Sunday, July 15, 2007

On the evolution of ideas

I am sitting in Corlear's Hook Park at Cherry Street and FDR Drive, waiting for the sun to go set. I did my first installation of the illuminated beacons for High Water Line, and am waiting to get some pictures of them after dusk. It seems as good a time as any to delve into the topic of the evolution of ideas. A number of people have asked how I went from the studio work investigating the relationship between built and natural environment to a community outreach project dealing with the specific issue of climate change.

When I look at the High Water Line project as a single, whole entity (the entire line, the beacons, the nature of the project), I see a seamless connection between it and my drawings, intervention installations, narrative works and my tendency towards obsessive. For some the connection isn't so obvious. So my friend Michele and I broke it down into a specific narrative the other day (a lot of which you could get from reading this blog in a linear manner).

My work has gone through a number of phases (as would anyone's of my tenure). The work previously being shown and developed was that which investigated the intersection between body and space. Or, to put it another way, humans and their environment (see the seed was already there). Last January, I wrote a blog entry about viewing a photo essay in Sierra Magazine about the shrinking glaciers. I was awed by the power of the visual message and I decided to make a conscious change in the direction of my work. About the same time, we had decided to move. As anyone familiar with the NYC real estate market knows, this can be an all-consuming task. So my studio practice was negatively affected. From that time until well after the move (my tiny studio at the new place was filled with boxes), my artistic practice was primarily that of drawing ideas in my sketchbook. These works were all explorations of specific environmental issues (deforestation, urban decay, migration, waste, genetics).

Alongside this, I was trying to come up with ways to get my work out and seen by more people (this didn't have to be galleries). I realized the easiest and best way to do this was to put it out on the street and in the parks right out in front of them. Would be pretty hard to avoid that.
I played with a few ideas and pretty quickly landed on the idea of marking the sea level rise sculpturally. Hence the genesis of High Water Line (nee Sea Change).

So the original idea was to create sculptural elements that were fairly elaborate and could be installed permanently around the city. For reasons of funding, fabrication, maintenance, liability and science (that this wasn't a concrete line), the idea quickly morphed into simple illuminated beacons installed in parks around the city, connected by a chalk line. (Sound familiar?)
It was in the process of writing about the project, for grant applications, that I began to better understand the project and all of the various aspects of it - performance, community, witness, etc.

Which leaves me here, waiting for the sunset, meditating on the project, and the relationship between humans and their environment.