STILLS FROM SUNRISE OVER ROCKERFELLER CENTER.
Traffic Circle is a series of geometrically patterned modern landscape video paintings generated from footage that I shot in traffic, from high-rise apartments, at airports, from planes, and on the highway. The series is a continuation of my previous work on technological landscape environments, from skyscrapers to multilane highways. I have been explored the concept of the “modern landscape” with both traditional and new media since my first public show at the deCordova Museum in 1992.
The pieces are location, weather, and time-specific. Several pieces feature iconic New York City location such as Rockefeller Center and 5 th Avenue, while others were shot in Providence, RI and feature local industrial landmarks such as the Interstate 95 and 195 overpasses as well as the iconic three-smoke stacked Narragansett Electric Factory (now National Grid) and the Brayton Point electrical installation with its nuclear-plant-like cooling towers in nearby Fall River, MA. I shot video in good weather and in the rain, at twilight, sunset, night-time, and at sunrise. At times I was hanging out a window 45 stories up in a NYC high-rise, clutching my video for camera as hard as I could in fear that it might drop and… who knows what could happen. I also went up to about 1,200 feet, filming out of the open window of small propeller plane as we shook around in the strong wind like something in an amusement park ride and my fingers practically froze off, all while circling a power plant over and over again. I discovered that perfect atmospheric conditions are fleeting. Waiting for a certain cloud formation or lighting meant screeching to a halt by the side of the highway and lugging out my giant tripod at a moment’s notice. People stopped to talk to me and I rudely did not answer—preferring rudeness over the task of in-post video stabilization.
Although I am using video rather than brushes, I feel that these works are in the spirit of Action Painting movement. The end product is just one possible physical manifestation of my experiences and thought process which are codified on the computer and realizable in any number of ways (different scales, using projection vs. a screen, altering program parameters, etc.) Inspired by my background in painting (MFA RISD), math (BA Brown University), and interest in Islamic art, I used a symmetrical kaleidoscopic framework to bring order to visual complexity. The symmetrical patterning satisfies a basic perceptual aesthetic desire for order by reducing the overdose of complexity that video capture can confer. While recognizable objects and motions remain, they are now in a context of a basic, geometrical visual language. Celebrating the same philosophy as the action painters and surrealists, my creative methodology uses automated computational functions that bring random features and arrangements into being. The changing angles and centers of focus create a constantly emerging stylized landscape with the objects, motions, colors and atmosphere of the actual scene but without the uniform photographic, western perspective. From the limitless possibilities that emerge, I can then choose those moments that “ring true.” In this way I can discover and control visual material I never would have consciously created. Through personal engagement with the original environment and interactive computational strategies, I hope to fuse ancient and modern, and Eastern and Western compositional strategies to simultaneously represent both inner and outer modern landscapes.