My work—large-scale sculpture and performance projects—begins with stories. Sometimes these stories come from myth (the ancient Greek myth of Acteon, for example) but more often odd stories discovered in history books that spark my curiosity and propel my long-term philosophic research in new directions. Whether a project begins with the story of a 1920’s Chicago-based occult publisher with an outsized influence on Jamaican folk religion or a first-century Egyptian temple engineer who produced religious experiences for the devoted with pneumatic technology, my primary interest is into what the sociologist Bruno Latour calls “reassembling the social.” That is, by looking at specific cases that challenge our common understanding of who participates in society, I’m interested in bringing back the non-human and marginalized human actors currently excluded in our account for how culture and history unfolds.
Towards this end, I see my practice in the legacy of modernist sculpture, staging encounters between audiences and my objects. My installations materialize a sociality in which inanimate objects are not the distinct other, but enact a spectrum of vibrancy in which humans and non-humans are all actors. My sculptural strategies for making this radical politics perceivable include staging for the audience a self-reflexive experience of perception, and staging a reading of the work that is slowed down by the duration of kinetic elements, the complexity of the systems, and a playful tease on our desire for legible functionality.
I work with optical and pneumatic technologies whose unfamiliarity to me keeps me in a state of attunement, surprise, and wonder as I develop the work. When I approach these materials I call upon my background in playwriting, indulging in the new vocabularies of worlds being explored, and composing the system to bear witness to the material resistance and my own care or recklessness towards specific elements in the process of its production. In fine woodworking, in which I am trained, the joint is the moment where the inherent strength of the material or object is both revealed and tested. I use this sense of “joinery” with all the materials I bring together, unleashing a drama between them and the worlds and values they each materialize. These approaches all fight towards allowing the assemblage a sort of eloquence on its own terms, a material vibrancy that challenges the viewer.
Currently, the story that has captured my obsessive curiosity is what could be called the cultural history of air. From pre-Socratic philosophers of “pneuma” to the giant energy-consuming air systems used to cool the data centers of our digital infrastructure, air is the ultimate repressed materiality of human sociality, of philosophic thought, of shared experience.