is an artist and curator based in Los Angeles whose videos and installations address a heady rush of images, technology, and bodies caught in the streams of circulation and representation that our era demands. He has recently had work featured in the seventh Bucharest Biennale, the ninth Berlin Biennale, and will have a new video installation as part of the eleventh edition of theGwangju Biennale, curated by Maria Lind, which opens on September 2, 2016.
ODE TO SEEKERS 2012 is a looped video that celebrates mosquitoes, syringes, and oil derricks. Not only are they symbols of some of the most significant threats to human life—mosquito-borne illnesses, drug addiction, and the petroleum industry—but they are also the causes of three of my most significant personal traumas.
In 2012 I received psychological testing at Rockland Psychiatric Center in Orangeburg, New York, which had been a pioneer of the “therapeutic suburb” model for mental institutions when it was built in 1927. I realized that a large portion of the campus had become abandoned, and not only hadn’t been cleaned out, but carried a history of sporadic reactivation by junkies, homeless people, teens, and artists. I began bringing friends there to explore and shoot video, and on my last trip I shot footage in which I missed a Steadicam to create what seems to me like a mosquito’s point of view.
Like Steadicam footage, which is meant to transport the viewer to the perspective of someone—or something—else, CGI is a technique based in seeking. It illustrates objects hidden from view or movements too small for the naked eye, with the potential for a cartoon physics beyond the laws of our physical universe. I worked with the Romanian animator Vlad Maftei on this video because of his range of experience—from hyperreal renderings of vital organs for the health care industry and architectural renderings of buildings-to-be to Spongebob Squarepants advertisements. Much of my thinking about the composition of Ode to Seekers 2012 is based on John Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” wherein the titular art object is treated as eternal, intensifying the speaker’s sense of mortality. In keeping with the structure of an ode, my work consists of three movements. In the first—to the sound of an exploratory house track by Marcellis—the broken camera moves through the abandoned children’s ward corridors of Rockland. Second, highly saturated computer-generated 3-D models of the mosquito, syringe, and oil derrick appear under magic-hour lighting, slipping in and out of an ecstatic trance of liquid extraction—or injection—from a surface that looks at once like desert salt flats, skin under a microscope, and potato casserole. In sequences that are edited like a music video, these objects joyously thrust, pierce, and pump to my remix ofIcona Pop’s 2012 banger “I Love It.” Third, each model and its pumping functions are co-opted by an assembly line apparatus, at once medical and industrial, that sucks the color out of everything that comes down a pipe.
Making this piece has been a process of grasping for a fantasy that I see when I’m jogging in a new city or under some kinds of influences. I can’t describe what the fantasy is, and I will probably never reach it. The similarities between my behavior and that of these three forces suggest a sense of camaraderie, but they also provoke a fear that, like those objects, I may just be a puppet of algorithms or economic networks or genetic coding. Still, I work my way through a neural reward system in pursuit of something fleeting, or perhaps even unattainable.