"DDDD. Parthenon Museum, Nashville, Tennessee 2000. Massively attended expo incorporating new and traditional media in a variety of presentation formats, including an environmental soundtrack on six channels." [From the AFH Flicker photoset blurb] > I've decided to revisit this seminal 4D collective, inspired by a recent scan of the project materials. The exhibit has never been afforded an appropriately scaled review, or an at-depth analysis. Based on what I can say with confidence now, about we as a collective accomplished then, I believe a re-presentation of some of the exhibit documentation is called for.
The simple projection > Siren: film output on clear acrylic + light. Photo by Chip Cox or Paul McLean. Digital editing by PJM. Siren = Nicole Koenig (Sirens + Conflagrations)s. Installation by PJM, Eric Johnston
I bought 200+ manual Y2K survival flashlights (post-y2k, at a deep discount) for use in the exhibit. Eric (and Chip I think) helped cable them to our particle board box runners for hiding the gobs of wires extending through the installation to the handful of outlets in the hall. Some viewers REALLY got into spotlighting the reflective artworks in the installation. The squawk noise the flashlights make is embedded in my aural memory banks. The pieces in this set/array consisted of little paintings with black frames/acrylic insert plus digital print on adhesive acetate. The imagery consisted of the graphics series I created for I>O, representing the main conceptual threads for the show.
I>O Installation View, facing the Parthenon main entrance. Sculpture by Don Adams, featuring steel extensions in blue housing for electrified airport flashlights (also called signal or marshaling wands, etc.). Don's original power system failed after the opening, probably because of contact (intentional and accidental) with viewers. We ended up replacing bulbs with rave lights for a fix.
Video and presentation elements by Brent Stewart. His movie showed a boy in his back yard playing with a baton. Kids (and not a few adults) visiting I>O would sometimes pick up the baton and attempt to twirl it in the gallery. This tended to cause the museum security anxiety.
nside>Outside [Installation View]: From this viewpoint, we see how the 4D array is arranged to accentuate transitions between light and dark areas in the gallery, the application of fixed lighting on reflective and translucent surfaces, the deployment of transparent and semi-transparent materials, the juxtaposition of things that emit their own light source and those that require external light to be seen. The exhibit design encourages the viewer to move among the vignettes, head + eyes "on the swivel." The show provided over two hundred opportunities for the viewer to stop and engage with the art closely. Observing the length of time viewers afforded to individual and sets of works, noticing the viewing patterns that emerged, was an important facet of the post-production analysis. We scheduled a timeframe (usually weekend/Saturday afternoon) when I and other artists would be present in the gallery to answer questions or talk about our work and collective process, and get feedback from viewers.
[Inside>Outside Installation View]~ The juxtaposition of new and "old" media and materials made for a rich viewing experience with many teachable moments. In this image we have a light box, set next to eight small abstract paintings on canvas (illuminated via manual flashlight), an adhesive vinyl "drawing" mounted on tinted acrylic and affixed to the wall with custom metal fixtures, and an animation/projection thrown on a sculptural substrate (window, canvas-wrapped, painted with a pigmented plaster-gesso mix) raised and supported by pedestals. The diversity of visual textures and content contributed to I>O's resistance to the "recursive reading." The installation was not, in other words, easy to critique, reducible to a catch phrase, and not limited by categorization (like the Blockbuster or bookstore genre processing for videos or printed matter). 4D is more like the internet in its modular, open architecture.
In selecting work for the installation, sometimes the considerations were complex. In this scenario, a large 2D element was called for, in situ adjacent to attractive monitor-based moving image. Most of the exhibit guests entered through the galleries main entrance doors. Because the building construction interrupts a long view of the gallery content, we had to come up with asymmetrical solutions for "the entry piece." The large format "COWGIRLZ + COWBOYZ" hybrid print-paintings solved the practical installation quandary. The graphic pop and color established a dynamic that drew attention immediately from the viewer entering the space at the main door. The Pavlovian effect of the screened movie to attract the viewer adds to the dynamic. As one can judge from the documentation, we produced many effective vignettes that in a way competed for the onlooker's focus. The concept for the practicum I call "Spectral," because we assess the audience (viewership) and install works that we hope will tap into a spectrum of sensory response systems. A main goal in the 4D installer and curator's POV is to engage as many viewers (quantity) as possible with the highest grade art (quality). It seems a given, and I believe it should be.
The Parthenon Museum attracts tens of thousands of visitors annually. Selecting art for the demographics is one arts org strategy. Creating art for the highest purpose (whatever one might determine *that* to be) can be a complicated, convolutional aspiration for any artist. At I>O, in our collective pre-production meetings, we explicitly addressed the effects our artistic decisions might have on the full range of visitors. We thought about and discussed how to approach the child or student viewer, the "visually literate," the museum attendee who comes to the Parthenon on a cultural municipal tour, and so on. The spirit of our collective involved production and selection geared to offer something to as extensive a range of viewers as we could, without abandoning a thematic focus. We therefore had to put "thematic focus" on the rendering table. Eventually, we accepted the limits of "too much" as a positive in a BIG SHOW configuration. The counterbalances included detailing, artistic virtuosity or integrity (quality) on a per piece basis, and the power of music in the environment to hold together the constellation of objects and blanket them with meaning.
The reflective (or reflexive, mimetic, etc.) process we emphasized in Inside>Outside is a feature of dynamic symmetry, a subset of 4D methodology specific to "white cube" art. The geometry of art+viewer encounters or exchanges is incredibly complex. The freedom of our collective approach allows participating artists a tremendous range for conceptual exploration, technical creativity and psychological intensity. The experience in the exhibition begins in the studio with the artist, but is preceded by the conversation that situates the production in a context of free speech or, more precisely, free expression. The extent to which emotion percolates into the project is a function of the pretext for joyful exchange. The affirmation of liberation through art is the foundation for the construct on and in which a proper, democratic 4D expo appears. The engagement of all senses correlates the physical with the immaterial facets of Thing by which all come together. It is a *Gathering modality* we argue for, through the action. Not surprisingly, the agents of society who fear or for whatever resist the empowering social principles at play in the project are uncomfortable by degree with the prospectus, as such. Any 4D collective operating fearlessly will confirm this assertion. An optimum environment for 4D art is a free society, within which a 4D art production is ubiquitous, normative, mundane. That will be a happy society indeed.
I noticed when reviewing the I>O documentation in this set that the images were photos of photos. I only vaguely recall what I was up to here. The digitizing of the hard copy 35mm photographs could have been accomplished by flatbed scan. Instead I used a blurry, jittery digi-still-cam for the task. This picture contains versions of light box imagery, but I think the image itself is the actual reflection of light boxes on one of the Siren prints on acrylic installed in the presentation space, plus the simple projection on the gallery wall. Certainly, we devoted much installation time creating *visual events* like this one in I>O. The objective was to encourage a bit of fun house mirrors sensation for the array and viewer experience (VE).
The 4D installation practicum incorporates the notion of liminal space within the presentation of objects. We took care to consider line-of-sight, as does any quality installer. The dimensionist array encourages more natural, life-like representation of physical spacing, for the directional opportunity. We promoted a visceral or activated art encounter, and an expanding (not reducing) field for conscious engagement. The point- and look-through instruction is established in proximity to the position at which the viewer can regard the artwork at rest, undisturbed by traffic flow. The audio served to inundate and saturate the optical and tactile elements in the exhibition. The music was the I>O aesthetic, all-infusing "Glue."
The unfinished string instruments hanging from the Parthenon ceiling near the primary gallery entrance served multiple functions in the I>O exhibition. They represent or correlate to the development of the child in the womb. In our DddD collective brainstorming pre-production sessions, the referential is activated. Our task entailed moving things from an immaterial phase toward an objective output. After the show, when I reviewed the prospectus we gave the curatorial staff at Parthenon mapping our show design, I was enthralled by how closely the actual installation conformed to our original vision of the show. The frenetic activity involved in manifesting a big community arts project generates many management challenges. I>O eventually drew nearly 100 creative professionals, artists and makers of many disciplines and backgrounds to our project. The provision of space for objects in the exhibit requires the balancing of many concerns. Foremost among them: are we situating the art so that it can succeed in our densely populated show architecture? Can we reasonably expect a viewer to understand what they are seeing and why it is there, displayed the way it is? Is each piece autonomous, or does it need context to be deciphered?
Sculpture by Brent Stewart, shadow of PJM photo-documenting installation element; Don Adams + PJM 4D sculpture device; light boxes by PJM, Ellen Rudick + Eric Johnston ~ Inside>Outside suggested that the analog, "old" notions of The Museum could be adapted to the latest technologies for image creation and presentation (moving and still), integrated sensory systems (audio + visual + MORE). The interactivity we forwarded was proven not to be dependent on sequestered or exclusive knowledge architecture. Motion, we demonstrated, could be radically reframed within the fine art context, primarily through the autonomous viewer as change agent and feedback generator. DddD integrated a multidisciplinary approach with craft tradition in a dimensional, modular, nodal hypercubic superstructure. The presence of the virtual was inferred, because the Parthenon was not wired for Internet connectivity sufficiently for our purposes. Wireless technology was not easily translated then, either, without the sort of conversion to which big business, the military and some other social sectors enjoyed. The arts were and are kept on the command and control short leash, allotted innovation-strangling budgets, ensuring gross and unhealthy dependence on the oligarch class of "philanthropic" patronage. DddD did not acknowledge the whipsaw of alienation pervasive in the status quo, except in the content. We promoted the Unmanageable Aesthetic, while centering our efforts on life-affirming action and processes.
At the gallery entrance, we presented a video shot at Ground Zero on Music Row, featuring Nicole Koenig in business attire. The I>O orientation video referenced in-flight videos, and the banal, accidentally comic genre of corporate and government "educational" or marketing communiques. We also presented some text, including our show prospectus (the one we'd supplied the Parthenon curatorial staff) and a 4D primer/manifesto. The objective of sharing the show context was demystification of process, if not content. The gallery itself we proposed to be site (the lab) in which the context and content merged and formed a hybrid contemporary entity. The classification of the artistic exhibition in the same frame as human natal function and the creative act (as a blanket term, like Kleenex) for artists emerging from a range of disciplines was not totally new in 2000. The precedents (like Warhol's Factory, but also traceable to European Guilds and Japanese "schools" like Kano - in our 4D practice were not divorced from science, thanks in large measure to the contributions of Chip Cox in our collective. Chip - a real genius - elevated our project in subtle and material ways. Whether the issue was gear, electricity, systematic translation, whatever, Chip seemed to have excellent solutions to our head-scratchers and glitches. Also, Chip was a roll-your-sleeves-up worker, and generally brought a great attitude to the task at hand. In hindsight I have realized that the art he was producing for our shows and in his independent studio work makes more sense today than it did to me then, and that it deserves revisiting on its own merits. In I>O, Chips American Flag hiding a surveillance cam and containing an embedded CC display are positively prescient, practically masterful. We didn't know then what we do now about the conversion of the USA to spy state behind the screen of patriotism. I>O consisted of so many gems.
[DA Cox 3 - American Flag] ~ The iconic multimedia piece by Chip Cox, in retrospect seems the most poignant of the DddD array at the Parthenon. However, there were many high points in the installation, technically and theoretically. The content was absolutely predictive. The series and pieces focused on yoga and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu/MMA fighter training emphasized two spiritual/physical practices ("arts" and/or "schools") that would become immediately recognizable and popular globally two decades later. Brent Stewart's film projection combining the two forms was gorgeous. The audio environment was incredibly dense and compelling. Bob Solomon and Sharon Gilchrist and a veritable mass gathering of Nashville musical talent resulted in a unique, groundbreaking recording for an art environment. Bob delivered 100 watt per channel speakers to the gallery, and "COME IN & LOVE ME" blasted through the entire building. At one point we discussed installing directional audio, which would have required a sound design (6.1 or 5.1 recording, plus hardware- and software-enabled viewer specific sound transmitted via wireless tech to headphones) for which our facilitators (the Parthenon/City of Nashville) clearly did not budget. When our exhibit was opened for preview, however, for Tennessee dignitaries the week before the general opening, we caught a ton of flack for not having I>O in a sexy state of finish. We also weren't welcome at the event. That episode was a reflection of Nashville institutional art culture then. It did not seem to occur to the management that their program ran on the generosity of artists who received no compensation for their labor on site. In fact we were on the butt-end of bad attitude approaching harassment, as a consequence of our uppity ways. We collectively shrugged it off as procedural noise and set about concluding the production phase of the enterprise. The mission was to bring this art to the people and that is what we did.
The vision for I>O is rooted in wonder, distributed via the art platform, to the community. The commodity on display is awareness, both self- and collective. The pragmatic aspect of the project is to a great extent rendered invisible in the museum context. Admission was not shared with the content providers (us artists). The outdated expectation was that we would do our bit for exposure, a cliche, and other such tripe. In fact, we were called on the carpet, because collective members and their family were arriving at the show assuming we would not be charged an entry fee. All production costs, including advertising, construction materials, transportation, fabrication, printing, etc., were covered by us out-of-pocket. I estimated our expenses at the time in the $90-120k range. If studio and post-production costs were factored in at retail value, the figure might have been twice that. The inconceivable notion that we all might be disbursed a stipend is outside the conception of management. Not until Occupy Art & Labor and other working groups revived the discourse on artistic compensation did the proposition that artists make value & deserve proper pay percolate in the relevant media channels again. We were addressing those problems in Nashville at the turn of the millennium, with no recognition from the coastal art presses or internationally-focused promotions.
The physicality of Inside>Outside was unavoidable. The object array revealed our insistence that viewers be more than casual as they navigated among the objects. The frequency of encounter areas within the architecture prohibited the user from entering a mode of passivity in the environment our art inhabited or occupied. The composition of the exhibit surpassed strict design and drove thru to a new dimension of engagement between artists and museum visitors. The I>O format posited a movement along the lines of life>art><art>life equation. In this platform the balance between art and life required the agents of exchange to cross borders of Thing and Thought, Feeling and Sensation, Memory and Presence. The transference of creative energy eroded binary configurations and inferred more complex modes of existence, unlimited by space and time, as they are normally processed. The parameters of interaction contracted and expanded to the extent the user chose, from inside the doors of the Golden Rectangle House (Parthenon) to the World and Universe beyond. We took on the exhibition space in the basement of the reproduction, the simulation of the Classic structure and rebooted the entire artifice for establishment of a productive simulacra. In Y2K, such an operation was in reality unparalleled, although no one outside our group seemed much to notice. We did our gig far from art market centers like New York and London. The art fair circuit was only beginning to take over the Industry. Gagosian and Pace and the rest of the Big 5 were relatively less dominant players. The monstrous growth of the tech giants had been addressed through policy momentarily, with the anti-monopoly suit against Microsoft. A new model was what we proposed in that hopeful time. Unsurprisingly and unfortunately for all but a few, the status quo powers that were (and are now, more than ever) recognized their threats and reacted accordingly. In art, the 4D collective approach, emphasizing horizontality, transparency, equality, democracy and community-based form, was soon to be crushed by all-directional assaults. Most of us had no idea what would happen next.
The proposal that an art exhibition can serve the community as a vision channel device is fundamentally a democratic concept. Our method reformulated the Classical Ideal and the prohibitions against frothy emotional appeal and illusionism. We eschewed optical tricks for scientific analysis. DddD applied rigor to a romantic perspective and generated convergent media. On the cusp of society's conquest by ubiquitous handheld devices plus network or social media and high speed communications on demand, DddD DIY-produced a cohesive, visionary exhibit in a major US media center in a minor Museum, albeit one that in itself deserved a more thorough contemporary assessment and program. In short, we did what we could do under the circumstances. After the exhibit closed our collective transitioned into another form . Eventually, the moment, the opportunity passed. At the national/international level figures like Hirst and Koons reigned and Relational Aesthetics surged.
Nearly two decades after we launched Inside>Outside, the art world has in many respects failed to adopt many of the progressive solutions DddD demonstrated in that show, and in Sirens + Conflagration and In Sickness & In Health. Taken together, the DddD trilogy proved many technical prejudices false. Internally illuminated and reflective art can occupy contiguous space in cubic architecture. The stifling ideologies that had restrained art since the 1960s could be discarded productively, just as those preceding it could be. Artists can and should produce their own projects, and the power hierarchies within institutional art systems can be rebooted to accommodate that reality, From a technical standpoint, media differentiation does not inhibit a continuum for excellence in expression. The autonomous free speech zone is an active zone for practical advancement. The Classical and contemporary can exist absent irony, and narrative need not be the primary force of governance in the juxtaposition of "old" and "new" form. Things belong together, and the reason for gathering objects into a collective framework can be communal. Technology can bring us closer by encouraging harmonious and beautiful, coordinated exchange.
We did not solve everything. DddD did not begin to imagine an artistic scenario beyond the nominal and numerical. The artist profile was not reconciled with the object as such. DddD did not conclusively stipulate who is and who is not an artist, for example, strictly as a function of the art object created and presented for public engagement. We supplied viable organizational templates in an open source manner, but it remains unclear how to measure the consequence. What is the metric for something as fluid as art in its objective and immaterial conjunctions? Especially in a time-based system? People come and people go, and the art was made to survive our passing. Now, what thing is made to withstand change in time, as a linear proposition? Our project is not widely known, but very little of art is ever known, and what is known is inconsistent art with some exceptions. There still is time.