hear some of the responses. Thanks to all who have visited and passed along your reactions, I'll be continuing to post them as I encounter them, including a wonderful documentation created by a teacher at one of the schools housed in the building as she led her class through the installation.
Art is for everyone. Art is everywhere. Art is a point of view.
Stop by and visit this week! After Saturday, April 21 the installation gradually begins to disappear.
5031 University Way NE
Fridays and Saturdays 9am-3pm
Excuse me says the small girl in the pink coat, yes I say leaning down to look at her from where I stand surveying my ceiling pendants, what are those she asks. I pause. I kneel to her eye level, brown eyes in a serious face.
What do they look like to you I say, she pauses too, well to me they look kind of like paper lanterns she says. Well I say you know what I think if they look like paper lanterns to you then that's what they are. She looks at me. But you want to know what I think they are don't you I say, she nods. I decide. Well to me they are abstract I say.
What is abstract she says, well I say it's when it's not a pig or a goat or a chair or something you can touch those things are concrete, abstract is something you can't touch. She looks at me.
You see I say to me they are really bits of color that connect the ceiling to the walls, do you see what I've done to the walls I ask pointing out the rest of the installation. She looks. She nods. She looks at the ceiling.
When I look at them she says they kind of look like triangles I mean rectangles.
That's cool I say, I love that you see paper lanterns and you also see rectangles, that's abstract. It's art, you know? We look at one another, I like to make art she says. The sun comes suddenly through the windows blinding both of us, too bright she says.
It looks pixilated says the man in the black Carhartt, I was looking at it and then it was like the walls were dissolving and becoming digital. He looks at the ceiling for a moment, it feels kind of like I'm floating you know?
But wait, there's more...
I have to find out...and so I'm going to continue to add the last element to my sprawling, site-specific installation at the University Heights Center.
Last May I walked out of Room 109 into the hallway one day after teaching an intense class, tired and ready to go home. Hanging from the high ceiling I saw paper flowers, pink and green, the kind that fold out, the building's celebration of spring. The effect on me was a sort of slow electric shock. The flowers activated the space below the ceiling in a way that fired my sculptural sense but it was more...something about the sweet pedestrian nature of those decorations that made me suddenly recognize the building.
It's a difficult moment to describe, the one where you all at once see and experience something in a way that transforms it from ordinary into art. But that is what happened in that moment, and that was the beginning of this project. It arced back and connected to the first show I'd mounted several years ago of my collage painting, This Storied Heart, at Form Space Light Gallery in Fremont, with pieces of collage scattering onto the wall.
Yet in realizing the idea somehow the ceiling pendants I had envisioned got pushed to the end in favor of the wall treatment. That is, till the very last day when in a fury of energy I hung some of them on the upper floor of the installation site.
It was magic. They seemed to my eye to connect everything. It brought the project home.
And so for no reason other than to satisfy my own curiosity, I am going today to hang ceiling pendants on the lower floor of the U Heights. It will be busy. There will be a lot of people. It's a very tall ladder, and many trips up and down. Hopefully my videographer will show up to catch some snippets of the process.
I'll post more pictures soon. Meanwhile, if you're in Seattle and in the neighborhood, stop by.
The work will stay up through April 20, when it will slowly start to disappear.
University Heights Center
5031 University Way NE
Fridays and Saturdays 9am-3pm
Tonight was about quality of encounters. An unexpectedly gorgeous afternoon, sun streaming in the west windows of the University Heights Center, food and drinks set up and a steady trickle of attentive, curious visitors.
The sun put a fire into me. Hours before the opening I was determined to get to the last part of the installation, the ceiling pendants, the thing that had kicked off the entire concept in my head.
Upstairs with three White Stripes albums on shuffle blasting in my ears I poked holes one by one in chunks of the cardboard painted for the purpose tied string through the holes bent paper clips and ran up the 16-foot ladder, sticking them into the holes in the ceiling panels to make a 3-D version of the wall collages. It was last minute it was a calculated gamble and it was delirious ridiculous fun. Suddenly everything made sense.
Sweaty and dishevelled I dashed home cleaned up and hopped the bus back.
THANKS to all who came to see how this installation has grown and morphed and thanks especially for your thoughtful comments, they are gifts to a crazed exhausted artist.
Late at night up a ladder or tearing yet more paper into tiny bits I have often asked myself what in the hell I am doing this for. I always know the answer, BECAUSE. Because I'm curious to see if it will work. Because I feel compelled. By my alien overlords. Because it's there like the goddamn mountain that's why.
But watching someone look at what I've done and hearing them respond feels like all of these months of work have been worthwhile beyond the gratification of realizing an idea.
There's no two ways about it art is about leaping the gap in some way from one human to another. Makes it sound like fleas. But seriously when someone comes out to see your show it means a great deal.
It also amazes me to hear my web coverage of the process has been interesting to someone to follow. You mean I'm not just tweeting/posting/blogging into the void or annoying the crap out of everyone (yet another self-obsessed self-promoting artist, yippee I imagine the unseen audience thinking as he cracks another beer) oh! how nice to know.
So THANKS all for your support in person and online and to all those who've stopped by during the process or plan to visit. I'll be posting more pictures and anecdotes here. And if you're in Seattle stop by and visit the show at 50th and University Way, open 10-10 weekdays, 10-3 Fri and Sat through April 20.
Why should you, oh no reason. Something about fleas. Okay because.
It looks pixilated, a way of seeing the world in fragments.
To me it's like a gateway, I want to look through it.
It's so integrated into the surroundings you almost don't notice it but then you do and you really see what's there.
It seems like it builds up in these denser areas and then dies down like music, is that intentional?
This part looks like an elephant slurping up water out of the Zambezi River.
The artist is blurring the lines between actual and virtual.
Oh no I'm not done. I could keep going. I could treat the other wall, the west wall, the one I skipped because it gets less light in the daytime. I could treat the north stairwell, the one with the burgundy banner and the Aikido sign. I could head down that stairwell into the basement, I could even collage into the bathroom.
But tomorrow is my second opening for Heighten and I'm going to stop.
Last night I connected the last segment, from the white trash can with the crooked green sticker over the glass panes of the hallway door and down to the fire alarm where I began.
The installation travels now from the Vending Spectrum at the north end, taking in the vintage photographs, looping around above Advanced Precision Learning to radiate into the Bell, tumbling in a cascade of stripes at the 4th of July down to the Mailslot (aka the Volcano), drifting along the Office wall and into the Minute Maid Fruitopia Spout and the Coke Machine Splash.
The Splash trickles down to the Water Fountain, next to the Blue Trash Can Flyaway and so the White Trash Can Stripe and over the door and here we are as I said at the fire extinguisher, about to drift up the stairwell on the Meander.
Upstairs the Pour runs down into the Smear which grows out of the Reeds which connects to the Rain which falls from the Cloud and drifts down to blend into the original Test Patch. The Patch creeps around the corner up over the Defensive Driving School and here the small squares of whitish paper get mysteriously sucked into the Plumbing, which spits some of them out on the floor and sends the rest spewing from another pipe where they emerge as the Sonic Boom of the Senator's Sign. The uppermost whites of the boom float up to drift over like spray from the Fountain that is the Steven Klein LSAT Preparation sign.
Here the eye jumps over a door to the first red and white stripes of the Fire Extinguisher which pierces into the first of the Sol le Witt Awnings. These alternate, white, brown, white and bring us to the north end of the building on the second floor.
Now that I think about it, I've created a giant U on its side.
A U for the U Heights.
It feels like a residency coming to an end, one with a giant studio. Yet it's not really over. The piece will stay up till April 20, after which I'll gradually start bringing it down, in phases so that it disappears as slowly as it arose and the building returns to its former, un-Heightened state.