obscurantist studio

rewarding the diffucult.

09 June 2010


My first piece completed for this last Spring's sculpture class was Reliq, a sort of curiosity cabinet slash reliquary presentation of objects imbued with a universal symbolic system. The total composition is presented in the image below. I will admit to these not being the best photographs of the piece, but as I learn more about digital imaging, I hope to better document Reliq.

It is my overall intention with Reliq to address the cyclical nature of the life and death continuum, loss, accumulation of memory through the collection of objects, and the unfolding of symbolic meanings themselves. This piece, like Limnal(spring), also had at its core an interest in viewer led derivation of meaning.

My practice, as it has developed recently, is not interested in forcing the materials, physical or conceptual, into anything which is inappropriate for them. I also do not, likewise, wish to force the perception of the audience into anything too specific. Interpretation is an open field for the receiver of a work of art. The audience deserves as much freedom as I do as an artist and the materials do as tools for communicating intent.

Reliq, by being an open, yet organised, succession of objects, allowed individualised audience elaboration upon the conceptual goals behind the piece, but the objects themselves, evocative and resonant, needed only to be presented in concert to reveal their associative meanings.

There is also a great deal of personal significance to the various objects, which I will touch upon lightly, just because, along with the details following.

Spiral shell from Big Lagoon State Park, near Pensacola, Florida, collected Summer 1991. Glass bottle provided by JB, Omaha, NE, March 2010.

The hermit crab was kept by Natalie and myself, and was found dead when we had arrived home from a trip in June, 2007. We had assumed dehydration was the cause of death, which it certainly could have contributed, but in December of 2007, upon reopening the box that I had stored his remains in, I discovered the dried husks of many dead mites (detail below) that had been parasitically inhabiting his shell. The bottle on the right contains sand and organic waste from the mites found in the box. The dried African violets date from around the same period, and were kept in the same box.

The artichokes, which inhabit the centre of the composition and provide a kind of keystone for Reliq, were put to aesthetic use after their culinary use had expired. They were to be a meal for Anjali, sometime back in February 2010.

On the left are numerous whiskers (detail below) from Betty Gooch, the cat, collected over the course of our five year friendship. On the right is a tail feather from a Red-winged Blackbird collected in Yutan, Nebraska at some point in the middle 1990's.

My own molar, number 19, extracted December 2007. It is in two pieces, as one of the roots broke off during the procedure.

The wooden shelves were constructed by myself, at the end of April, 2010. The test tubes, bottles, corks and rubber stoppers were purchased from American Science and Surplus. The wire hooks, used to anchor the bottles to the wall, were a bit of a last minute cobbling together. Sometimes you learn about your university's building hours the hard way. I have sturdier wire, needing of metal working tools, in my possession for future installation of Reliq.

The primary research text for symbolic meanings was A Dictionary of Symbols by J. E. Cirlot. I have left out thorough discussion of the symbolism in this post, but the intrepid viewer may of course delve where necessary.

30 May 2010


This last spring brought a return to my long neglected university studies. This post documents the second piece I completed for my sculpture class, a light and sound installation called Limnal(spring). This piece came about as a last minute alternative to the construction of a psychomanteum. The psychomanteum project will resurface when a suitable venue for it becomes available.

The piece which stepped in for the apparition booth does share in one component, that being the traversing of what Dr. Raymond Moody refers to as a shadow realm. Limnal(spring) is an exploration of interim states, liminality, the crepuscular, and the transitional, brought out through the balanced presentation of two separate energies and their resultant spatial interplay.

The piece was realised in a small black-walled room ten stories above 623 S. Wabash. It consisted of three planes of raw muslin, two light bulbs (one golden yellow, the other teal, approximately), and a two channel modular synthesizer drone through two guitar amplifiers. The sketches below should provide a feel for the space.

Limnal(spring) by lightpolite

The above is a studio recording of the music for this piece. Missing from this recording is the way the sound reacted in the actual room. The fundamental frequency was tuned to the room, with all additional tonalities and timbres adjusted with consideration to how the viewer moved through the space and to how the sound itself moved as modulations swept the spectra. The sound, thrumming and resonating the room, became just as physically present as the saturated co mingled light on draped muslin.

Limnal(spring) represents a step towards the sort of installation practice that I have been considering for a good while, but ultimately dates back, along with the muslin, to a piece I co-organised for Omaha's sadly defunct Medusa Project Gallery. Intonorumori, from 2002, was an immersive experimental music environment, wherein somewhere between 9 and 13 instrumentalists set themselves up around the perimeter of the gallery. The audience, instructed to bring pillows and blankets, were offered the middle of the gallery, selecting an instrumental mix of their preference by actively positioning themselves in the room.

Limnal(spring) shares in intention with the previous work the enabling of an audience led experience but works towards a more specific communicative goal. It is the objective of a work like Limnal(spring) to create Sacred space for the viewer to use as is appropriate to his or her needs. The goal is to create environments which suspend temporality, promote (self-)awareness and loosen the grip of material concerns.

The Eurorack system was visible through the muslin, the synaptic center of the active energies (literally) behind Limnal(spring). Many thanks to Matt Schieren for the photography.