So, it took six weeks to accomplish the spinning, dyeing, and knitting of this banner that reads This Much I Know To Be True. Installed on June 18, this panel faced the street for about two weeks prior to the de-installation of the space. A portion of the final collages can be seen in the bottom photo. While the temperatures have risen dramatically in the desert making walking more arduous during the day, I still miss the structured opportunity of contemplative walking that this project provided. The act of walking contributed to my ability to filter, focus and define a broader, richer understanding of the place of Scottsdale, AZ that will hopefully inform residents, visitors and other artists respond to this unique environment.Many questions seem to have come up during this project, as per usual in such visual investigations, and that is how would this project change and alter if completed in a different location? Who would talk and interact with me if this project took place in L.A., New York, or Chicago? What sounds and visual stimulation would be captured through similar processes? While the objects produced through this partnership with Scottsdale Public Art are specifically an individual’s response to location, the visual artist acts as a lense, focusing on the minutia that make up the larger spectrum we experience. Artists are interpreters of the environment, our culture and identity and I was happy to have the opportunity to act as a lense for the city, peeling away at the layers of history, physicality and interactions that make this place unique.
As an artist, I have been aware of the relationship between one’s environment and one’s creative output. The sense of place has long influenced my work from art school to a practicing artist. The grimy cityscapes I drew and painted from the windows of a renovated 1880’s skyscraper in downtown Chicago evolved into recreations of suburban sprawl and commodification of a consumer driven society in metropolitan Phoenix AZ. Moving back to Chicago, I began incorporating concepts of systems, connections, and mapping as I meandered through a city I had only briefly gotten to know as an art student. Long walks often take me to unknown, uncharted territories in familiar yet, unfamiliar places. The treks that cross neighborhood borders sometimes take me to areas that are gang infested, poverty stricken and inhospitable to pedestrians. Yet, they are all within walking distance of my own neighborhood which for the most part is free from many of these social maladies. As I complete the final collages for the In Flux space, I began in earnest researching the roots of psychogeography. Already knowing that Guy Debord and his fellow contemporaries were instrumental in developing this philosophy from the 1950’s, I wanted to find out why this particular philosophy was so compelling for me as an artist. Guy Debord was a Marxist philosopher who was heavily opposed to capitalism and the constraints that it puts on the masses. He also made commentaries on productivity and consumption. As capitalist societies grow, he posits, they produce a greater quantity of goods at at a faster pace, especially as technology advances. Remember those electronic gadgets, smart phones? Do they actually “help” us, or do they entrap us into a never ending cycle of productivity and consumption? Debord argues that this cycle, which he predicted would speed up with technological advancements, leaves no time for the masses, who are producing and consuming, to actually observe their environment and become passionately motivated by something other than what is presented by the larger society as “valuable”. It is within this framework that Debord presents the ability of the environment, or geography, to influence everyday experiences and hence influence how we experience a place. A specific component of psychogeography, called dérive, highlights the need for individuals to “during a certain period drop their usual motives for movement and action, their relations, their work and leisure activities, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there…”. And to think that what I have been doing naturally as an artist since a very young age turns out to be a product of avant-garde Marxist philosophy from the the 1950’s.
The fourth walk was by far the most beautiful portion of the entire distance traveled along Scottsdale Road. I began the walk early, at 6:30 a.m. to be exact, and while I went a total distance of 8.1 miles, it felt like it took only half the amount of time as the previous walks which were much shorter. The desert landscape was overwhelmingly beautiful, despite the roar of the traffic along the four lane road in the morning rush hour. While a portion of the walk was actually on the road, about half of the walk took place on groomed paths that meandered through cacti, palo verde, creosote and desert sage. The terrain also changed and became more hilly, rippling with waves as the paths went through washes extending from the looming hills in the distance. Of course, this walk also did not lend itself to encountering a lot of pedestrians, although, I did think I might come across some early morning joggers or walkers. I even came across hoof prints form horse back riders, but didn’t see anyone out and about on a horse. One person did manage to slow down in their car and wish me a good day as they turned east bound. As I concluded my walk at the juncture of Cave Creek and Scottsdale Road, which becomes Tom Darlington at that point, I reflected upon the purpose of this long journey. The idyllic desert landscape of the northern portion of Scottsdale is one of serenity as the town stretches into the foothills of the Tonto National Forest. While development has definitely arrived in this portion of Scottsdale, it seems more integrated into the landscape, or at least hidden from the immediate viewer. The brashness of the southern part of town is a stark contrast in comparison. The pedestrian friendly sidewalks of the urban portion of Scottsdale made it easier and sometimes safer to walk, but they were also more institutional, rigid and hard as if people were attempting to convince the earth to suit their needs rather than allowing us to conform to the needs of the environment. The urban grid that appears in cities all across the U.S. instills order on a naturally chaotic place, but does it adequately reflect our natural tendencies to meander, interact, and socialize? By wearing a shirt that almost demanded people to talk to me, did it do the same thing as the urban grid and restrict a natural response to social behavior? While those of us who have spent any length of time in newer cities will confirm, we are becoming an auto-centric society. The automobile defines how we interact as a society. We go from one bubble to another bubble, interacting with others on our terms, determining where we go and how we experience a space such as speeding down a highway listening to a favorite song. Mass transit, on the other hand, forces one to interact on some level, even if it is only in proximity, to others from different socio-economic and cultural groups. We have all stared at each other as we ride trains, planes, buses, boats, etc., maybe even asking ourselves questions that always pop in my mind such as why is that person wearing that? Where does that person work? What kind of music is he listening to? Where is this person going? What is that person’s life like? These are questions we don’t often ask ourselves when we are in a car. Instead, the car says a lot about who we are complete with bumper stickers proselytizing our political alignments, our hobbies, kids achievements or spirituality. The car only affords us seconds to interact with each other on a visual level, where as when we travel in tandem, or at a more natural speed of walking, we are afforded the time to contemplate each other a bit more.
On Saturday, June 18 from 10-12 noon, Wade Wilbur, a current BFA candidate from ASU and Maggie Leininger, current ASU visiting art professor, will be co-leading a workshop that will invite participants to think about their own responses of living/working/playing in Scottsdale. The workshop will be held at 5th & Wine, a delectable eatery adjacent to the Flux store front space that currently houses This Much I Know project. The workshop is a part of the 100+ Journal project that Scottsdale Public Art is hosting as part of the 1000 Journal Project. Come for the workshop (free!) and stay for lunch at 5th & Wine to receive $5 off of your meal. Can’t beat that on a summer day in the valley! Check out the link here: 100+ Journals Workshop for more information and to register. Only 20 participants can be accommodated, so RSVP via the above link.
To learn more about the 1000 Journal Project, check out this link here: 1000 Journal Project.
This gallery contains 4 photos.
As I stepped out onto the sidewalk today, I was overcome by the ship-like statue of one of the financial buildings just north of Thunderbird Road. In this part of town, for some reason, the buildings appear as if they have been halted in quick sand as they move across the landscape. Maybe it’s because […]
For the duration of the project, I will be sitting alongside the farmer’s market volunteers in Old Town Scottsdale attempting to record people’s stories of living, working and recreating in Scottsdale. This past Saturday, May 28, was my second attended market and I already began to see some regulars coming to check ons my progress with the project as well as digitally recording some great tales. As several people have mentioned, Story 1 commented on the growth of Scottsdale and how her location has changed in relationship to the city as it has grown. Story 2 is actually with an architect who moved here in the 80’s–although you have to listen carefully as he is in the background a bit far from the recorder.
On Walking Scottsdale Road Tuesday, May 24 I came in close proximity to:
6 Construction Workers
3 Labor Strikers
1 Person Waiting for Bus
2 People on Segways
Yesterday, I made my second progression up Scottsdale Road beginning at McDonald Dr. and ending up at Thunderbird adjacent to the Scottsdale airport. Along the way, I couldn’t help noticing the flock of rabbits that were scurrying by. The landscape had changed from gritty urban business fronts to finely manicured landscaped frontage. The residential sections are quite appealing as I was able to walk through a fairly shaded landscape for the majority of the trek. As I was walking, I contemplated the landscape, often reflecting upon how I was visualizing the space with the aid of Google Earth prior to walking and how that differs from actually experiencing it at the natural speed and scale of the human body. How do I capture the difference of physically being in a place versus visualizing it with the aid of images in the 5 collages I will be completing during this residency? Much of the suburban landscape that comprises this part of Scottsdale is not unique to Scottsdale. Similar buildings, shopping centers, land markers are used throughout the country. So what makes this experience unique? Most certainly it was the natural elements: the birds, rabbits, cacti and even “foreign” flora that has been integrated into the desert landscape such as the palm tree. Shown here is the prickly pear cactus covered with cochineal which is a natural dye source that is very unique to this part of the world, let alone the country and provides a stunning dye for fibers as well as a main ingredient in cosmetics and food. And, as I am incorporating cochineal dyed yarns into the project, I thought it apropos to include an image of this bug’s habitat.