Q&A with Mark Adams ('Secret Decoder Ring')

Continuing our blog series for ‘Secret Decoder Ring’ we hear from artist Mark Adams regarding his entry: A Model of the Universe: the work of Nathalie Miebach

What inspired you to produce this video piece about Nathalie’s work?

I’m always interested in work that looks back at the planet with humility from our exalted position as king of the beasts. Also how we can process real world information into beautiful things. Too often, environmental artists are preachy or hopeless. Nathalie Miebach is a modest questioner with the patience to watch the world unfold. She’s not afraid of looking at numbers and measurements which are normally intimidating and off limits. Even many of the smartest people I know refuse to let themselves dig into real information about the world.
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How do you see this related to “code?”

I’ve always been drawn to the mysteries of forces we cannot see, either because they happen in timeframes we can’t see or because they aren’t directly sensed by our humble orifices. The world is full of code that is being interpreted for us: weather, statistics, fashion, trends — we can’t take it unfiltered and need it decoded in small doses we can easily swallow. Nathalie is someone looking for patterns in the raw code and making it visible. Much art in any medium — my own paintings included — are code but they don’t necessarily translate… Sometimes code is deciphered to clarify and sometimes it is meant to obscure. Both are interesting but the clarifiers are more rare.
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What was your overall concept and design, such as doing audio layering and incorporating ocean scenes?

I began by trying to get her to talk, ask the right leading questions to open up the flow of her ideas without scripting. But her sculptures invited fly-throughs, so much was happening on their surfaces. Also I wanted to mess with scale — the tight shots attempt to blow up the sculptures into little worlds. The layering — both video and audio — was a response to the complexity of layers in the sculptures and in Nathalie’s ideas. I was looking for echoes from the big notions to the detailed execution. Plus I had lots of footage I wanted to distill and couldn’t part with all of it. The ocean stuff was a way to get out of the closed world of the
gallery and go to a source.

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What do you want viewers to take away from watching your installment?

I like being dazzled by the visuals flying by. I love Nathalie’s questions and lack of pretension — how she decided to follow any patterns she found without concern about where she was going. She made a leap when she decided its OK to be naive. The biggest thing is for everyone to be their own observers — tin can scientists.
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What did you learn about weaving and the designs?

I think of the materials as a little mundane, ordinary reeds — and in fact there are no real designs — but the accumulation of pattern creates an intuitive whole. I think it’s cool to build from really simple raw stuff. Like
the notion that when Steve Reich makes layers of simple rhythms and tones, these unintended resonances appear, accidental music. I’m a big fan of following instincts and letting things grow.

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How did you produce this? In what format? Editing? etc?

I’m not much of a techno. I got the cheapest 3 chip camera I could find and Final Cut Express. I also use mpgs from my still camera, a Panasonic Lx2 with wide format. I’ve learned everything I know, such as
it is, in a few months. I work as a cartographer for the National Park Service and use GIS mapping software which is all about layering images and finding conjunctions and geographic relationships. I’ve found
plots of forest that hadn’t been cut in 180 years by digitizing some old maps and layering them on top of recent aerials.

Q&A with David Lachman ('Secret Decoder Ring')

Continuing our series of blog entries for ‘Secret Decoder Ring’ we hear from artist David Lachman regarding his entry SNEW…
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What was the inspiration for your piece?
This piece is a collaboration. We each had different things we brought to its creation. I know that we were both interested in how language works and wanted to see it in physical expression.
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Why call it SNEW?
Humor is important to both of us. So the piece starts off with that old line: “whatsnew?” “I don’t know whatsnew with you?” The piece takes off from there and the possibilities of communication and miscommunication.
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How do you feel this piece fits into “code” ?
We think it fits “code” because language and movement are codes, sometimes easily translated, other times not. Often it depends on what we are willing to know, willing to see.
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Describe the concept, design, look of the piece?
We took a lot of footage with the performers and used props around the issues we were interested in. They are all in a dance troupe that Jodi runs so the dance they were working with touched on these issues. We ended up using less dance footage and more stuff with the props, but I think all that stuff is in there. And that is “code” again. The way art is code and we each have to break the code ourselves to complete the piece, just like a message. There are always the issues of translation.
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What would you like viewers to take away from watching SNEW?
I think some of our answers have gotten to that, but I think it is good to remind ourselves that the piece is really completed in the viewers eye/mind/heart, and that means it will be different things for different people, and have different meanings over time for the same person. I think it is important to understand that communication is a process of human engagement, and that there is so much more there than just the words, or just the code. We always already make it up as we go along.
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Thanks David!

AstroDime Spring Update

a cheery spring hello! and some news.

INtransit V.3: Secret Decoder Ring premieres Saturday May 3 at 8pm at the 119 Gallery in Lowell! it will also be screening at the Electronic Literature Organization in Vancouver Washington the first week in June. (Note: Vancouver is a suburb of Portland, Oregon, not the Canadian Vancouver!)

Carrie and sam are in the final stages of production for Secret Decoder Ring. Carrie is going to leave AstroDime in research assistant capacity for summer work as of the end of April but will come to our May screening. Thank you Carrie for all your great editing work. Carrie has also posted a lot to this blog with interviews of participating artists, and will continue to do so this month.

Upcoming INtransit brainstorms:

NOISE (Ali is organizing this)

SURVEILLANCE (John is organizing this)

and a few other ideas..one on Nanotechnology (we are writing a grant for it) and Scientific American. What is a Scientific American anyway? if you have work on any of these themes, feel free to let us know.

We’re going to be at the MIT Flea May 17 with the goods for sale. We are grateful for donations from George Fifield and Prilly Sanville. This funds our productions in part. If you know of anyone who has anything, except computer monitors, give a holla.

that’s some of the news anyway!

-sam smiley