Extration Station.jpg

Bad Ideas

Catalogue of Thought

Black Door and Fireflies

I knew of the event literally months before the debut and yet could not muster the energy necessary to plan, organize, and create site specific works. While on the verge of a near catastrophic nervous breakdown I pushed everything off this proverbial table with a sense of finality. Moments later it lurched back in front of me. Looked me square between the eyes.

The ideas are not hard per se. They come and keep coming and grow, shift and change the more I entertain them.  The problem comes with the movement of ideas into the quotidian space. Ideas often have so little bearing on reality that even the thought of actualization bears a nauseous whirlwind. 

This is the point when I know something more is at work: the lurching idea. The one I can't put away, even though I want to. 

Black Door began simple enough - give people at a party a camera, let them move it to different places, project the image captured upon a stretched canvas and perform live paintings using the projected images as reference.  

But then, the actualization...'How do I transmit a signal between camera and projector?'  Will I be able to see what's being projected? What is this piece even about? The inner critic would win this round.

Then the name Fireflies was decided.  That name stimulated some interesting visual thoughts.  The lurch reappeared, winded, yet unscathed by its recent decent into the garbage.  'What if I built a facade, a fence, spanning some 20 or 30 feet with thousands of holes in it, subtle lights shining through from behind? A design oriented idea, yes, but one that could really affect the environment and space of the event.  The inner critic resounded - "Money and time. Two things you don't have. Bro, if you hate yourself so much, go the crowd-funding route, ...but this is a one night event. No! Ditch this thought at the dump from which it came. You'll be happier."

I finished up this painting instead. I wasn't sure if it would go into the show.

Tree is a Cloud / Man Time, 28x58" Acrylic on Canvas

So, the week of the event came.  Something about the 'week of' mentality, digs deep into the primal self-preservation instinct. I'm not sure how else to describe it, but suddenly, when this moment arrives I need less sleep, less food, and can move as quick as a lizard.

My inner critic had a valid enough point - dropping the big ideas off at the dump.  But then it hit me. I practically live in a dump. I find discarded materials every day here in Oakland! I reinvestigated the name Fireflies. 

Fireflies, if anything, are creatures most reminiscent of my youth growing up in the South. I remember going camping, lounging at twilight in folding chairs, whittling at a stick, atmospheric light cast by plastic sting lanterns hanging from a dilapidated awning. The humidity, the sound of cicadas and crickets filling the air, the smell of citronella. As darkness would spread so also the dance of the fireflies would become more lucid. I remember it being enchanting, hypnotic even.

The screen door, also a symbol for the southern homestead, was an easy starting point to translate this feeling.  I made a video of images of construction sites around Oakland. As a part of a separate project I had been abstracting the colors of these images to highlight only a few key colors. My plan was to project a video of these images onto the back of the door, and at an angle in order to further abstract the source material.  The source material is important though. The idea is to take ubiquity and to reimagine it so that new meaning and understanding can be assigned to it.  This construction is something anyone living in the Bay Area can identify with. 

The wood also came from the streets of Oakland. I have been collecting it for years. I set to build during the extraordinarily hot day. The process reminded me of a meta-example of the imagery I was projecting. Once finished artwork carried a distinct, yet unintended, undertone for the value of rigor.  At the relief and satisfaction of a day's work I had a beer. This was going to be good.

The night of the event came the next day. I had no idea whether the piece would actually translate well. But, it did!  The door was placed on the fringe of the party. People had to escape the crowd to interact and explore the work. It was just enough removed that it became an intimate experience. The sound of cicadas and the strangeness of the installation requested attention, and provided a cathartic reprieve from the party.  I knew the work was successful when kids came up and became mystified by the door. A puppy walked up the steps and sat at the threshold as if it were his own. To top it all off, a full moon rose from behind. I could not have planned this. The lurch had become a socially engaged object.

 

zach cotham1 Comment