PACKED: my recent work with packaging materials
Later this month, I will be presenting my recent work PACKED in Arizona, twice! First, Mike Compitello and I will speak on January 24th in Tucson as part of Lead Local's Insight 45 series. Then on the 26th, my installation will be in the lobby Gammage Hall in Tempe, as a pre-concert event for the ASU Symphony Orchestra. At 7pm the orchestra, led by Jeffrey Meyer, will perform Jennifer Higdon's Percussion Concerto, Dvorak's Symphony No. 9, and my Strange Sounds and Explosions Worldwide.
As a run-up to these events, I wanted to share the concept and process behind this work. PACKED is essentially an interactive station that consists of topographical maps of four familiar materials: bubble wrap, foam, styrofoam, and corrugated cardboard. I am interested in these objects because of their ubiquity, due to our online-ordering habits (packages = yay). Also, I love how abstract they are -- they don't contain deliberate markings or colors and are just a blank slate of textures on which I can build meaning.
Each material is hand-torn/ cut / sliced then painted carefully with acrylics to reveal their textures. I tried to let the materials tear naturally, so that we can see how it wants to be cross-sectioned, rather than imposing a "picture" onto them. The resultant shading helps to place these four very different materials in closer dialogue to one another.
The topographical maps are interactive by way of three senses; it creates a personal feedback loop between sight, touch, and sound. You can enjoy each one as a small painting and visually take in its sculptural qualities. Touching the surface, though, is what activates the object*** -- its sounds, personality, and your relationship with it all come to life. Then I amplify and lightly process the audio to heighten senses and to make a slightly fantastical sound world of packaging.
*** Yes, I love bubble wrap, but this concept of object-life-activation is the bigger obsession behind everything. I am teaching myself to make these art objects because I'm actually thinking of them as performative instruments. I'm simultaneously wondering how to approach "regular" instruments in a similar way.
Lastly, PACKED ended up inverting the function of these "protective" objects by making them extremely fragile and vulnerable. All the layers and innards of the cardboard is laid bare, the bubble wrap will deflate and pop soon, and, as further evidence of my brutality, a layer of styrofoam dust now lines my basement floor. Stay tuned for demo videos as I start to set up the audio gear!