Research Statement

metasonic 2008 video documentation of kinetic testing

Influenced greatly by the seismic shift of migration to the United States at an early age, my work is guided by the social, political, cultural, and economic dynamics that have evolved within my lifetime. To research the depths by which art can demonstrate the spectacle of our time has been a long-term pursuit. Through site specific installations, time-based media and performance, I intentionally seek to create a complex blend of cacophony and harmonics that mirror the observable state of contemporary culture and how media, global economics and industrialized production has led to hegemonic structures that, while claiming to have improved the lives of many, have also kept others excluded from social, economic and political progress. These are ideas centric to projects like Big Bad Anthropocene Machine, n o w h e r e r a d i o, and exhibits like Emergency and Four Easy Pieces.

These ideas are conceptually linked to efforts that makes three-dimensional work “perform”. The work has the potential of being in a state of perpetual change. While the audience participates it kinetically evolves over specified lengths of time.  The process of these works has evolved to include audience manipulation and co-authorship of the experience. Technical production has progressed significantly since the beginning of this research pathway, starting with a project called Metasonic.

Metasonic began in 2007 as part of an investigation related to movement of objects and structures using sound. Known widely as Chladni patterns and discovered by Ernst Chladni, a German physicist and musician, grains of sand or salt can be moved to create interesting patterns with the  use of a speaker, a platform and amplified sound. Each frequency creates its own unique pattern. I thought that this could be an interesting use of kinetic movement for my own work. I decided to test whether I could create time-based media installations where the gain, frequency and amplitude modulation of sound could be used to make an object move over time in controlled patterns.  To make larger and heavier objects move via sound required powerful amplification and speakers. Theater and concert venue equipment was purchased to create the needed wattage for the process to evolve. Discoveries during this investigative period proved that with sufficient amplification, structures could be moved and that in fact structures balanced in various configurations could be made to move in patterns while responding to different audio frequencies. Directional patterns as well as rotational and counter-rotational patterns were made possible via sound. Exploring materials and structures that could be used to create performative sculpture involved a lengthy process of researching the density, mass and volume of various materials.

While in the process of investigating the potential of this work I was also making frequent visits to the outskirts of Las Vegas. These areas are at once scarred by human abandonment and bestowed with the incredible nature and geology of the Southwestern United States. The relationship between natural and man-made change to the environment was more striking in this region than any other place I had ever seen. Rapid urbanization and vertiginous use of natural resources contrasted heavily with the immense scale and varied topography that revealed change over millions of years. This theme was befitting to parse theories of land interpretation as well as study the environmental and economic implications shown in this stark representation of our influence over the natural landscape. Combining an active interest in changes at macro and micro scales in reference to time, movement, and entropy while observing the patterns and movements in my work became the source for my graduate thesis and has sustained a pathway of research to this day.

The influence of experimental sound and research in my career stems back to my love of electronics from an early age. Radio is partially responsible for my learning of the English language. My memories include spending many morning hours on Saturday in Madrid, Spain listening to the Torrejon U.S. Air Force radio station. Radio has always held a place in my heart.  The interest became more acute as I began to use Short Wave Radios to record and create mixed channel sound art works on cassette tapes and reel to reel recorders.  My time in history saw the change from analog to digital technology. Analog devices such as radios, record players, cassette players and cathode ray tubes (tV’s) began to be replaced by digital counterparts. With this transformation came the decline of traditional radio broadcasting in favor of digitized mediums. This was another instance where I thought that it would be interesting to document change over time and to look at the potential of using radio frequencies to create a record of explorative and creative sound art. Between 1996 through 2008 I created a broad set of sound works documenting the dying analog days of radio. 

Surprisingly, the switch to digital broadcasting coincided with the increased availability of analog radio transmission devices for consumer use. Always fascinated with radio and pirate radio in particular, I became interested in building my own radio stations.  The opportunity to explore this further came in 2011 through an invitation to participate in an exhibition curated in part by Tom McGlynn, an artist, curator and writer based in New York and New Jersey. The exhibition was to take place at the foothills of the Sequoia National Park in a deteriorating airfield and hangars. The remoteness of the location and the possibility of using a radio station as the launching point for collaborative audience participation created the perfect circumstances to test reinventing the radio station as an itinerary broadcast in which the audience helped generate and produce a weeklong experimental sound project. To this end I researched radio transmitters as well as radio station and sound mixing technology to create a compact traveling professional radio transmission system. A second component to this work was the incorporation of sound making devices and the physical body of the work. The effort was concentrated in the creation of instrumentation not associated with traditional instruments. The instruments were to be un-intimidating and inviting to non-musically trained audiences; creatively address sculptural aesthetics; and allow multiple users to experiment with sound and music. The result of this work became a long term project that has been exhibited widely and received national attention. The result of many broadcasted experiences with n o w h e r a d i o and its many permutations has allowed me to observe a wide array of audience reactions to open participation. This project made me think carefully about the consequences of enabling the audience/public to broadcast a myriad of opinions and manifestations of beliefs, some of which I agreed with and some that I did not. The study of audience interaction led to weighing the possibilities of restricting the public from contributing in negative ways, censoring the content and contributions of certain audience members or letting the audience self monitor and produce their contributions to the work freely. The conclusions of this research was produced and delivered at conferences and during artist talks. Arriving at the conclusion that performative work that is inclusive of audience contributions needs to embrace and not reject the cacophony of society. Our cultures abound in a myriad of opinions, beliefs and political stances, and by and large the product of such collaborations result in positive and thoughtful interaction; exclusion or censorship is not ideal under these circumstances. Audiences are apt to self moderate while at the same time a majority of participants in my work have carefully considered their potential interactions and have created thoughtful experiences for others. I have also seen participants carry out explosive and reactionary interventions on my work, including the physical destruction of certain elements. Participation and its collective result over time is a representation of a temporal community inclusive of all whom are willing to explore the work. It is here where I think the work ventures into new and perhaps interesting territory within the field of contemporary art. Is it time to discover that audience participation and co-authorship in art can potentially describe social and cultural interactions in ways we haven’t considered?  

A last and significant part of my research is directed towards solar power. Interested in extending the range of kinetic and electronically activated work to spaces well beyond formal exhibition venues. I began searching for ways to make my work become autonomous and self-powered to reach remote regions. I studied the logistics and technical possibilities as well as assembled electronic schematics to use solar power and detach my work from the electric grid. In anticipation of this research I applied for and received funding and a residency at the Goldwell Artist Residence near Death Valley. I invited artists Craig Colorusso and Richard Vosseller to join me in the dry and sunny Amargosa Valley in Nevada. The joint effort in 2009 called Off The Grid provided ample time to test and create electronic works that were self-powered and autonomous, activated by the daily solar cycles. I experimented with kinetic and light-based solar powered works, while Craig Calorusso worked with sound and Richard Vosseller investigated site specific interventions. The outcome of this residency lent itself to further explore solar power. Years of testing various possibilities resulted in a recent outdoor exhibition in rural Wisconsin called Farm/Art Detour. The latest iteration of n o w h e r a d i o had now become completely solar powered. The artwork includes a broadcasting booth and an array of solar powered receivers, measures 175 feet in diameter, and has a broadcasting range of 4 miles. 

Willingness for cross-disciplinary research in my artwork is part of a persistent effort to further experimentation within the arts and requires a a constant pursuit of new sets of skills in technology, engineering and materials design.