Documentation by Rachel Munford
Theft is the beginning of meaning.
As Coyote continues her aimless wandering, she approaches the sparkling lights of the first and last chance watermark at the border town of Primm (we recall Baudrillard’s rave). Coyote sees Buffalo Bill’s Resort and Casino, Primm Valley Resort and Casino, and Whiskey Pete’s Hotel and Casino standing large on the horizon, three huge compounds flanking I-15. Pixel by pixel, she takes the form of a heavyset white man: goatee, jeans, docksiders (no socks), washed-out red Polo, some old point-and-shoot over-shoulder. She passes under the false mountains of the Adventure Canyon Log Flume and into the lobby of Buffalo Bill’s.
Coyote enters a large room with high ceilings. The family-oriented nature theme includes life sized trees, a water tower, a main street, and a river running through carrying log riders.This isn’t the Mojave, it’s more Colorado Valley, a nowhere filled to the brim with Old West simulation. Drifting towards Penny Lane, Coyote picks a slot unit at the end of an aisle, hoping to grab a waitress easily. Sitting down, she looks at the screen — UNDER THE SEA II, A NAUTICAL DEPARTURE.Coyote inserts a crumpled dollar bill face up.
She pushes the button to place a minimum bet, waits a few seconds, hits SPIN, and sits as the symbology finds its resting place. Coyote pauses, looking around for a waitress; an elderly man with an oxygen tank catches her eye. She places another minimum bet, wondering how long she can ride the bill, hoping it’s just long enough to grab a free drink before heading to Denny’s. The rollercoaster rumbles overhead, log riders come rolling through the interior, then breaking the seal and pushing up towards the desert.
Reaching the peak, they see the long axial sunlight fracturing the landscape, lighting their faces like an on-camera flash, every surface in high definition contrast, details separated. After a moment they begin their rapid descent, rushing into chlorinated water and ducking out of the light. The riders return to the platform, and Coyote picks up her whiskey soda and trots deeper into the interior.
Wessel Castle (b. 2012) is an ongoing collaborative archive from Alli Miller and Trey Burns’ travels and commutes into the megatexture of the American landscape.
Henry Wesselwoman (b. 2014) is an avatar that embodies revisionist praxis through a reconsideration of the New Topographics generation of landscape photography.
March 19 – April 23, 2014
^Install of “State Lines” at Pavillon Vendôme, Clichy-la-Garenne, France
Started in 2009, Diesel Fuel Island* is a photo project about travel-scapes in the peripheries of Americana.
Toying with the form of the book as both object and story space, this publication displays a series of “state lines” from a cross country trip. From Georgia to California, the border falls in to the gutter of the book, while time zone changes get shifted to the edge of the page. These invisible lines serves as both municipal marker & indicator to this Romantic notion of rite of passage.
*Edition of 10, Produced in 2013
A performance lecture at the Savannah College of Art & Design
<< All work is, on principle – work for others. >> Joseph Beuys
I was invited by my alma mater to participate as a Featured Artist in their 2013 Open Studio. It’s an event whose mission is to reflect on it’s constituents (students, faculty, and alumni), and clutter the walls with the very best of what the institution has to offer. For my contribution, I wanted to examine this model as a structure, for new possible meaning.
During this event, student work is freed from the bonds of the laboratory, and brought forth for consideration. In the midst of this strange pageantry (and vague selection process), student work is elevated. Hanging on the walls, standing proudly under lights, projected in dark rooms – parents are thrilled, faculty are cordial, students are beaming. BUT, the student offering is always something else other than art. Some will neglect it’s true meaning by underhandedly observing: “It’s just student work…”. Maybe. But maybe there is another name.
As part of my project, I gave a performance-lecture to an entering group of graduate students. Through story-telling & participation, I introduced some ideas about this concept of the prototype.
During the performance; I conducted a brief sing-a-long-song about prototypes, introduced the breadboard, told the story of Loki’s net, considered the 1978 NASA prototype of the Mars Rover, and finally came to the ideas of Douglas Hofstadter. Hofstadter postulates that “analogy is the interstate freeway system of cognition” and the core of concept building. According to him, we build ideas out of other ideas, assembling our thoughts through rapid piecemeal.
HOFSTADTER/COLLECTIVITY SNACK MODEL
At the end of the performance I asked students to create a version of Hofstadter’s chunking model à la snack tray. With crackers, and a variety of ingredients, the students and I set about making our individual offerings. The crackers were placed on small plates, which were then placed on a larger tray. Then – the students, faculty, and I ate the snacks – and I asked them to help me unpack the performance.
By cross-pollinating the trope of communal food preparation with Hofstadter’s model, we turned a snack tray in to an exhibition, and a playful allegory for an art school.
PROTOTYPE: ARTIST BOOK
As part of my project, I asked a group of artists to submit work based on this idea of the prototype. With the resulting works I created a draft publication with their responses, and scanned the object as digital zine. It’s available for download as PDF (for device) or a version formatted to produce your own print-out.
<—Prototype (Artist Book, 2013) (LOW) (HIGH) (PRINT)
I produced this short project for Adult Contemporary, May 2013
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WESSEL CASTLE, 2013
Alli Miller + Trey Burns
Produced for exhibition at et al Projects
Photographs: © 2013 MICHAEL KIRBY SMITH
et al Projects: April 12 – May 12, 2013
Photographs: © 2013 MICHAEL KIRBY SMITH
Installation views from the et al Projects booth at the 69th Regiment Armory for the 2013 Fountain Art Fair. Tyvek, bootlegged-by-woodblock, was installed as back drop for the booth. Referential to the legacy of Pop Art and O’Doherty’s White Cube, this wall treatment paws at the conceit of muséal display while inverting Tyvek’s function as hidden barrier. Part of my ongoing collaboration with Alli Miller.
Wessel Castle, Selections from the Archives
Mariner IV: First Images of Mars was produced for the exhibition series Proximal Distance at the Store Front Studio in Chicago, IL. An artist book, lecture and video projection examines the Mariner IV’s mission to Mars & these first close range images of the Martian surface.
The first images of Mars consisted of 21 digital photographs recorded by the Mariner IV space craft on July 14, 1965. During their transmission to Earth (and subsequent processing), engineers found evidence of a possible malfunction. While waiting for the computers to process the first images, engineer Dick Grumm (and others) took to coloring in the data tape using a “paint-by-numbers” technique. This lead to the first photograph of Mars from space being hand rendered (photo below).
(photo by Caitlin Gianniny)