Thesis Opening

Leave Everything On the Floor

We start with a big room full of people. These people do not yet know each other. The hope exists for that to be changed by their experience with the art and artists throughout the course of the event. I will refer to these people as strangers, viewers, participants and even as the audience. In the room we also find art, or “the” art or “an” art. The audience has traveled to this place, making a conscious effort to be in this specific place at this predestine time, to see the residue of artists making gestures. The audience brings the formula of intention plus artist together into one new concoction. Their perception, their bias, brings the art to its natural confluence. The audience makes the moment, this allows the artist to achieve satisfaction in the piece. This moment when the art meets the audience is when the piece exists for the first time totally outside the mind of the creator. Before the show, before the display, the piece was captive inside doubt and unknowing. The reactions by the audience remains the satisfaction sought by the artist. The reaction by the audience gives the artist the impetus to return to the place of presentation. Thus inspiring the maintenance of an artistic practice.

This thesis will focus on the sources of my aesthetics, the themes behind my stories and the connections I seek to build with my audience through my creative practice. I will characterize the manner to which I am able to build those connections. I will also cover the actual mechanics and physical exercises which comprise the bulk of my art making. These two factions of theory and practice, are the two sides of my art coin, flipping back and forth, each side landing face up consistently fifty percent of the time. The work I make is art, which seems the only sensible thing to do. Which is to say, this is the time in which this seems like a good idea. My art making is a conversation, often I use metaphors, symbols, codes, hidden messages, overt gestures, and lies to communicate an outward statement. I make art to please the crowd, the trick is understanding the crowd and arriving in the right place at the right time.

Praxis: Imagination Work

Idea Engine

The control and authorship of each project is through aesthetic decisions of materials, location and timing. Art seems most exciting in the first stages of the development of the idea. The idea is pinnacle, the details that follow leading up to execution land on a scale from challenging to nerve racking. However the moments at the beginning, when the raw imagination begins to flow, those are the best moments of the entire art process. The potential lays split open like a universe waiting to be explored, discovered, and harnessed. Imagination functions in such a slippery ephemeral place in the frontal lobe of the brain that it seems impossible to control it and ring valuable useable ideas from its nefarious formless energy. The concept of controlling imagination and pushing it into the places it is needed can seem frightening. I believe ideas can be tuned and groomed, and that the origin of an idea can be intentionally seeded, cultivated, and grown, and harvested, sometimes in seconds. The brain is a challenging tool to wield, but when the imagination is pressured in the most constructive manner and allowed to work inside a prescribed framework, it becomes an Idea Engine.

Engines function as power supplies for larger systems. Building a practice of an Idea Engine is similar to building a physical engine. Each part inside of a mechanical engine functions with different hyper-specific roles. The spark plugs make the fire and the radiator cools the heating of the block, and while they rely on each other to perform (thus maintaining the system), each element can only function inside the specific parameters of its design, thus preventing a piston from doing the job of the fuel line. The Idea Engine functions as an intellectual simulation of the mechanical. It divides idea generation into compartments, which are charged with unique tasks. These compartments once filled can lay out the blueprint of an idea giving way to a fully formed project.

Intuitive inspiration is fantastically exciting but also dramatically unreliable for a contemporary art practice, one that involves deadlines and grant restrictions. Submerging oneself inside an atmosphere conducive to creation is also a strong strategy to use when developing art ideas, just the right hat at just the right table with just right totems spread about. However, relying on a place or mindset has often proved insufficient or chaotic and allows for too many tangential behaviors. My process needs to be an organized process, hence the output must fit into an organized request. Generating art for the contemporary experience requires certain parameters, which cannot usually be serviced by the concept of the artist generating ideas outside of a request for proposal. The contemporary artist functioning inside the institution, or at the service of an institution or granting body, must generate and execute their ideas at the pace and on the schedule of the institution. That involvement of such a schedule mandates that the artist respond with a system, which can match or beat the constraints applied.

The Idea Engine as a practice works by establishing clean rules and strategies for the generation of ideas. The process involves placing mechanisms into an ordered system which when activated can lead to innovation. The basic steps to running an Idea Engine are to isolate the needs of a project through simple questions and answers. The three first questions establish so much. Who is your audience? What do you want to convey to them? How are you going to do it? The answers to these three questions allow an artist to decide where to begin. The engine becomes more active as questions emerge based on the answers to the first three. Placing categories into the problem allows one to keep the development of the idea in a manageable form. Categories of the engine are often similar for most projects: budget, location, physical constraints and timeline. Inserting these segments into the traditionally known “brainstorming” portion of idea generation may seem odd, like placing the cart ahead of the horse. But with limited time and resources, it is very advantageous to have a starting framework, which allows the artist to populate fields in a template, thus placing the idea on a track, which can be run until the idea becomes feasible or void. The Idea Engine allows for creativity to be harnessed and kept on focus. Tangents can destroy a creative process and leave an artist blocked. It has been my practice to develop ideas through this system of grinding through the gears of the Idea Engine’s transmission, accelerating up to the execution of the project. It works even more aggressively when operated by a group of creatives, each tasked with a separate area of specialization, from message to aesthetics, or construction to audience reception. Each member functions to accommodate the engine as a whole and the project as outcome.

The output of the engine can be loaded into a searchable database. Several years ago I had a database constructed which could function to receive the output of this process. Such a database can break a project into segments which can allow the user to input raw ideas into several standard categories represented by fields. The database accommodates the storage of materials lists, resource vendors, research of topics and similar previous work as well as hundreds of other fields. The primary strength of this database is the ability to work on speculative projects that can be stored and retrieved when proposals become opportune. The ideas can remain in the database like an arsenal until a project or audience emerges which is in need of an idea, allowing the artist to pull the idea back out and reformat it to fit the current call for proposal.

The database relies on the answers to the original questions. In the original input of the idea into the database, the ideas are tagged with keywords that are generated from the answers of the questions asked during the Idea Engine process. The artist, for instance, can search all projects for ideas appropriate to a senior-aged audience. Obviously this allows the artist to search all projects in a certain genre or of a certain material or theme, allowing for rapid development of the idea during a tight deadline of a proposal process or in the event of a last minute change of direction brought on by institution restriction or the editorial oversight of a committee. The database was named The Book of A Thousand Ideas by its programmers and it serves as the archive of the activities the Idea Engine produce.


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