i attended the first of an artists’ lecture series at p.s.u. last night and the speaker, allan mccollum (http://home.att.net/~allanmcnyc/) blew my socks off. i rode down there on my cruiser. i still haven’t purchased night riding lights for it yet, so i took one of the solar lanterns from my garden; this is an excellent implement for setting the tone of seriousness with other drivers. for instance, if they mess with you, you simply grab the solar lantern and wave it at them madly whilst screaming invectives, which i did. this bike has a particular character which lends itself to absurdity… it’s red, ladies’ cut, old whitewall tires with rusty rims, in generally poor condition, yet road worthy and stout… when i bought it, it came with a sticker that reads, “this bike is a pipe bomb.” for this reason i don’t bother locking it up: i carry along a chain and simply tie it to things with an over-under knot in the chain. people resist stealing it for the fact that i may be a bomb. i felt right at home walking into the lecture series sweaty with a solar lantern gripped in my hand.
the talk began with allan’s early work in new york city which concerned itself with the process of viewing art itself. sort of abstracting the symbol of painting from painting itself. it doesn’t seem worth exploring this much. i was worried that this would turn into a boring, masturbatory talk about viewer/artist subjective experience-what-is-painting b.s… but it quickly evolved. allan was concerned with making many multiples of these painting blanks… and concerned with making them art, so he focused on how to make a whole bunch of them such that none were copies of another. he used combinatory mathematics and produced thousands of objects none alike! this led naturally to more such endeavors, increasing the dimensionality of his work and producing molds (hence sculptures) that offered up little ginger urns and such. (he mentioned that the ginger urn is a symbol for life, the womb, death, society, civilization…) he took some job during the 80’s at a (or the) carnegie museum in philadelphia and worked with an exhibit of fabergé eggs and freely spoke about how stupid these little objects seemed, all identical and worthy only because they’re laden with jewels. so he took on the task of making all these objects that stood as individuals. he looked into carnegie’s history as an industrialist, and found that carnegie, interested in dinosaurs right at the turn of the century, went to utah and bought the bones of a diplodocous, of which he made molds, casting the first skeletal structure of a full size museum quality dinosaur! he used the molds and made many more dinosaurs and gifted them to museums all over the world. mccollom, inspired by this industrial gaiety, made molds of dinosaur bones and displayed them in such a way that each stood as an individual. here’s a quote: “when you look at things closely enough, no matter if they SEEM to be the same, every individual is unique.” thus begins his process of becoming a FORCE OF NATURE! his installations become more and more elaborate, constituted by tens of thousand of unique objects! the most impressing thing about this talk was just that: the artists journey into nature, copying it and looking at how it MAKES an object, how often nature itself is a mold maker, leaving behind just the traces of its objects, as in fossils and the remains of a dead dog in pompei, a dinosaur bone in sandstone… where the object itself has long since disappeared and we are left with a negative. and he accomplishes this using the process left to us by the industrial revolution, with the machines that make copies. it showed me a picture of a process so much bigger than one man… that it required society to run it, meant to make copies, meant to make objects all the same and useful to households… which to a creative eye, is the very process of nature, creating one unique object after another ad infinitum et nauseum.