On “Adding Up No. 2”

Before discussing the conceptual intention of this piece it is important to explain the process of its production. This is an apparently simple work: the foam “negative”– or mould– is displayed on the wall, and the positive concrete cast that came out of the negative mould lies on the floor of the gallery below. However, closer inspection reveals that this is not the case.

Rather than casting the concrete from the foam that is displayed on the wall, I casted it out of a second foam pattern: the opposite of the one on the wall. The result is that the foam on the wall is a false negative, or in fact, a positive, like the concrete itself. The relationship between the two is an illusion, heightened by the concrete powder that I painted onto the foam mould in an effort to make it seem like it was used. The clues to this false spatial relationship are the pieces of foam on the floor to the right of the two panels, which are the only traces of the real mould that was broken away from the casted concrete.

Now that it has been established what the work is made of, I can begin to discuss the conceptual intentions of the work, which I divide into two camps; on the one hand borrowing from phenomenological philosophy, and on the other, from post-structuralist theory. Of course, there is more to any work than I can explain here, unique to each viewer, but I will offer one man’s interpretation, beginning with a phenomenological discussion:

(a) The central reason for the work is the spatial misconception that people have when they try to visualize a relationship between the two objects. My intention was to show how hard it is to conceptualize positive and negative space, and to imagine what will come out of casts. This is evidence of the phenomenological notion that our constructions of the world are experiential, and that until we see something physically, it is hard to imagine it. The work thereby requires consciousness as well, and is intended to make viewers aware of their own perceptive capacities in the process of noting difference. Furthermore, Husserl writes of “intentionality,” or “object-directness,” which is language applied by phenomenological architects like Peter Zumthor to the materials in buildings (I think specifically to the unusual construction process behind his Bruder Klaus Field Chapel, and its ethereal result). Phenomenology notes that to direct consciousness at an object is how we come to understand the world, and indeed, this work requires that the viewer focus on the objects in order to understand them physically: rejecting presumptuous interpretations of spatial relationships between the two panels, and instead contemplating how they would fit together.

The pattern inscribed into the foam and concrete is also significant because it is an approximate floor plan of the circular gallery in which the work is displayed: making the installation self-referential and site specific. The aerial view of the space references an earlier work of mine, titled Vantage Points, in which I considered compositions of buildings from above. The end goal was mis-recognition, not in the sense of a conceptual wisecrack or practical joke, and I did find consistently that no matter how familiar the places depicted were, very few people recognized them when viewed from an out-of-body, aerial vantage point. This was even true when they stood in the very gallerye that was depicted. This alone is a proof to the critical notion from phenomenology that our conceptions of the world are rooted in experience, and related to Bachelard’s Poetics of Space, that we come to know buildings from the point of view of a perceiving subject.

(b) The second conceptual dimension of the work is post-structuralist, which requires some understanding of the structuralist frameworks that this theory rejects. Simply stated, among other things, post-structuralists criticize structuralism for its tendency to divide everything into “violent hierarchies,” such as good and evil or heavy and light. Their proposed breaking down of oppositions is what I chose to consider in this work by playing with differences, but ultimately interrupting them. I believe that this work achieves this in two ways. Firstly, I am considering the binary of weight and lightness in obvious ways because of the use of concrete and foam board. I am trying to reconcile the two by establishing their relatedness, and elevating both the temporal negative and the permanent postitive to the status of Art. Secondly, I think of negative and positive space as being opposed to one another, and my inversion of the relationship– only apparent after close inspection– is my way of disrupting this binary, and leaving a gap in which meaning might be generated.

Of course there are many connotations that might and perhaps should be attached to the use of building materials, or metaphors of comfort to the pervasive presence of “insulation” foam in my work, or critiques of the baggage of modernism to the appropriation of geometric patterns. Much to be deferred, I suppose, but my intentions were clear and are now stated.

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