In its infancy, this was signaled by confrontation with the immediate environment of my own body and the arising conflicts of its habitation within larger more demanding habitations. Inevitable metamorphosis inclined the focal point to multiply and the singular corporality appended the generic human body with its augmented states, addressing civic, architectural, cultural and technological bodies. Now, it may be preoccupied with modes of transcending the human body altogether in consideration of virtual bodies, bodies of alternate consciousness and bodies as states of data. These seemingly divergent discourses of body are conjoined by a work trajectory that is curious about and possessed by human form(s), and ultimately, the after effects of its relationship with external physical and non-physical forces. In examining these dependencies, it attempts to conjure expressions of duality, the simultaneously tortured and enhanced conditions of our human experience.
Deliberation of the body is personal, projecting outward from an inward complex. My early work in the arts at the University of California, Santa Barbara was dictated by limitations of skill in traditional fine art mediums. To adapt, I leveraged video, performance, mixed media installation, and in particular the emerging preoccupation with digital media platforms in the late 90s in which exploration of body image in media was synergistic and apropos. The immediacy of these frameworks allowed for meaningful splicing of autobiographical confessions with Feminism, Postmodernism and Posthumanism theoretics.
My mother’s death when I was six years old—brought on by her own internal body conflict and self-abuse—and subsequently being raised by a single father in Southern California’s oft dissected oppressive “body culture”, fueled autobiographical storytelling about mass media, objectification of the female form and her prescribed social roles. Matrilineal and Digital Covet are psychological rabbit holes, which uncomfortably illustrate perceived damaging effects of patriarchal standards on the female consciousness. Through a series of furious, sometimes frantic video installations situating me as the object of the camera’s focus and the audiences’ desire, I probed anxieties conjured by dueling extremes, at once scolding the institution of lookism and conceding gratification in succumbing to it. The work is then a formal byproduct of recorded occurring transformations, one’s identity and body being split by the camera’s duplication of them. This is especially articulated in the coarse works Produce Babes, F*cking Media, Enemy/Lover and Gyre and Gymble, where the artist, my body (inward point), is simultaneously held hostage by itself and the tools of objectification, revealing the tumultuous relationship with the televised image (outward point). Simultaneity in critique and embodiment of the ‘spectacle’ is proposed a thousand times over by preceding artists and theorists who had and continue to have a strong influence over my work; the texts of Guy Debord and work of the Situationists are an obvious apron string from which it has hung. Borrowing from the video environments of Bill Viola, the caricature of Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger’s graphic design as media appropriation, and the discomforting confessional style of Sadie Benning, my work represents a specific conversation about body that had already begun. Subsequently, I attempted to situate it with contemporary voices, sometimes fitting and deeply challenged by the complex convergence of ideas in media theory work of Benjamin Bratton and the raw intensity of Kathy Acker’s provocative postmodern literary works.
Analysis of the body is universal, outward observations projecting inward implications. Once-subjective reveries begin to dilate and the objects of “me” yield to systems of “we.” Then-still embryonic work evolved into visual tribunals, attempts to organize the ramifications that technological and cultural bodies impose on our physical and social ones, investigating the external forces charging at our interior frameworks. Graphic design, as a weapon of mass distribution, is fertile ground to experiment with devices of meaning, leveraging the ubiquitous forms of image and typography to both impose and evoke visceral responses to topics explored in my early work. With its systemic impulses, it allows subject matter to be examined from both aerial and atomic views, including the consideration of sister art form architecture(s), the mechanism of time and place, where these interactions are invented and extinguished. The work unfolds a net designed to momentarily pause picture on concentric reverberations traveling back and forth between the individual, familial, communal, global and existential bodies; where models of concentricity are acutely employed in several projects from this period.
Ground Uncontrolled: Disaster to the Power of Ten unearths the relationship between technological and human modes of disaster presented through the narrative of the 1978 PSA air crash event, a collision which disemboweled a 727 over the neighborhood I lived in as a child. 4:3:ME, an account of my 1976 televised birth, draws on the social commentary of media theorists from Marshall McLuhan to Greil Marcus and Jean Baudrillard. Positioning these adjacent to an archive of auto-biographical texts and artifacts, it enables metaphorical connections between the physical phenomenon of being born on television and growing up in a generation psychologically raised by the medium. The Posthuman Gesture: Ingestion, Digestion, Expulsion is a surgical Frankensteining of posthuman manifestations from Alice in Wonderland to Max Headroom and Matthew Barney, seemingly disconnected personas intimately sewn together by ideological threads inherent in imagining “fringe humanness.” Framed by the biological processes of ingestion, digestion, and expulsion, like its content, the book is itself designed as a corporal artifact also expressing stages of transformation and shifting morphology. The two-part THEY ARE MACHINES: Research, Unpacked and IT IS A BUILDING: Process & The Pain of Progress, is a researched-based effort cataloging the network of influences in an autobiographical genealogy. It documents an archeological dig through curated artifacts, critical social and cultural imprints on the trajectory of my work and concludes with initial studies of “Post Design”, rough ruminations preceding my graduate thesis.
HY/SY/SYN: The Museum of Posthuman Phenomenology & The Proclamation of Graphitecture, is a thesis which draws parallels between human integration with emerging technologies and the ongoing intersection of graphic design and architecture. It proposes that “the building” is a body and graphic design is software applied to it so that a more advanced iteration of it is assured. Hence, the Museum of Posthuman Phenomenology, an exhibition that documents historical and hypothetical post-human manifestations through sequential stages of transformation: human, transhuman, and posthuman. It offers this content via installations that reinforce the codependent relationship between graphic design and architecture through parallel stages of hybridity (HY), symbiosis (SY) and synthesis (SYN). These modalities reflect the strategic display of both the building and its contents which are presented through experimental integrations between graphic design and its architectural space and structure.
Meditations on the body transcend the body. Not unlike the academic and personal work just detailed, commercial and cultural work for clients has commonly gravitated toward varying architectural content and artists whose work explores the anxieties or possibilities associated with the evolving human form and its ancillary studies. While there is continued devotion to the big Posthumanism and continued preoccupation with body and architecture, media histories and speculations, this third stage thinking is shifting to a more abstract insight sought. It seems far less determined to devise solutions for public consumption and far more inclined toward unrestricted, audacious questions for public consideration. A story arc which began at the point of the personal and was impregnated by the communal, now calls to the existential, perhaps to mechanisms of consciousness itself. Human imagination, hypothetical fantasies about man’s origin, hyper- and hypo-realities where forgotten machinery of perception may lie are possible contexts to induce radically new but accessible looking glass situations.
It is possible to elaborate on the potentials for affecting consciousness in reimagined structural contexts and sensory orchestrations, to compare overlooked shared “biologies” between micro platforms (i.e., human and synthetic body systems) and macro matrices (i.e., planetary and cosmic networks, the organizational structures of the intangible). This has me wanting to join ongoing conversations in AI, speculative design, alternate worlds and realities and the problems and potentials in the symbiosis of science and spirituality. Now we navigate new circuitry for an alchemical amalgam of once distant and unaccepted relationships between the practical and irrational, the concrete and the fantastical, the provable and the felt, codified analyses and intuited compulsions in which stumbling on plausible prophecies is made possible.
My past has been additive, my present may be subtractive. Between academic pursuits, I was fortunate to learn from and collaborate professionally with seminal designers and artists far more luminary and talented than I, producing some of the public and published works I’m most proud of. A seat at the table of Lorraine Wild’s Green Dragon Office brought to life Morphosis: Buildings and Projects 1999–2008, Mike Kelley: Educational Complex Onwards, print matter for The Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden at UCLA, and Oranges and Sardines: Conversations in Abstract Painting for the Hammer Museum. In working with Thom Mayne and Morphosis Architects, I was able to explore the architectural discipline beyond the hypothetical, where the firm’s atypical response to design problems entertained the input of a graphic design arm. This is reflected in projects such as The Float House, The UAE Military Museum, Shenzhen 4-in-1, The Broad Museum, and The Taipei Performing Arts Center to name a few.
As an educator, I’ve taught courses in Graphic Design History & Theory for the undergraduate program at Art Center College of Design, and, of course, was a teacher’s assistant while a grad student at the California Institute of the Arts. Though it was as an adjunct professor in the graduate program at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) where I found my pedagogical spirit, developing studio-based curriculums couched in the fundamentals of graphic design, the biology of typography, story-telling methods and visual relationships. The classes’ leading objectives were, however, compelling students to map their individual design genealogies within architecture in order to identify their unique design style, strategy and agenda.
In other lives, I’ve played Creative Director in the creative agency eco-system, wrangling with a different type of storytelling in the bio-dome of integrated marketing campaigns for domestic and international brands. Over time though, I felt deformed by the preoccupations of commercial design, where many creatives find themselves contorting for idle trends, the tyranny of Pinterest and analytical snake oils, and some of us succumb to an amnesia of our truthful practice. Joining the Visual Arts MFA program is a return to the conceptual home, the audacious place where one can decommission old conditioning, empty out to be more present and surrender to the process, rather than subvert it for the sake of flashy outcomes that the world of advertising and fashionable design practices demand. Feeling that neither my professional nor academic work has a Goldilocks fit in either Art or Design domains, I'm drawn to site specific forums UCSD hosts in connection with the Visual Arts department. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination as well as the work of its director Sheldon Brown, (and in relative proximity Jordan Crandall’s métier), fosters the dynamic intersection of disciplines in creative writing, media and technology theory, art, sciences, and all speculations of design. Both my work and the center are driven by exploring potentials in the vast landscape of the human mind, making it one of several contingent nodes connected to the Visual Arts department in which to influence and supply my work with the tutelage it needs.
“Indeed, it is essential that the whole issue of scale be addressed in any commentary on [the sum of knowing contained in the universe] which is at once much larger and infinitely more personal [than we perceive.]”1 So, in saluting my past work, catharsis and conjecture about personal and larger bodies, I now ceremoniously put it down. I become empty and yield to a process of stripping away the habits and patterns of the past, reaching for some transmuting within I can’t yet adequately describe. The only presumption is that I am beginning as an uncarved block, recognizing a clear impulse or pulse emanating from beyond the body, the aether, to communicate that which cannot yet be uttered.
That being said, it remains important to consider tangential or alternative histories that reside in the archives of our communal mental library, since these alternative histories grant license and liberate us from idolatries, where we run the risk of allowing captains of canon to curb necessary irrational thinking. Where the future of my work is concerned, though, it appears time for ditching the “horizon of expectation”, a time for process and outcome to consolidate, a return to the void from which all creation eternally evolves, to a felt spontaneity, to harness unknowable content within insistent on being heard, but not yet understood. At this point, the work may be akin to Arthur C. Clarke’s monolith, a catalyst to transcend our known states, symbolizing not only the new form of my work but possibly its point of view as well, describing a something at once completely empty but which holds everything.
1. Whitley Strieber. Partial paraphrase from author’s commentary on his book, The Key: A True Encounter.