Click. A photo of desert scenery. Click. Another photo of the desert. Is that the same one? Click. Oh, another! Have I seen this one already? Click. And another? This one’s probably different. Click. Is it? It is. Click.
The slide projector spins the wheel of slides. Each of the 50 some-odd photos are shots of the desert, a part of Miguel Palma’s latest exhibition, “Trajectory.”
The photos are projected onto a white wall by an old-fashioned slide projector set on a timer. The photos roll around, each a different photo of Arizona’s desert scenery.
On the other side of the wall, there is an orange astronaut suit with one noticeable addition: several dozen small, black computer fans attached to the outside of the suit. Palma wore this suit as he traversed the desert, taking photos of the sights and scenery. The black computer fans were used to keep him cool during his expedition.
Click. Drip. Suddenly, I notice a new sound in the exhibit. Drip. Drip. Click. I realize that the sound of the projector isn’t alone. The sound is coming from a piece called “Bypass.”
“Bypass” is a device that Palma created. It takes water from a bucket, runs it up tubing into a chunk of wood, and then drips the water back down into the bucket. The natural and organic element of the wood and the water contrasts with the metal and silicone. There is a pump inside the bucket of water that looks like it was put there to bring water to the tree, but then the tubing and the metal cause the water to bypass the tree and return to the bucket. The manmade apparatus of tubing and silicone is depriving the tree of the water that it needs. The hunk of wood is supported in the air by metal and a hydraulic lift. The manmade system isn’t only depriving the tree of water, but it also supports the tree and holds it up. This brings up a question: is this what we’re doing to the desert? Are we trying our best to uphold it and support it, yet ultimately just depriving it of what it needs to survive? I arrive at more questions than I have answers. I have to move on.
Along the northern and eastern wall, there is an absolute cascade of poster paper full of art and ideas. Each poster contains ideas about the desert and the culture of the people who live in it. Palma uses collages, images, drawings and commentary of our culture to show these ideas. As I walk and read each poster, I see themes connect and I begin to understand the corollaries between them. For example, Palma wrote about swimming pool shapes, and the purpose of each shape. He wrote about L-shaped pools. “The L-shape fits easily into a corner or around a house projection.” I see that phrase written multiple times around swimming pools and even around old desert photos where, presumably, a pool would eventually go. There are stories about the destruction of the desert, and how manmade tools changed the scenery into what we call Phoenix.
I notice one piece called “War Games.” It shows photos of the desert, with yellow dots painted over it. Each dot has a line pointing at a construction truck, many with Xs drawn over them. Palma seems to be trying to show that people are at war with the desert; our weapons are the tools we used to put ourselves into the desert with, like tools of construction, transportation and infrastructure. I have never thought of it like that. Are we at war with the desert?
Palma was a visitor to our desert, but it took me a while to connect the dots. He wasn’t just an explorer of the desert; he is implying that he is like an astronaut exploring unknown worlds with his space suit and his rover vehicle. It all became clear to me. His art is a tale of his exploration of the unknown territory, the Arizona desert. He charted our destruction of the desert as well; we have been using our war tools to build our L-shaped pools and destroy the beauty of the desert around us. Palma researched our history and recorded lives, not just our lives, but also the life of the desert itself.
But what does that make me, a desert-dweller observing Palma’s observations? I suppose I’m the Martian who lives on this strange planet of rock and cacti. I suppose we should all take a better look at the world outside our cities. It’s beautiful.
“Miguel Palma: Trajectory” is on display at the ASU Art Museum until February 9, 2013
ASU Art Museum Intern
Thanks to Sean Deckert and the Desert Initiative for use of their photographs.
ASU Art Museum and First Saturdays for families are pleased to be having fine arts bookmaker Alice Vinson returning for a kids bookmaking workshop on November 3. Alice is an award-winning book artist as well as a children’s bookmaking workshop instructor for The Drawing Studio, in Tucson AZ.
Due to overwhelming response to her first workshop, Alice will be doing two sessions. The first session is from 11:30 – 1:00pm and the second is from 1:30 – 3:00pm. The workshop sessions and supplies are FREE!
There is very limited space, so sign-up is first-come, first-serve, so save your spot by emailing Aimee Leon at Aimee.Leon@asu.edu with the name(s) and age(s) of the child(ren), attending parent(s) names, a contact phone number and which session you’d like to attend.
We will be providing activities in rotating hour-long intervals. If you come for the first session, feel free to stay after. If you are in the second session we hope to see you a little early.Photo by Tim Trumble.
Guest blogger and ASU student Veronica Rascona writes about the ASU Art Museum’s Fall 2012 Season Opening Reception:
At 6:30 on the evening of September 28, the ASU Art Museum launched its 2012 season. People gathered in the darkness at the front of the building to talk, eat and watch a performance by the mixed parkour, martial arts, dance and acrobatics group Movement Connections. The group, dressed in white, took advantage of the museum’s unique structure as they silently crawled, leapt and ran all over the walls and stairs of the Art Museum’s entrance.
In a touching moment, a little girl got caught up in the mix and one of the performers invited her to perform a stunt with him—a simple handstand, nothing dangerous. After performing a few more acrobatics on their own, eventually the performers climbed up onto the cement pillars in the front of the Museum. They performed a few stunts and then began pointing toward the façade of the museum upon which a video was being projected. It appeared to have been filmed from the window of a car and depicted an expanse of desert landscape rushing by.
The video continued to play as Movement Connections wrapped up their performance. People then began to shuffle down the stairs, waiting for the next sequence in the evening’s activities. Some ventured into the Museum to look at the current exhibits on display, while others, like myself, sat just outside the doors, taking in the array of lights that filled the underground courtyard—part of the “55: Music and Dance in Concrete” performance that would start at 7:30 p.m.
I sat to one side of the courtyard and began to notice other elements—a video of an eye opening and closing and rolling around in its socket was projected onto the back of the pillars that outlined the courtyard. Above and below the eye was the phrase, “Don’t touch me!!” projected backwards. It was somewhat disturbing,and I did not know what to expect from the performance after seeing these images. Just before the performance began, the audience was instructed as to where to stand in order to best view the performance, but were also told that the performers would be moving throughout the space alternately providing various vantage points a better view.
The crowd gathered, and from my vantage point I witnessed three of the visiting dancers, each dressed in red, black and white, slowly fill the empty space between us and the Museum. I could not see what was happening on the other half of the courtyard as it was blocked by cement pillars and benches, but this was how the show was meant to be viewed: people seeing different parts of the show, each person having a unique viewing experience. The three girls on my side slowly moved into position.
The lights changed from bright white lines filling the space to a strange speckled effect, and music composed of electronic sounds, “from 55 improvised and 55 composed pieces” started to play. The dancers began to move. Their dancing was rapid; they moved convulsively, throwing themselves at the cement walls and against the floor as the lights continued to change and pulse. The effect was alarming and intriguing. As the dancers moved throughout the space, the crowd adjusted to watch each new scene; at one point the only male dancer shut himself behind a gate while a video of him stuck in what seemed like a jail cell played on the wall behind the bars. The video cut from scenes of him in the cell, to the real dancer performing similar movements in the real, jail-like space.
The music and lights continued to change as the dancers set and reset their stage, from one side of the courtyard to the other, to behind the bars, to on top of the cement benches, to at one point taking the elevator in the middle of the space up to the second floor where we lost sight of them for a moment. The performance, meant to engage the audience in sight, sound and movement, felt like a piece about escape; the dancers’ jerking movements gave the impression that they were almost trying to break out of their own skin.
What was most beautiful about the whole event, however, was not only the performances, but the interaction between the performers and their audience. I looked over the faces in the audience and everyone’s eyes were on the performers, completely captivated. The decision by both performance groups to use the space around their audience created an atmosphere in which we were all connected. Not only did everyone get to watch a fun and intricate performance, but they were encouraged to feel like they were a part of it all.
Thanks to Sean Deckert and Veronica Rascona for the use of their photographs.
55: Music and Dance in Concrete premiered at Fort Worden as part of Centrum’s Reverberations series, in addition to premiering at the ASU Art Museum. The project received initial funding from the MAP Fund and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, as well as support from Arizona State University, and RBMA. The project is supported by the Japan Foundation through the PerformingArtsJAPAN program. The Centrum Artist Residency program is made possible by support from the Washington State Arts Commission and the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. Additional support was provided by 4Culture Site Specific.
Miguel Palma’s Trajectory is supported in part by the FUNd at ASU Art Museum, the ASU Art Museum Advisory Board and Friends and Margarita and Willie Joffroy.
The ASU Art Museum’s Season Opening is this weekend — Friday and Saturday night, from 6:30-9 p.m. — at both the Museum and the Ceramics Research Center.
The events are free and open to the public, and there’s something for everyone, from the premiere of a video/dance piece in the Nymphaeum to a parkour team using the building as their canvas to food trucks in the parking lot.
The parkour group Movement Connections will perform from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Then, at 7:30 p.m., composer/musician Wayne Horvitz will premiere 55: Music and Dance in Concrete, his collaboration with choreographer/dancer Yukio Suzuki and video artist Yohei Saito.
You can get a taste of 55: Music and Dance in Concrete here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=3x6OPYI6ZE4
Below are some shots by photographer Sean Deckert of Movement Connections in action, plus some photographs (also by Sean Deckert) from ISEA2012, in Albuquerque, where artist Miguel Palma presented his “Desert Initiative Remote Shuttle,” which will be on display at the opening as part of Palma’s show Trajectory.
Join us on Friday and/or Saturday night for the big show! So nice, you might just want to come by twice.
The Desert Initiative is taking the International Symposium on Electronic Art in Albuquerque by storm — or haboob, to be desert-specific — where it’s kicking off Desert Initiative: Desert One, a.k.a. DI:D1, which runs now through the spring of 2012 and encompasses exhibitions and projects around the Southwest.
DI Director Greg Esser is participating in ISEA2012: Machine Wilderness, Sept. 19-24, as are ASU Art Museum Director Gordon Knox, artist Chip Lord (whose Ant Farm Media Van v.08 [Time Capsule] is on view at the CRC, and ASU Art Museum International Artists-in-Residence Clare Patey (England), Miguel Palma (Portugal) and Matteo Rubbi (Italy).
On Sept. 20, Knox, Patey and Phoenix artist Matt Moore presented at the symposium on the topic of extinction; Patey and Moore are collaborating on a project titled Rare Earth, to be unveiled at the ASU Art Museum in the spring of 2013.
Here are Patey and Moore pre-presentation:
Chip Lord will speak about the Media Van on Monday, Sept. 24 and Miguel Palma will be one of the featured artists during 516 Arts Downtown Block Party on Sunday, Sept. 23, with his Remote Desert Exploration Vehicle, a converted former military vehicle that explores desert surroundings during the day and returns to urban areas to project the desert imagery on buildings at night.
The Remote Desert Exploration Vehicle will be on view at the ASU Art Museum starting Sept. 28, as part of Palma’s exhibition Trajectory.
Here are some photos by Phoenix photographer Sean Deckert of the Remote Desert Exploration Vehicle’s trip out to Albuquerque:
And if you’re wondering about those passports pictured in the slideshow above: Stay tuned…