“The most interesting things to me in life are the things that aren’t consciously perceived, that live under the surface of reality, or in the subconscious.”
Interview by Simek Shropshire
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? Where did you study?
I was born and raised in the American Midwest. Indiana is a completely landlocked place; things move more slowly there, which created this pervading sense of limbo or no-place. I’m part of the last generation to grow up without the internet, so most of my time was spent outdoors, exploring the forests and lakes around my house, day-dreaming, reading, drawing, making things, making music.
I moved to Baltimore for my BFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art where I studied Painting and Art History from 2008 to 2012, and stayed in the city for a few more years working in an art gallery before coming to London, where I completed my MA in Painting at the Royal College of Art in 2018.
Can you speak further on what it means to "reveal [the] invisible structures of reality and bring one closer to the unknown" through art?
The most interesting things to me in life are the things that aren’t consciously perceived, that live under the surface of reality, or in the subconscious. This can be anything from mathematical laws around sacred geometry to the structure of cosmic time, string theory, the psychology or belief systems that determine people’s actions and choices, the energetic make-up of matter, frequencies and waves. Becoming increasingly aware of what exists beyond the sense of self, seeing the interconnectedness of things, is part of what expands the human consciousness and hopefully opens up a space of receptivity and reflection that I think everyone can benefit from.
Your practice is rooted in the interplay of the present and the past, the scientific and the philosophical. Can you elaborate on how you balance these juxtapositions as they converge in not only the theoretical foundations of your work, but additionally in the very materials that you use? What are your intentions behind these intersections?
I see these systems of knowledge - the scientific, philosophical, and spiritual - all as different methodologies of understanding the same thing: the nature of the world and our place in it. You can think of it like different paths leading up the same mountain. They start out very far away from each other at the base, but as you get further along, they start to converge to the same point at the top.
As an artist, I’m in a position to bridge these disciplines by connecting seemingly disparate dots, and reframing things in unexpected ways: taking concepts from theoretical physics and cosmology like wormholes and black holes, for example, and transforming them into spiritual, ritualistic objects, or combining the ancient and futuristic by juxtaposing lost wax bronze casting with CNC machining or 3D printing. Everything is connected in some way, all lineages converge if you go back far enough in history. If a wormhole is a shortcut through space and time, I suppose that’s how my practice functions. Because I’m constantly thinking about the history of things, the materials and processes I use have to be just right as well – that embedded knowledge lives on somewhere in the collective unconscious, and whether that’s consciously perceived by other people or not, it adds to the experience of the work.
It has been stated that you forge "objects that disrupt linear notions of time and space such as wormholes, labyrinths, and voids, revealing invisible structures of reality and bringing one closer to the unknown." How do you conceive of metaphysical and physical space and non-linear temporality in relation to imagery and materiality?
I think about this a lot – the structure of time, and how to express non-spatial dimensions in physical reality. How do you give form to the invisible? How do you understand things from a non-anthropocentric perspective when you yourself are limited to a human body? For a long time, I thought of time as a spiral, both cyclical and linear, which I then related to the image of the labyrinth in my work. I’m really fascinated by quantum loop gravity, which builds on the Big Bang theory and speculates that the universe is in turns expanding and contracting, almost like a breathing organism. It makes me wonder if with every cycle, we’re reliving the same sequence of events, or if it’s a different variation each time and if so, to what degree. I started thinking about this as a sort of hourglass that gets flipped with each cycle, and relating that downpour of time and material reality to black holes, white holes, etc. Recently I started working on an ambient VR game where the levels follow this temporal structure, also mirroring the sequence of biological evolution and the evolution of consciousness.
Your installation work Atonement (2018) recalls the rigid geometries and industrial materials of 1960s Minimalism, particularly echoing Eva Hesse's rope and latex sculpture No Title (1969-1970). Which artists and aesthetic movements have influenced and informed your practice?
“Atonement” was shaped by the Japanese art of shibari and an 18th century method of weaving fishing nets. The bondage rope, steel bar, and chains lend themselves to a feeling of being dominated in the viewer; it draws parallels between the transition from suffering to surrender in spiritual practice and BDSM. I had the idea whilst on retreat at a Zen monastery; my contemplative practice is probably the biggest influence on my practice, philosophically and experientially. My research is also based in disciplines such as theoretical physics, cosmology, psychology, cognitive science, religious practices, and Eastern philosophy, which makes for very dry, dense, and utterly fascinating reading. I’m a visual thinker, so the way that I picture the structures and forms discussed in that literature is what informs the aesthetics of my practice.
What artwork have you seen recently that has resonated with you?
I keep thinking about Ed Atkins’ show “Ye Olde Food” which I saw at K21 in Düsseldorf, particularly the video installations that were synchronized to play the same musical composition intermittently, but showed different environments and scenarios in between. My favourite was the one that showed a rotting corpse dragging itself across a flowering meadow to play the piano. The music, which was composed by Swiss composer Jürg Frey, was meditative, minimalist, and melancholy. To see CGI characters playing such an emotive piece raised questions around the relationships between maker and viewer, maker and machine, machine and consciousness, that are becoming more and more relevant.
Tell us a bit about how you spend your day / studio routine? What is your studio like?
I generally get to the studio around 11am and stay until 6pm, but this can change depending on the day. I’ve been told my studio is very peaceful and calming. It’s a gorgeous space in East London with big windows and high ceilings that I was incredibly fortunate to be offered. It has a good energy. I’d like to start hosting sound healing meditations with my sonic sculptures soon to share that with more people. In terms of how my time is structured, I don’t really have a routine. Every day is different, which I love. Usually it’s some combination of making, admin, research, sketching/planning, documentation/editing, catching up with people, seeing shows.
Is there anything new and exciting in the pipeline you would like to tell us about?
In addition to the VR piece I’m working on - which I envision will be a mixed reality sort of time machine in the end - I’m also building a performance centered around rituals of Zen Buddhism and my sonic sculptures. I have a solo show in September with the Barbican Arts Group Trust, so hopefully one of these projects will be completed in time for that.
Publish date: 13/06/2019
All images courtsey of the artist