MKE (03-05-2015)

My hosting is up for renewal soon and I’m trying to figure out why I’m just going to go ahead and pay for it. In a recent conversation, I was jokingly referred to as a petty capitalist that sees all interactions through the lens of material exchange. This may or may not be true and I’ve been running in circles trying to find some way to prove or disprove this assertion that all aspects of my life have been colonized by capitalism in one way or another. (While it may not be possible to escape capitalism, one can at least minimize) The best I can come up with, strangely, is this website. It is proof of an artistic practice of production that has, at best, minimal participation in the world of exchange values. I lose money by paying for hosting and server space. I purchase equipment and invest time in producing images, ideas, and sometimes objects, that will never be sold. I’m not interested in participating in the system of galleries, group and solo exhibitions that would, in some way redeem my expenditures. Instead, I’m just continuing to make stuff, to produce with no sign of redemption, and to look at ideas that draw my curiosity. Photography is, after all, a fantastic way to make sense of the world.

New Terms

Torschlusspanik or “gate closing panic” is the anxiety-inducing awareness that as time goes on, life’s opportunities just keep getting fewer and fewer and there’s no way to know which ones you should be taking before they close forever.

Weltschmerz or “world pain,” is a sadness brought on by a realization that the world cannot be the way you wish it would be.


Perhaps I have ADD. Not only am I easily distracted, I am also very jealous of those individuals who are not.  What I wouldn’t give to be an artist that can drill down and repeat one action over and over again to make a cohesive body of work. As I look over the work presented on this site, there are numerous threads pulling together, but little of a collective whole emerging. Instead, I am the perpetual itinerant, an eye that bounces from subject to subject.

I was watching the classic Soviet sci-fi film “Solaris” recently and one of the character’s quotes stuck with me.  Simply:

“We take off into the cosmos, ready for anything: solitude, hardship, exhaustion, death. We’re proud of ourselves, in a way. But our enthusiasm is a sham. We don’t want to conquer the cosmos – we want to extend the boundaries of Earth to the cosmos. We are only seeking Man. We don’t want Other Worlds. We want mirrors. Maybe we don’t need to know what it is, or why. Maybe just knowing that it is should be enough.”

Through this site, I realize that my lack of “productivity” and concise portfolio building isn’t such a bad thing.  I have been spending so much time after grad school trying to graft grad school onto my life, work, and resulting images.  Time to get over that. Instead, I think I’ll be content with drifting.


I have been incredibly frustrated with photography lately and as a result, have been struggling with my own creativity. The weather in LA has been absolutely perfect for trekking around, exploring and making images. There’s a Nike missile site still lingering in the hills that I’ve been itching to checkout. However, my shiny new 5D and Zeiss lens is still tucked away in my camera bag – an unfitting slumber for such a great tool.

The way that we produce and consume images has really dug into my nerves. It seems that every single image is a call for a tumblr blog. As soon as one gets an idea it must be turned into a blog of similar images. These images are then firmed up into an “official” photo essay. Shortly after, the photo essay is magically reborn as a self-published book.

It all feels so disposable and lacking in spontaneity and chance – two things that photography has always been able to capture and play with. An image rarely gets to be an image and, if you’re an artist that uses photography in a less-than-serial way (such as I do), it seems pointless to keep working.

A Head-Scratcher

When I was working my way through the first year of the MFA program at the University of Minnesota, I took an amazing class called “Performed Photography” with a professor who would later end up as a vital part of my thesis committee. The course consisted of making projects that used photography (or any media really) as a documentary tool to record and present the actions or conceptual artworks that were produced by students outside the studio. So, less focus on photography as a fine-art medium and the pursuit of aesthetics and more attention to the photograph as witness or document.

This course continues to influence me and has been on my mind almost daily as I walk around the neighborhood and try to orient myself to life in LA. One assignment in particular sticks out: the walking assignment. We were directed to create a piece that utilized walking in some way – as the basis for the piece, or as a result, byproduct, whatever – the direction was wide open.

Somehow this was the assignment I flubbed. Continue reading

Hidden and Heterotopias

Sometimes I wonder why I even both to write, think, or photograph anything. I do a great deal of rehashing ideas and thinking out loud via my site/blog. However, somehow, it ends up being worth it. For example, it is almost humorous the way that things can come back around; full circle. This time 3 years ago I was pouring over Michel Foucault’s “Of Other Spaces, Heterotopias“. And, again on this wet April morning, I’m scouring through the same text looking with a fresh set of eyes at what I missed. For those new to the term I love to use so often, Foucault describes a heterotopia by saying, “There are also, probably in every culture, in every civilization, real places — places that do exist and that are formed in the very founding of society – which are something like counter-sites…all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted.”

My relationship with this particular bit of writing (from a Foucault lecture given in 1967) is an intimate one. In the last week, I’ve gone back and forth from reading this bit of Foucault to watching Michael Haneke’s “Caché” at least a dozen times, each time feeling the two are linked. Its going to be a bit of a stretch to relate these two together, but I’ll do my damnedest. The connection is something that I always come back to: both works discuss the relationships where private and public spill into each other.

In “Caché” the racial tensions that remain inherent in post-colonial French society demonstrate this “non-site” of neither public nor private. Over all, the film suggests it is one thing to support and favor a multicultural social fabric, but it is another thing to actually bring the otherness of an immigrant family into one’s own home. In the film, an unknown person sends to a wealthy Parisian family video footage observations of their home. In this regard, the film touches on the first heterotopia described by Foucalt: the mirror. He writes, “The mirror functions as a heterotopia in this respect: it makes this place that I occupy at the moment when I look at myself in the glass at once absolutely real, connected with all the space that surrounds it, and absolutely unreal, since in order to be perceived it has to pass through this virtual point which is over there.”

Foucault hints at other such sites that enmesh themselves into our lives such as heterotopias of crisis and deviation. He describes these sites as places where, “those in which individuals whose behavior is deviant in relation to the required mean or norm are placed.” To return to Haneke’s “Caché,” as the film progresses, the main character Georges (Daniel Auteuil) pursues the sender of the videos into such a place. In this instance, it one of the many large late-modernist housing projects surrounding the city. Inside, immigrants, the poor, and others considered to be “others” are conveniently vertically stacked, isolated, and concealed.

Now to draw back to me and my work. (After all, I am the reason for the season… its true! My birthday is Sunday, May 01… also known as International Workers of the World day.) Foucault’s third principle of the heterotopia is perhaps most pressing on my mind this morning. Put simply, “The heterotopia is capable of juxtaposing in a single real place several spaces, several sites that are in themselves incompatible.” This is the thread that I’ve been yearning to examine and express with photography. In past work, I’ve failed to express this incompatibility that can occur within places of “non-site” even though it has been staring me in the face since the completion of my MFA exhibition. I’m going to expand more on this in subsequent posts on photos already gathering dust and also those that are still latent.

December 13, 2009

White Flower, 1960. Oil on canvas, 71 7/8 x 72 inches (182.6 x 182.9 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Anonymous gift  63.1653. © 2007 Agnes Martin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
White Flower, 1960. Oil on canvas, 71 7/8 x 72 inches (182.6 x 182.9 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Anonymous gift 63.1653. © 2007 Agnes Martin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

As the slide into full-blown winter solidifies, the concepts of failure and reduction have taken over my thoughts. When one thinks of improvement, of being a “better person”, the tendency is to look at what we lack and emphasize what we can acquire. I feel like I have been caught in this quagmire of acquisition for way too long (perhaps roughly 27 years).

These are my new goals.
By all intensive logic, I want less.
I want to fail.

What does it mean to fail? According to Agnes Martin, failure is a state which exists only when one has exhausted all means and possible courses of action. Failure is a terminal condition–an end of possibilities.

Can one consider it a victory to stop doing something? To cease to acquire? To cease to care? Is that really failure? Or is the act of losing all choice, movement, and flexibility that elusive  apex of liberation I have been searing for?

Just a bit more Agnes and then I am going to call it a night, crawl into bed, and be blissfully unconscious.

“To progress in life you must give up the things you do not like. Give up doing the things that you do not like to do. You must find the things that you do like. The things that are acceptable to your mind.”

I really cannot think of anything I would like more.