For how long have you been wanting to make babies?
When I was a kid, I used to spend a lot of time in a quarry a couple miles behind my house in the woods. A lot of things in my life happened there like I looked through a telescope there and another time it was the first place I saw a lot of dead animals there were piles of deer carcasses that suddenly appeared there when I was 7 and then the day after princess Diana died there were suddenly thousands of co2 cartridges tossed blanketing the sand reflecting the sky but I didn’t know what those were for and I fell through the ice there and would go there to have sex on top of hoodies when I was older and it seemed like we were going to be disturbed at my parents’ house. I would go there a lot to record sounds there was a lot of abandoned construction equipment I would throw rocks at the windows and record the sound of the windshields caving in on themselves and the tempered glass gliding against itself making all these squeaky peeling metallic sounds but when I was doing that I always thought oh this would be something that a kid would like doing with me but even then I was a little suspicious that was bad dad stuff and I was just twisting an imaginary arm into wanting to mirror the way I like to spend time.
What would it mean to be a good dad?
Making decisions based on what’s best for everyone else not just what’s titillating for pappy.
You often involve collaboration in your practice, whether that means people, fruit, or algorithmic intelligence. I wonder if what you say is also your ethics for making artwork in this regard.
In other words, is being a good dad similar to being a good artist?
I think those roles potentially have very different weighting in terms of where their responsibility lies in a macro social vs micro familial way.
There are certain types of turbulence that might be healthy on a social scale that I think might be the responsibility of a father to attempt to dampen or avoid even if in their most translucent moments they might say those are ultimately healthy on a familial or individual scale.
I need to think if there are any roles where blind actor moves i.e. moving programmatically rather than responsively to new moments is ever actually something you can really advocate for—it sounds sexy because right now tradition is so tangy to touch—it sounds cool to have the role of a father be this thing that turns red in the face out of some kind of agonizing tenderness made shining through 9/5 in the rain and it’s pores enlarge over time as it endures xyz conditions for the sake of blooming whatever it’s playing umbrella support to but maybe something more responsive is good too.
I want to say it’s a feminine quality to respond to a moment in that moment that’s what a mother does she needs to be covered in a storm so she can hear things clearly enough to respond to them appropriately through the rain and a fathers role is to shiver be steady and do things to keep her and everyone else dry I think these roles become clearer when you talk about responsibilities in a storm.
But then you wonder about hyperbole situations like a single dad that’s so in tune that they can make rain boil by shaking their eyes while they squat.
In creating with algorithmic intelligence there is an opening for the responsibility of the artist to reconsider itself. How has your conceptual impetus, or your understanding of this responsibility for making images in general shifted now that you are making work specifically for the screen using these interfaces?
I’m not sure that it has… I got into art through making algorithmic music and building synths in max/msp + supercollider at the end of middle school… I always made objects I spent my whole childhood in the basement gluing stuff but once I started thinking about automating movement by modulating parameters with LFOs or compositional rules via chaotic equations that way of thinking eventually kinda permeated everything in that mode based logic of addressing parameters with fluctuating systems and letting that inflate otherwise static things w a different kind of life but in the physical world you can do that with wind and water and people’s idiosyncrasies… I always think about making working in the world a dynamic living process by creating these webs of contingencies that are a pipeline to the final thing and certain aspects are pegged as hard rules and other aspects the marble rolls into some sort of greased swirly zone it could do xyz things before it rejoins the track and rhythmically loops back through cycles of predictability and surprise or takes some other turn.
But the biggest shift in my thinking I think since I was a kid… there’s a few… but the one that often really seems heavy is this shift through different ways of relating to subjectivity—at first I was thinking about this playing with LFOs and rain and stuff triggered on a schedule and these sort of systems and then as my ideas about whatever laid behind those phenomena that made them interesting swell to see those same forces more densely overlayed and rippling through everything the most exciting form of that became working with other humans in all their complexity as extremely individuated idiosyncratic unduplicatable unrepeatable systems that can be connected to a series of parameters to modulate them—but then very quickly the dryness of this became apparent I almost immediately started breaking my own rules the most exciting dynamic was more conceptually perverted and less wind it up and set it loose and more actually collaborative and reactive aspects of these interactions became the most thrilling—which then you’re dancing with other people’s subjectivity all the time and playing with pouring your own in you start to get curious about what you could do with that on its own since you have access to it all the time and you start poking it and seeing what holes you can twirl it into etc.…. does that make sense… this sort of continuum between things that are framed as being deterministic vs something that’s continuously reactive?
I think AI begins to be an interesting conversation because of this—you can abuse yourself and demand that you contort yourself into many ways of being/reacting but people don’t bounce back quickly enough to justify being able to request someone else to do this in your behalf—working with AI is a bit like a portable kiddie model of this same human subjectivity but you can bash it a little more recklessly than you would yourself + put it to work while you sleep. The way these things exist today is so far from sentient there’s no need to ask these potentially existential questions about if the ‘intelligence’ feels badly for having its limits abused or being forced to endure a relentless production schedule etc. so many questions regarding collaborative responsibility become moot—you could say something about the responsibility to bring something into the world that expresses something beyond technical novelty as this has become a central mass public conversation regarding media created using AI… but I also think this is a strange fixation in the conversation related to the novelty associated with these systems as emergent tools—it is not an obsession of sausage makers to make you forget that it is cured inside of an intestine, rather those playing with sausage at the highest level put a tremendous amount of consideration into how to cleverly make the intestine casing do extra work in the equation emboldening flavor etc. To be clear I am not advocating for navel gazing structuralism I think this is the most boring if anything I’m advocating for making depictions of the 3 kings crossing the desert by arranging macaroni to create a picture while acknowledging that the macaroni are arranged to create lines that tell a story and that this in no way detracts from them continuing to be firmly established in the reality that they are macaroni. I’m not interested in conversations about AI and stealing everything under the sun is grist for the mill except for airing the familial dramas of others in public. I think the only real responsibility in creating artwork is that you believe what you are placing into a society is truly dynamic enough that what you show people on stage has the potential to transform how they view events on the street. I think it’s useful to say stage here to make a point, but I would like to be clear that the stage only exists as an extension of the street.
What you are saying about stage and street reminds me of the current landscape of viewing platforms online. From the poorly designed and alienating OpenSea to the slew unthoughtful 3d viewing ports that reproduce all the boring parts of white cube galleries, it seems there has yet to be a project that really tries to put effort into constructing real contexts for viewing. 1-111 however does not only exist as images but arrives with a fully developed environment for viewing.
Yaaaaaa is funny I’ve always been vv skeptical of these sort of spatial metaphors in the space of a screen… Mt. Get Back In the Game was sculpted in VR not that this fact really bares any weight with regard to the more palpable aspects of the experience of locking eyes w screen… the last… 6 years I’ve made most of my shows on my phone and then I print everything out and stay in the city for a couple weeks building up matter in the exhibition space because for big chunks of that time I was living in trucks, sometimes I would use the side of the road or the roof if I needed to make something independent of an exhibition environment like a birthday present but for the most part it just made sense to work in this collapsible immaterial way in the phone that you can inflate on location. But even in this way of working I’m always conceiving of everything in anticipation of the tension of someone entering a room and having to confront these things within the drama of an architectural or spatial scenario having to see something in a low corner and having to cross these oceans of air and windowsills or reeds to bring the object you are engaging with into focus.
At different points in my life I’ve really tortured myself trying to square this circle of building reality.
Meaning… hmmm… when I was 24 I was very in love and we had a plan to never work again where we were going to buy those 500$ Halloween masks that are really beautifully manufactured demon heads with all the veins popping out of their neck and 27 inch reinforced horns and open sores painted with different finishes of latex based paints than the rest of the demon flesh and the idea was to just have sex on webcam all day in 1000$ worth of masks and charge subscriptions through a portal or something this was way before OnlyFans.
But that would have been reality, to actually do something real in the real world not to illustrate something.
If you live your life a certain way so you can tell people stories about it that’s something else.
The opposite of the demon thing is cinema.
This is what I used to tell myself.
For instance, you have Kathryn Bigelow synthesizing this elaborate illustration of a whole clan of liquid snake types belaying down an elevator shaft and you can say “oh this is not real” but then there is the reality of the table she sits at waiting for the call that her car has been picked up from having a cracked side mirror replaced at the dealership and the reality of the delivery food that’s shared with the team storyboarding the whole thing out—the extreme unreality of planning the reenactment of an imaginary event all done with real pencils on real paper with people who wear real orthotics take time to recover from real surgeries all of them neck deep in all sorts of unfolding dynamics with backdrops of real adulteries and real sand under pebbles between toes.
For many years I tortured myself over this idea of real experience and how to make something that sat firmly established in the realm of the real… I think the creation of indexical forms or images is a bit of a desperate play at this.
You can also flirt with this by playing games like look at this thing and how the artefacts of its production or finishing of the space it is presented within imply that it is a relic from a theme park in Taiwan or whatever transposed reality you’re half asking ppl to suspend disbelief and enter.
At a certain point I got fed up and just kind of had to admit that cartoons exist in reality as cartoons and so do their makers and that’s okay.
Sometimes there's also no difference between cartoons and their makers. We see this a lot on the internet right? Probably other social spaces as well. Except in real life, you can't necessarily jump off a building and swell up to the size of a balloon to float safely and slowly down to the ground. Is this why we create? Why is the mother figure in Creation Babies making babies? I don't want to assume...
Well... if we’re going to call it how we see it~ just as much chance she’s making accordions or bongos.
Is she lonely and bored?
She is whole.
I don’t think a mother knows boredom.
Thinking about mine.
I don’t think I ever saw it on her face.
You said you were skeptical of the spatial metaphors in the space of the screen and mentioned inflating from the phone screen to the physical. What has changed if anything now that you are inflating within the screen instead?
What kind of an answer is that?
I was trying to write something longer but I was meeting my friend at a bar the were working at and they were serving me this cray mackerel cubes in citrus creme thing which cray for me because supposedly I don’t eat meat.
You paint a board green even with a lot of primer to smooth out the grain—there is so much life.
That was what I got finished typing.
Life in the surface.
Of the object.
One moment I finish I gotta find another place to sit down Milo is calling me.
Sorry I was in acupuncture, and with the needles in me I guess I was a little more emotionally overflooded than I’d like to be.
I usually wouldn’t say something so direct and inappropriate.
About painting the board green. You do something like that and soooooo much happens. There is the whole interaction of the texture of the surface with the paint—whatever micro texture is left from applying the paint with a brush or roller, the dust that starts sleeping on surface of the paint while it’s drying—all of this sounds so small but it adds up into this string of cues that is the backbone of how we appreciate G-d on earth in the form of beauty—by this I just mean that everyone who is in love with this thing knows that it cannot be looked at directly so you carve out these social and cultural spaces to romanticize and celebrate the ripples it puts on the surface~ you can do it by yourself too but like laughter this celebration is contagious and gives itself many facelifts as it moves through a social fabric—appreciation of dust and rot and gush and burst and bloom and wither windows with glass made bottom heavy by time rattling in their frames from being licked at by coastal air with peeling paint and ash on the window sill—we love these things and have developed an enormous cultural and spiritual apparatus to tell each other that witnessing these phenomena is the very thing that gives life meaning beyond love interpersonal and otherwise—that to live a sensorially engaged life without it is wages and yelling at grandkids—many who spend their youth in toil equate their taking time to smell the roses and appreciate these phenomena in their final years after retiring to be the icing on the cake of the complete poem as they see themselves softening and merging.
The screen in all of our perceptions of it is infinitely less the domain of the breath of G-d. In this sense it is a brutal test of faith. You make a 1080x1080 px canvas and paint bucket neon green into it. It’s burning your eyes it’s so flat you pull out your phone and make a video zooming in on the pixels of the screen where you can start to see individuated phosphors of the screen and some sort of RGB separation halo coming off each pixel but even with these effects it’s such a blindingly homogeneous unrelenting field of green. It’s hideously flat and absent of every quality we look for as an indicator of authentic or divine experience. Worm spends so much time breathing dirt back into what they do. I have my ways too. When I was working on my Whitney show we had to hang the bells from the mother’s knees and elbows and jaw and Jake was there in the last moments sitting on the floor in the dark with all the LEDs blinking in his eyes on the buckles on his boots and he was spitting dip spit on the metal of the bells we made and massaging it into the twine so we could fake some time into them.
Everything about this object [the screen] and the way we relate to its physical qualities is screaming at us G-d is not real. It screams I’m plastic and glass and brittle and need to be replaced often... perhaps its capacity to become nonfunctional and need to be replaced is one of the only obvious cues that it still exists within the dominion of G-d. But we look at these other things and scream even more ravaging declarations about the nature of reality. It becomes this horrifyingly reductive metaphor that so many use to try to understand themselves and each other—telling each other stories about how their mind is organized in folders and trying to wrangle their understanding of their minds, themselves, their personhood into these analogies where the brick and mortar structural fabric of all perceptions are reduced to the exchange of impulses within the meat brain which is then even more reductively described to behave similarly to an operating system bound to linear processes like Windows or even more flatly the folder based organizational tree of a file system. All horrifying things are puberties that are passed through as impermanent states and even if what is on the other side of the ordeal is not the joy of reward or the birth of utopias you are at least always rewarded with something like the peace of indifference on a long enough scale.
I think that as a species our mediation of experience through screen is part of a social intellectual and spiritual puberty that reshapes how humanity conceives of itself, the nature of selfhood and the nature of experience in relationship to the sensory and what is beyond that. I do badly want to tell you that they are unimportant—computers, I don’t want to marvel at them. We give them too much weight and are so impressed with ourselves for devising them. We are very impressed with our scientific and technological achievement in that we are in awe that we can put an iPhone in our pocket—but it is humbling to remember despite all this cleverness we as a debatably 200,000 year old species even with all this science and technology have been unable to reach any semblance of consensus or conclusion regarding what is actually a proper diet for the human organism. We can definitely make a mobile web browser that can run stable diffusion in your pocket but we can’t tell each other what would have been the healthiest thing to put in our stomach’s even though we’ve been eating for 200k years.
Heavy burrowing lust and greed tendrils and the responsibility to one’s home coming to spank humanity a little in the form of environmental crisis—these are all giant topics for humanity and it does not take much to see how G-d moves through all these forms to turn the page given the amount of breath we have dedicated to all these topics and their pornographic manifestations, we have given equal weight if not more to computers in the last 70 years. For the weight of our conversation alone it is difficult for me to believe that G-d does not move through this also and use it as an equally powerful engine for transformation as eating breakfast or marriage.
Taking it back a little though to your question and what I said about Jake and the dip spit… The Creation Babies images are all riffs on the same event my Whitney sculpture was looking at, this mother ripping apart a harp to create a babe from its matter/ a baby being transmuted into a harp.
How does that play out specifically in Creation Babies.
With the fountain I made at the Whitney it was focused on this singular event of a mother made of terrazzo ripping apart harp and reconfiguring the matter it is comprised of into the form of a giggling breathing eating crying child that forms memories and all this…
The violently creative action of playing alchemy with flesh and bones and strings and hammers and drum skins is of course exciting to watch like fireworks but this is also intended as a playful look at weightings within a societal consensus. We have many ideas about the raising of a healthy child taking precedence over every other event that occurs under the sun—the pruning of the little us for the future… this is almost universal but there are a few exceptions where we occasionally acknowledge the possibility that something else eclipses the importance of protecting and nurturing the child.
Ideas about culture, history, legacy—these in their noble and perversely ambitious forms all are occasionally given permission to trump the sacred supremacy of the activity of child rearing. There is a certain violence here… the strained and exhausted mother with her frizzy hair and soup stained sweat shirt shrieking that her wrists will abrade in the bathtub if she is not given a quiet moment to spill her poetry—the truth must come out at any cost, even the most regimented society requires a moment of relaxed shoulders and entertainment—if you want to make an omelet you’ve got to break some eggs—work on yourself so that you can be your best for others—all of these tensions and questions about weight and priority that we try to collectively negotiate and instill on each other.
When I was making that fountain I was also thinking a lot about birth through thought—meaning that somewhere in the universe everything that is ever thought comes to pass simply by virtue of the initial thought echoing out.
This robs everything of having the potential of being illustrative and forces every representational image or form to behave commemoratively even if the event it is remembering has yet to occur or its author has no access to sensory or textual evidence that the event has transpired.
It is a commemorative object enacted in faith that this is how things come into being.
All this implies overlapping double blind spaces that are not necessarily bridgeable in flesh—you might be able to go there but you can’t take your hands with you.
And in these spaces every potentiality occurs.
You love blueberries and are made uncomfortable when someone wants to absorb you—somewhere else you vomit when seeing blue and toss and turn at night begging the sky that you won’t wait much longer to be absorbed. Somewhere you sleep well other places you never live past 3 days old every time you are born.
With Creation Babies there are more babies drum machines and bongos and harps and violins and guitars and accordions.