What is your idea behind this piece [Unbound]?
It insinuates an unfettered or unlimited state. It is a landscape painting but a unique kind of landscape where there are only faint impressions of a ground against the dark of the night. The title insinuates absorption in a ubiquitous terrain, or into a state that is no longer bound or tied up. This unboundedness is aimed at the identity of looking and being.
What were your influences for Unbound?
I live in an area with little light pollution. Walking from my house to my studio, I often gaze up at the night’s sky. I also had an amazing experience kayaking at night on a lake in Northern Michigan. Everything below me was black, with a faint glimpse of the stars above my head. It was quite disorienting.
The “Iconoclast” is a recent sculpture. The content of the piece consists of a cube with a geologic terrain and a human skull. You mentioned identity, how does identity also relate to this piece?
The human skull is the universal. When you look at the skull you cannot tell if the human being to whom it belonged was white or black, gay or straight, or whatever. It is a signifier not only of death, which everyone regardless of who they are will confront, but also of a common humanity.
Can you explain the title?
The Iconoclast refers to iconoclasm – the destruction of representations. I am referring to a gesture of iconoclasm aimed towards identity. Identity is something that is tied up with subjective phenomenal manifestations, as well as the cultural superstructure. It is necessary to form a coherent world-picture, but it is a process that also reifies beings. Once turned into objects, identities are codified, categorized and controlled by the varying mechanizations of culture. By adulthood all of the non-discursive nature of our being is covered over by the models and forces consummate with the system, as language takes over and limits and boxes us all in. It is, of course, a prerequisite for socialization, but it can also be a diminution of experiential wholeness. We are all more than what the culture gives us to identify.
So The Iconoclast is about destroying the representation of identity?
Yes. I’d like to add, however, that to some people who may be marginalized the identity is a means of securing social rights and confidence, and that is beautiful. But it is also a trap. It descends back into a means of fencing us and balkanizing us.
Some people have an aversion to death imagery.
I suppose you could say that art reflects life and if life can be horror then art shall also be, but none of this interests me. I am not interested in perpetuating horror – there is enough of it in the world already. “Death” is propagated everywhere as a fashion, but it isn’t really death because it is used as a mark for identification. In the system in which we live, the truth of the death’s head is an aversion because it is a radical pulsion and an involution of the social repression. It strips away every economic structure and that is why it is repressed, since the system’s game is all about accumulation and the mobilization of labor, production and consumption. Identities are mobilized in this machine of desire to operate according to its configurations, of which the death cannot properly be exchanged and thus, it is excommunicated. That is the economy where language speaks us, and where the principle of subjectivity is elevated to an autonomous power. That autonomy is an illusion, since the latter is actually alienated from its own authentic activity by the interpellate of the system’s language. The aversion of death imagery in culture is not about the mode of death as a duel, as given a representation in the folklore or the mythology of the culture, since that kind of “death” is propagated everywhere. Death’s radicality is the thing that is misunderstood and the thing that its simulacrum covers over as a figure of exchange. I am not after an aesthetics of horror. I am after a humanism that insinuates an anthropological materialism. I am for an anthropology that is a universal. I feel that the means of coming across such a humanism could be through the negative of the splenic allegorist.
You mentioned universality. How does this connect to your work and to the negative of death?
The work exists in a continuum of catastrophe. With these pieces my aim is to try to discover a space for the universal, but not by way of a positive totality. I am interested in fragments, details, immediate sources. The issue of the universal existent in the internalized abstract agency can only be represented through the negative. The death’s head is a reminder of this negativity.
Yes, of a sort. It refers us to the transitory, historically variable material conditions, and the earthbound existence and the inevitability of death. The inevitable decline and decay stands to convince me of the vanity of mortal life – David’s vexation at life is relevant. Each and everyone of us is subject to the eschatological terminus and this is catastrophic, even apocalyptic. No aspect of natural life stands as an exception to this rule. The ruins grow exceptionally higher. Whereas all we have are fragments in a continuum of constant change, which is our tragic situation, we can also find and foster our common instance of undifferentation. The motif leans towards a redemptive quality set against the grain of this ruinous history. It is art speaking truth over and against its structures and overt resolution of signs.
The work is currently exhibiting at Southwest Michigan College.