Bricks

I’ve got a bunch of pictures of bricks for you to look at today.

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I’m not even actually sure why I’ve had such an urge to write about this work for so long, but in the midst of all my other work, professional and academic, I’ve had a massive hankering to sit down with photos and a blank wordpress page and mash them together with words sprinkled all about.

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These photos sprang from an assignment wherein we were tasked with creating still life photographs that did not use a seamless backdrop, the most straightforward possible “non-space” type way of making a studio photo.

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I knew I wanted to photograph some kind of ubiquitous building material, but was disheartened by some dumpster diving I did out in Short Pump. I found a cool rug or carpet remnant or something and thought “aww yiss score this could so easily be some really cool sculpture”, knowing that I was the first person to come up with this exact idea.

Robert Morris, Untitled, 1970

I was trying to pull it out of the dumpster (admittedly, at like 5pm on a weekday) and a guard or someone related to the mall came up and basically said “yeah you can’t do that.”

I sulked off, wondering how many art students have been cast off from Short Pump dumpsters.

I came back to the studio a few days later not knowing what I wanted to shoot, exactly. I was going to spend the class period artfully accomplishing nothing productive towards the aim of the studio, as I sometimes do (why, I’m even writing this now in a studio I have nothing to work on in), and was walking outside when I found a handsome pile of bricks that I know had been there for ages. Surely no one would miss these if I borrowed (appropriated?) them for a few days!

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I borrowed/appropriated a cart to wheel the bricks up into the studio, and after an embarrassing accident on the way up, got the bricks into the studio.

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The next class period, I started shooting.

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Most of my classmates were basically laughing at me, as one laughs in the most non-aggressive, “you seem to be making a joke and I’m responding” sort of way. It’s a strange way to laugh, now that I think about it. My friend walked up to studio yesterday morning and had an unopened quart of milk that he broke open and started drinking as he greeted me, and I laughed in the same way. It’s like “you know how ridiculous you look right now, so I can laugh at you without really laughing at you.”

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Anyway.

I was laughing too, but mostly because I was having silly amounts of fun.

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It was mostly fun in the sense of “I can’t believe this is college for me right now”. There was also a tenuous sense of “Wow, so uh, this is what I’m taking out loans for”, but I did my best to put that away and get into the groove of working with this material, enjoying the weirdness of the action.

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And it is weird, yeah. Art school is odd. Art itself is odd, and its purposes on the best days (outside of any practical application) seem to just be to enrich the life of the artist, and sometimes someone else enjoys it enough that the artist is benefitted beyond their own enjoyment. For those that have the goal of becoming a gallery artist, they certainly have to make a lot of work, yes, but they also get that practice of trying to key into what the ebbs and flows of society are while they make work. The dream being that someone else might say “Aha! Yeah, I feel that way too! I wanna spend money on this! I wanna put it in my house/gallery/MoMA/etc., and take my excess many thousands of dollars.”

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On that note,  the note of others’ interpretations, it’s been quite fun asking people what they think this work means. I’ve asked two people not particularly versed in art what they think it means, and gotten two very different answers. Both of them were quite hesitant to give an answer, which is funny to me, because there’s really no wrong answers in art, just poorly substantiated ones. For as much as I’ve complained about that in the past, it’s kind of awesome. Also just because art doesn’t have right and wrong answers doesn’t mean the world doesn’t, which I actually think took me a long time to sort out. Plenty more to the world than art.

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I remember this from my textual analysis class a lot: people don’t want to give answers for fear of being wrong, or at least, for fear of not sounding very smart in their reasoning. Admittedly, it’s hard. I’ve gotten better at reading and giving reasons for a read within art, and more poignantly in response to photo series. However, in that textual analysis class, for example, I felt somewhat lost and at a lack to really give substantive analysis. I just wasn’t as tuned into picking apart the pieces of writing and putting them back such that I understood what was going on.

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Of course, the question got turned around on me “Well, okay, you made me suffer through giving an answer to the meaning of this, what does it mean?”

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“Well that’s a funny question-it depends, do you think meaning is fixed or is only the sum of the interpretation of the viewers? If I made a painting of the letters “d o g”, does it mean the same thing if I painted a dog? What about a photograph of a dog?” Ahem. Sorry. I’m talking like a really tiresome book we had to read for our concepts studio. It claimed to be a book on art theory, and every chapter was a summary of a couple theories of what art is and how to read it and then concluded by saying “well there are a lot of flaws with this approach and it really doesn’t get all of what we understand art to be.” Tiresome semantics.

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So, the photos basically function to create a sense of action, a hand doing the work in the studio. This is because we have the clear inclusion of the tools used to make the photos (the studio, the lights, the power cords, etc.) Additionally, the forms presented in the series really reference each other in a continuous line of thought: there’s no clearly delineated forms staged individually and sterilly changed to the next arrangement. Thus, we get a sense of the process of creating the photos, the feeling that there’s a person moving the bricks around.

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In that sense, it’s only half sarcastic to say that this is loose self portraiture. I described my interest in the subject to Will as “I kinda think of it like free playing where there’s a dance between the materials and their representation. I’m just sort of playing and documenting and the document affects the play and I’m just letting it go free-form.” Without any reference to anything else, it does sort of tend to very materials based investigation. Or sketching. Or just having fun in the studio.

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I did think about the space of the studio a lot. Of course, since I have the very building-esque things in there, the AC unit, the pipes, etc., I related the bricks as building objects let loose within the thing that they come together to make up a part of. Including the photography equipment as part of the still-lifes was sort of letting that all run loose and wild and just getting messy with the process.

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The why, though? Not answered as easily. Again, that brings in the question of why make this. Why bring up so many bricks into the studio just to have to bring them back out. Why photograph them. Why spend college doing that?

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Again, a lot of reasons, but to really answer that question I think the proper venue is a psychiatrist’s couch- the best answer I can possibly muster with any certainty is that it fits neatly within my aesthetic oeuvre: raw materials. Simple arrangements. Heavy things. Buildings, landscape, messiness, etc. I can think of a lot of reasons I’m attracted to these things, but I don’t want to be too tedious with “my life story”.

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That’s all for now!

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