de/re-contextualizations

Last night I dreamed that I was given an assignment for grad school to create an art installation on the bottom of the ocean. The school’s thinking was that all the good space on land had been taken up and that underwater art was the wave of the future–no pun intended. Part of the project’s grade was to learn how to pilot the school’s submarine and to shuttle my professors and classmates down to see the finished work. More than any other part of the assignment, being an underwater chauffer was by far the most anxietizing. I actually woke up during the sub’s shaky descent, my classmates chatting away unconcerned.

For the art installation itself I decided to deconstruct and re-contextualize Damien Hirst’s Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living. Admire this piece or not (or Hirst or not) this is what my subconscious went with. My finished piece was situated in water that suggested the color of Hirst’s formaldehyde and was in essence the box as if the shark busted out and was prowling the area just around it. The steel frame was contorted and the glass broken. Because it was a dream at times the sculpture was more or less surreal looking. Sometimes the steel was rusted and sometimes I suggested glass with plastic that moved like sea weed.

The thing I’ve been thinking about since I woke up is something Cary Levine asked at a recent critique of my work (in which he was amazing): Why do I have a desire to invoke or partially restore items’ original purposes or contexts while at the same time removing them from it?

The work Cary was referring to was the milk funnel art that I posted earlier, in which I installed a grid of dirty dusty red milk funnels with a gallon of milk dripping into one. I wasn’t able to fully answer his question then or now, and it’s one that keeps coming up in my practice. It was important to me to give the milk funnels (or any found object) back some of their original purpose, thought it wasn’t important to me that viewers knew that these were milk funnels specifically. Is it a failure to commit one way or another to the found object’s role? Is it to create ambiguity about the object’s purpose or usefulness? Is it a way of controlling the object and my memories of farming? Do I use found objects to quicken them once more– to stave off death in a sense? Right now I would say yes to all of these questions, though I doubt Cary would find that satisfying.

These are things I’m thinking about.

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