Half an hour later they were driving to the movies to see "The Green Mile" and James was contemplating his upcoming flight to Florida. As he drove the highway past Bradley Airport he tried to conceptualize the change in Space and Time he was soon to undergo. It was that constant battle with "Now and Then" that intrigued him. Just as he was "Here" now by tomorrow he would be "There," then -- displaced in space through the vehicle of Time.
Then, as he became used to being There, time would change again and he would return to Here. It would be almost as if he had never been There. Looking up at a passenger plane that had just taken off and was now streaking upward, he saw himself looking out the window, peering down at the land and seeing himself and Michaeleen as they drove underneath.
So Now was the only reality -- the past and the future were only stored images, memories or images of memories yet to-be.
The following day he was on a plane travelling at 500 miles per hour
at an altitude of 20,000 feet. He asked the stewardess for their speed
and altitude and she didn't know exactly but gave him the approximations.
James looked through the window at the billowy cloud tops. It looks like
the infinite white of the arctic, he thought, or what the arctic might
be like, if I'd ever been there.
As the plane cruised along at 20,000 feet he contemplated his arrival in Florida and tried to fit that image of his "being there" into his latent image of being in the car last night with Michaeleen on the way to the movies. "Then" and "Now" and "Yet to be," he thought, but we always find ourselves in the "Now," never yesterday nor tomorrow.
The plane descended down to the level of the clouds, skimming through the thin whisps, like puffy cotton candy. His attention was pulled away from that outside world by the conversation of three women, one sitting next to him and her two companions in the seats directly in back. James smiled. He thought -- Here we are dancing on cloud tops but nobody is interested. At that moment the plane ran into some turbulence; its frame shuddered yet everyone tried to look so cool, so non chalant, as if nothing could possibly go wrong.
"Oh Karen's dinner date with Dave was fine . . . "
"She has to do some work with Doctor Berman . . . he's taking out her uterus."
"That should be the end of it I guess . . . "
"We had such a good time at the Christmas party. . ."
"My son Mathew got a T-shirt: Beastie boys. He spends too much time watching TV . . ."
"So unusual for a boy to be like that . . . "
James looked beyond the woman, as the plane banked through the clouds, giving him a view of the earth below, the airport, river, bridge, factory, parking lots, schools, houses. He wondered about the people who lived down there, invisible from the air, yet they existed, had lives, were born, lived, worked, married, had children and died. Yet, from the air, none of that seemed to matter. It made him feel sad that he'd never know any of them, nor they he.
"Greg reminds me of my father . . . "
"What about the little one? . . . "
"Please fasten your seat belts please as we begin our approach to the Philadelphia airport. . ."
"Well, if you put it all into perspective its not a big deal . . ."
When the woman in red had boarded the plane she told him, "That's my seat." "Oh," he replied, "I'm sorry," and moved from the window seat to the aisle seat. During the flight he had tried to get a conversation going. "Look at those clouds below," he'd said, "like a field of ice and snow . . ."
"Yes, I know," she replied and opened her book. He couldn't see the title. The man in the aisle seat across from him was reading a magazine supplied by the airline. Once he looked over and smiled then James returned the smile and they went back to their silent stasis.
Now the plane was on the tarmac, waiting. People stood up, pulled their luggage down from the overhead rack, anxious to be off. They couldn't wait to deplane. Interesting word deplane. They waited for the loading ramp to open.
The women continued their conversation:
"Give me a break . . ."
"Oh! She wants her freedom. . ."
"She's the one who broke up the house . . ."
"They only had one child . . . "
"Daughter in her twenties, has her own apartment . . . "
"I wish they'd turn that door buzzer off . . . "
"Stuff it with some tissue paper . . . " (laughter)
In the airport terminal he used the bathroom, then quickly walked through
the terminal to find his transfer. Once registered, he had time to walk
around and see what the place looked like. He took pictures of some exhibits,
puppets, masks, good work too and got the name of the artist from literature
on the cases.
He walked up to one Spanish looking vendor. "Your eyes are alive," he said, "most of the others out there are dead." He pointed at the people walking by. The man smiled. "I know what you mean," he said, "I see a lot of empty faces every day.".
With camera in hand, James wandered the hallways taking pictures of anything and everything he found interesting. There was a shop named "The Philadelphia Museum" which sported Egyptian statues among other things. He stopped there and went up to the dark-skinned lady running the place. "Hello," he said, "Can I take some pictures here?"
"I . . . I don't know," replied the woman, "Nobody's ever asked that before."
"You mean, all these beautiful things and nobody's ever wanted to take pictures of them?"
She nodded, "That's right, you're the first."
"Is it okay then?"
When she looked skeptical he added, "I'm an artist, just want the pictures for myself, not for anything commercial. Is it okay?"
"I guess so," she replied.
"No," she said, "I'm just a working lady and a mother of two. One boy is in the service, the other wants to be an artist."
"Good," replied James, "Encourage him."
"What's your name?" he asked.
Now, it was almost time for the flight to leave and James realized that
he hadn't taken Cheryl's picture. He hurried back up the hallway to the
shop. "Cheryl!" he said, "I almost forgot to take your picture. Can I?"
Dashing back to the check-in counter he was almost late, but flashed his boarding pass and went down the tunnel to the plane. This time he had a window seat. Sitting next to him was a business man. James introduced himself to the guy who replied that his name was Randy.
The conversation moved to a discussion of the folks at the airport,
each of them occupied in their own worlds, hardly anyone speaking to anyone
other than their own traveling companions. "It's just life's boundaries,"
said Randy, "we build up those inhibitions through time."
The engines came on and the plane moved quickly down the runway. James held his camera ready, trying to catch that exact moment when the wheels left the ground, the transition from earth and sky. He nodded to Randy, "I think I got it," he said, "Another boundary, like we were talking about."
"The boundary between people is the worst," said Randy, "Everybody lives in a box by themselves, alone all their lives."
"I understand that," replied James, "When my son Tony was diagnosed with AIDS I felt totally alone . . . "
Passing through another, higher level of clouds, the plane broke through and put a layer of fuzz between it and the land. Here the sky varied from the horizone which was turquoise to the dark blue at the zenith. There was a cloud island in the distance, like a city rising up from a plain. Higher still the clouds began to take on texture through shadow. Through breaks in the clouds, now and then, he could see what looked like the blue of ocean. But at certain "holes" in the clouds he could see land below and realized that the blueness he was looking at was only haze obscuring the land.
Randy reached for something and his drink spilled from the tray and a whole glass of soda spilled down the side of Jame's pants. "Oh god! I'm sorry," said Randy. James laughed, "It's okay," he said, "feels cool anyway, should dry out by the time we get there."
Clouds were breaking up now, still hazy blue but the land was visible. He could see the patchwork of farmland below and new construction, land scraped bare. Cloud wisps below cast their moving shadows across the earth. Highways, long jagged lines stretched out, vanishing into distant mist. All that land below, thought James, all those people never met. Randy's right about our aloneness.
Turbulence hit the plane as they passed into clouds. Another boundary layer, thought James.
Randy brought his briefcase up from the floor and pulled out some pictoral layouts which he and his associate, sitting to his left, began to discuss. James listened to their conversation for a short while but then his attention was pulled to the landscape below. He watched as the land unfolded beneath the plane. Now, there was ocean below, maybe. He looked closer. No, it was still land, seen filtered through the blue mist of the atmosphere. More cloud islands rose up from the horizon, isolated clumps, lost in their loneliness.
James tried to determine various thicknesses of cloud layers, to understand the land, the dimensions, the size, scale, shape, color of the land and to try to understand how humans fit into this world. His neck was stiff from being turned to look out through the window. Then, before he knew it, they were being told to strap in for landing.
Tampa airport was an unusual place with a shuttle waiting to take them
to the main terminal. He found his host John at the baggage area. Not that
he had any baggage, just the knapsack he was carrying and a camera. "Good
trip?" asked John. "Yes, it was wonderful," replied James.
James shrugged, "Not much," he replied, "Looks like a bunch of lobsters being cooked. Don't they know anything about ultra-violet radiation? Nothing here, just miles of bland sand, no driftwood, nothing. Sorry, I'd rather have an empty beach with rocks, driftwood and stuff and a little shade tree to hide beneath."
John laughed, "Maybe you're right," he said. .
James promised to find her some information. He didn't know how he could explain the explosion going on in the arts, the rapid evolution of a new way of painting, through electronics which could be distributed to the world within a moment after it was completed by the artist.
Barbara walked along, chatting with Kevin, while James walked with Dan
Jaffe, a witty writer, poet, and jolly individual. The man was alive with
curiousity and interest in everything that was happening and his eyes were
alive. They stopped at the print shop, but there was a class in progress,
so they moved on, after a minute or two of watching.
Lucie Garcia ran the information desk in the gallery. She helped him
contact the av people who had the needed equipment, an LCD projector and
computer for his Power Point presentation. James talked with the lovely
lady for a while and asked if he could take some pictures of her. She expressed
an interest in his work and promised to come to his talk.
The campus was a pleasant landscape which looked a lot like an old villa
with red-tiled roofs on low buildings and palm trees with numerous bushes
and hanging Spanish moss. Thought the school only occupied a few square
blocks it seemed that every part of it was well used and integrated into
the whole, almost like a stage set.
They scurried around and met Diana and her husband. While Diana was arranging her lecture both James and John snuck away for a few minutes to scoff down a couple of hotdogs from the local gas-station convenience store before returning for the lecture. James helped set up chairs and then assisted Diana in hanging her quilts around the room.
The tour lasted a short while and then they drove him back to his apartment where he said his goodnights and quickly fell asleep. But he was up at six oclock in the morning and off for a walk toward the beach. He'd promised himself that he'd get to the sea as quickly as possible to refresh himself psychically and physically. The sea was a necessity in his life and had been for the length of his memory.
Walking the streets toward the center of the city, past small businesses,
grinder shops, high-rise retirement buildings he could feel the pull of
the sea and found it at the end of The Avenue of the Arts. This was the
world he wanted, a wild landscape, with a construction site on one side,
a river mouth flowing to the sea, and bricks and construction material,
now crusting with sea life which now built their homes on and within the
James thought about the talk he was to give. It was already written, but he never used any script in its entirety, just as an outline. The words themselves had to come from the Now, or they sounded canned, at least to himself.
He looked out across the bay, letting himself feel this moment in Time,
this Space, this Now. He was Here, now, not There and this was the Now
of it, his world consisted of the water, grass, construction in the background,
shells and bricks imbedded in the sand. A gentle morning breeze ruffled
his hair and he breathed the sea air deeply, feeling instantly at home
at the beach.
Gradually, the thoughts for his talk began to filter down:
Time - Place - Identity. The importance of finding one's place in life, one's identity. He thought of the comments made by people he had met recently, including those on his trip down to Florida. It was sad to think of the aloneness many felt, their fear of failure if they explored new areas of life.
It's all about learning to make good guesses, he thought, succcessive approximation through trial and error, not instant success. Life is about deciphering artifacts, the artifacts of the culture, and learning to take an interest in the details, finding small stories within the larger story.
You have to have faith enough in yourself to say, "My ideas and visions are as good as anyone elses, no better, but no worse. Yes, he could feel the direction of his thoughts, the words came quickly now: "John Sims came into my life at a very crucial moment . . . "
Years ago, when I worked as a technical consultant for the Gengras Planetarium in Hartford my friend and associate Rick Sternback used to do the artwork for new shows. Rick started doing work for the dome when he was a kid. He painted planets and stars with his airbrush with the utmost ease and one day I tried to emulate his pictures by picking up an airbrush and drawing. Well, the mess I made might only illustrate something called the "big bang" or more realistically "the big mess." I realized that what Rick made to look simple was actually a complex skill which certainly took years to develop.
Rick was doing something else too. Since he loved to draw and paint,
and since he loved astronomy and the adventure of space he'd found a niche
for himself in that world. He didn't get paid much for his paintings, at
the time, but he'd found a place where he could "be himself." Well, Rick
went on further to "invent himself" so to speak. He moved down to Florida
to go to work as an illustrator for Disney's movie "The Black Hole" and
when production problems put that on hold he joined the staff of Star Trek
to eventually became their chief illustrator for the series. He also worked
with Carl Sagan on a book and did many other projects in line with his
interests. Rick, in practice, invented Rick.
I asked if they minded my taking pictures of the garden and they said it would be fine. When I finished my shooting I came back inside and they invited me to join the meeting of their Butterfly Society. Hardly had the lecture begun than I realized that the ingredient I needed to complete chapter five of "Time Enough For All" were "The Butterfly Folks."
I never cease to be amazed at how the right ingredient will show
up at the right moment. So, I listened to a discussion on "Creating a Butterfly
Garden," then another discussion in "Conserving Insets," then "A Megazoo
Concept." I heard how the Kaiser family watched a mad caterpillar eat the
chrysalis of another caterpillar. . ."
He then turned to his own work
At first he was disturbed that the sculptures were broken, all of them, in one way or another. They'd been away from him for several years now and had been transported back and forth from various places, then, one country to another and showed the effects of being banged around.
He wanted to take them apart and fix the mechanisms, help the planets rotate, and other stuff. Then he remembered his original philosophy of building the sculptures remniscent of other cities of myth. The sculptures were supposed to break down, to fall into ruin and eventually become as abandoned cities. When one mechanism died it might have another built over it, in layers, leaving the old behind and a new mechanism in its place. Finally, none of the mechanisms were to function as the structures became mute static cities, dead and abandoned.
But he was not ready for that to happen yet. So he took each one apart and fixed them, at least for the presentation. Several students came by as he was working and were interested in the sculptures. The students talked and discussed their multi-media works, computer and video productions. One student Jorge Hernandez helped him work on the sculptures and said he'd be there for the presentation.
For the talk James needed a power point presenter, laptop computer and LCD projector. Kevin called Jim Graham, master of all trades and Jim arrived quickly on the scene. James told him of the requirements and Jim said it would take a while but that he could come up with all but the HI-8 player. "How about a camcorder?" asked James. Jim nodded. "I think we can do that," he answered. Jim was gone, returning half an hour later with the necessary equipment which he set up in short order and had tested within minutes later. "Can I get an Internet connection?" asked James.
"Sure," replied Jim, "No problem." He went back to his vehicle and returned shortly with a cable which he connected. "Try this," he said. James pulled out his zip disk. "Hmmm!" mumbled Jim. "That won't work." He thought for a moment then took the disk and went out with it. A short while later he was back. He handed James a CD. "This should work," he said.
James inserted the disk into the drive and brought up his first "slide." "Perfect," he said, switching over to the Internet and bringing up the trolls from his provider back in Connecticut. "There you go. Trolls from Middletown," he said. Students began filtering into the room and they stopped to watch as James worked on the sculptures, turning them, and fixing the broken mechanisms.
He didn't get them all finished but ended up being satisfied enough with the works. He stood back and observed the flashing lights, the spinning disks, the turning planets and rotating galaxies. "I think we're ready," he said, pointing to the student who had assisted him earlier in the day. "Would you mind being my technician," he said.
During the presentation Jorge helped with the presentation by operating the Hi-8 camera player, playing tapes of a Wesleyan University Show at the Campus Center several years ago.
James turned on the computer projector, started a tape recorded soundtrack going, and began the power-point presentation of his work, a series of slides showing his sculptures and computer generated artwork.
SLIDE PRESENTATION: Kinetic Sculptures of the Electro-plane.
The slide show ran for ten minutes and when he was finished he motioned toward John Sims in the back of the gallery.
John heard of my Time Machine sculptures and came looking for me. We talked and I quickly decided that this was a serious individual with interests in both the sciences and arts, not as separate identities, as our culture would have us believe, but as different perspectives of our universe.
Before we parted John said, "Make something for me.".
After he'd exited my AV lab I tried to dismiss him from my thoughts, but his curious mind had awakened something in my own brain, and had momentarily pushed the grief of Tony's loss aside, replacing it with . . . with, something else. Later I discovered that John had the same effect on other people.
Its a complex job, making Time Machines. First one needs a recipe, an idea, a concept. But every recipe is unique. What is the vision? Then, of course, there is the list of ingredients. Simple right? So where does one find the ingredients to make:
"the sailors who came from Durl and Duz and to hear from their lips
what befell Perdondaris when its doom came up without warning from the
hills and fell on that famous city. And I wanted to hear the sailors pray
at night each one to his own god, and to feel the wind of the evening cooly
arise when the sun went flaming away from that exotic river . . . "
Trying to define a dream, to put it into a solid form that others can share, that's the difficult part. Some might search the entire world and find nothing. Yet, within a small radius of where we live there are infinite universes waiting to be explored.
We are all explorers in this life, from the lowest of the untouchables in India, to the exhalted owners of IBM and the trustees of Harvard and Yale. We all search for clues to the mystery of the Universe, What are we? Where are we? Why are we? Perhaps the answers to our questions are standing directly in front of us, but we haven't learned to see them. Like Kim in Kiplings story we have to learn to see "what we see."
The scientist explores in his own way, the artist in another, the psychiatrist,
the humanist, each sees a part of creation. That we
quibble over which god is the best one or the biggest or most important is part of our blindness to see that the Universe is our god, whether it has a personality or not, each of us is a child of that universe.
We are descendent of Mother Earth, call her Ghia, if it pleases you,
call it Earth, if you like but our chemistry comes from her. We are indeed
the "clay people" of mythology. As we study the composition of stars we
find more evidence in the homogeneity of creation. Our brains, working
in concert with our hands are learning to build better ways to "see" the
messages that "nature"
has left for us to decipher.
I find these messages in the strata of rocks, in the rings of trees or the faces of children. Out walking by the road I find messages imprinted in the roadbed and I study them, trying to understand their cryptic language, to imterpret their runes.
Through a study of my personal genealogy I have travelled back through time to meet a few of my ancestors, back to Rene LeBlanc, the village notary, written about by Longefellow of Evangeline, writer, storyteller much like myself, a gift handed down from him. But also handed to him by someone further back.
I see then that we are a continuation of life, not merely travelers who just came on board this ship of life a few or few dozen years ago, but beings who continually extend themselves, multiplying as they do so. I guess, if asked my age I could answer that I am as old as the Earth, as old as the Universe, as old as time itself. For, are we not composed of the original atoms from the start of Time.
Time may be our Mother and, as each of us at a certain point in our fetal development is also a female, which transmogrifies into a male, if that is our genetic selection, then the Mother is all we need to solve that equation.
Those mysteries are the force that drives our curiousity on. How is it that a woman of twenty, let's say, can give birth to "new matter" an infant who is zero years old in the cycle of growth, who will grow to a man or woman of twenty, let's say, and start the cycle of "new matter" again, continuing the process for millions of years, handing down their encoded messages via the DNA and RNA of their bodies. As we decode those messages with our new tools of science, what will we find.
But we know the answers already by deduction, we are all one, descendent of slime mold from some distant pool, a slime mold who learned to know itself and to struggle to survive and to continue. White skin, black skin, yellow or red, rich or poor, what does it matter? We are all children of the same pool, only descendent from groups who found survival in different climes and conditions. There are no aliens here.
That we are brothers and sisters to the whales, snakes, mosquitos and gnats the Buddhists know well, they have learned to interpret the symbols of that question and know the answer in their own way. They have their own rituals too for expressing that knowledge.
In our daily struggle to find food, clothing and shelter, good knowledge from elementary school, we often forget or ignore the quest to answer those fundamental questions. Instead we become so involved with the process of our own lives that we lose sight of those questions of our creation, forget that we are related to the untouchable who begs in the street.
Often, as I explore the world through the lens of my camera I find symbols
in the rocks along the beach, or imbedded in the roadbeds, or on gnarly
branches of old trees and sometimes on bathroom walls. I look at those
symbols and wonder if they could tell me the secrets of the universe, if
only I could interpret them.
The New Book is a computer, laptop or tower, whatever but it is a dimension translator of considerable power. One might contend that the world of the Internet is nothing new, just an extension of pen and paper, a different way to communicate, just as the book brought thoughts of a few to many. Indeed that would be a true statement. But the magnitude of this evolution in the transmission of knowledge is huge.
Time and Space have been traversed and the scale for communications of one individual to another is now calculated in seconds and minutes. Another phase of "The Electro-plane" has come into existence, just as pen and ink to paper, printing press, radio, television, telephone have extended our voices. Will this evolution bring us any closer to an understanding of the greater mysteries of existence or will it help us to sort out the differences which have resulted in our having grown up in different environments? I hold up my palms and shrugg: Who knows?
Time is our common denomenator: It is the glue which holds the universe together.
The city becomes the focus of much of my work.
Elements of entrophy, decay, rust, rot, are the dynamic elements in most of the stories.
We start a new millennium with a different book. Still the word, on paper, is an important artifact, but the same word on an LCD panel instantly puts us into communications with the world, and the planets too.
My Early years:
As I young boy of eleven I was fascinated by the world of vacuum tubes, the idea of communicating with invisible radio waves. In my garage on Brock Street, in North Haven, I set up a crude lab to explore electronic equipment and to invent new devices. But, at the time, my knowledge of circuits was to immature and so my experiments resulted in failure after failure, which I now recognize as stages of growth. At that time I felt only frustration at my lack of success.
Not all were failures though. Once, for a short while, I set up a long line which extended down the length of our yard to weeping willows at the back of the yard. Late at night, on occasion, I would send the amplified signal of a foghorn, from a record, to the speaker. People would stop in their tracks and listen, to the sound of the foghorn, wondering where it came from, as we were 12 miles from the ocean.
My cousin David Ely and I joined the Air Force together. We'd both graduated from high school and didn't know what to do with ourselves. So, one evening, as David was down visiting, we went to the movies and saw John Wayne in "The High and the Mighty" that did it. The next day we went down to the recruiting station and enlisted. David and I separated during basic training and didn't see each other for years. I went on to major in Radio Communications Repair and was sent to an Air Force site in Germany, there to eventually run a MARS amateur radio station. From that mountain site near Prum, Germany, I spoke to many people around the world, from housewives in England, tending their gardens to a captain piloting his barge on the Volga River.
Discharged honorably after four years in the Air Force I went to school in New Haven at the Connecticut School of Electronics and truly began my understanding of the vacuum tube in theory and operation.
Among those of us "old timers" who learned electronics during the age of vacuum tubes I doubt if there are many who never once looked through the glass envelope of a tube and didn't ask himself, "Who lives in there?"
Most radios of that day had open backs, to let out the hot air from
all the heat those tubes generated byi their filaments. So as you looked
into the radio you could see a village of sorts, perhaps a dozen or more
red campfires burning with a warm red glow down there inside the superheterodyne.
Gibbs Lab was an odd looking greenish building, lying low, a sky scraper on its side. I went to work for the Molecular Beams department to service and construct electronics equipment for folks like, Hugh Robinson, and Claus Ziok who were studying the Muon particle and eventually achieved notoriety in that field. Daily I worked with them or built electronics equipment to interface to their apparatus.
Two years later I applied for a position with the High Energy Physics Department under Professor Horace Taft, grandson, of President Taft. There for the next two years I worked with several technicians and an engineer on the PEPR, (Pulse Encoding Pattern Recognition System) which was to analyze bubble chamber tracks of particles from films taken at Brookhaven National Laboratory.
There was a great deal of money being spent on research at that time by the National Science Foundation which began to dry up and groups such as Yale were caught in a pinch and tried to reorganize and save money. Their reorganization attempts caught many of us in between. Our independence of thought and action now became restricted as we were reorganized into cells with overly specific tasks. That was not for me.
Uncle Oliver White came to the rescue once again with another want ad from the New Haven Register. "Electronics Associate wanted by Wesleyan University." I applied and my extensive knowledge of the cathode follower won me the position through an interview by Professor William Trousdale. This was an exciting time at Wesleyan for Professor James Faller was developing several scientific areas among them the retroflector for the Apollo Moon landing, called The Lunar Ranging Project. I was fortunate to work with him and his graduate students as they rushed to put together a system for bouncing a laser beam from Earth to the Moon and back to measure more precisely than ever before the distance from those two points.
Indeed, I along with the world, sat breathless one day as the Apollo
settled down on the lunar plains. Later the reflector was set up and Professor
Faller and his students, now operating one of the worlds most powerful
Korad lasers in California, began trying to locate that mirror with their
beam and find an echo. In the end, they were the first to accomplish this
end, though many others were doing the same thing.
7. Audio Visual at Wesleyan
a. Shiva -- multi-media dance concert
b. Artist in residence at Science Library
8. Found Art: Found Sculpture
a. Computer scraps
b. Rust and corrosion as an artistic element
9. Time Constructions
Matter is frozen energy.
Time is movement or change from one state to another.
Having lived in a world of virtual reality most of my life it is no surprise to be now living and working within that landscape. The cyberworld is a canvas for a new-generation artist where space and time have a different perspective and can be sculpted to fit that dimension.
I have always had problems with the borders between art and science, time and space, organic and metalic forms. Our culture has created divisions in these areas, mostly, I guess because people are good in some things and not good in others. If you're a scientist you may have no interest in art and vice versa. The viewpoint I have is that the two are often only different perspectives on the same phenomena.
I find that I'm moving now from one dimension to the next with relative
smoothness, the three dimensional images become two dimensional and then
return as separate entities to three dimensions, then back to cyberspace,
make a print and two-d again, which easily rolls into three dimension.
The border lines evaporate and a continuum exists.
Daniel Gomez Ibanez, graduating student at Wesleyan and friend provides
a good example of the transition from paper to cyberspace. His drawings
and "Quick-time" movies presented on a wall mounted sculpture, housing
a laptop computer are a good demonstration of that transition. Daniel can
be reached at <email@example.com>
As I construct a sculpture I look at the materials that it is to be composed of and try to visualize it in that dimension. I photograph it, then I scan it and send it across a mythical line into a land with its own rules. Within the confines of this electronic dimension most of the laws of science are suspended. Gravity does not exist. Time can go forward or backward. Wormholes are common and it is possible not only to travel faster than light but to enter a black hole and re-emerge somewhere else. Most anything can and does exist there.
"I stole on tiptoe upstairs to the little roof from whose windows, looking one way, we see the fields we know and looking another, those hilly lands that I sought--almost I feared not to find them. I looked at once toward the mountains of faery; the afterglow of the sunset flamed on them, their avalanches flashed on their violet slopes coming down tremendous from emerald peaks of ice; and there was the old gap in the blue-grey hills above the precipice of amethyst whence one sees the Lands of Dream. . . "
* From Lord Dunsany,. "At the Edge of the World" "A Shop For Dreamers"
We talk of reality but how do we determine reality, by vision, by sound, by touch or smell. Isn't the information we get through these sensations generated by electro-chemisty. We see a 3D image in our mind, caused by an electric current generated by the cameras of our eyes. Our fingers are sensors which send electronic signals to the brain which in turn translates that information into dimensions, textures and all.
Whether you believe in God, Chance, Creationism, Evolutionism, or what, it's still rather obvious, isn't it, that we're somebody or something's robot. A clever one indeed, better than "Bicentennial Man" , perhaps, but our sensation of what we call "reality" is limited by the range of our sensors. We don't see in "infra-red" or "x-ray" since we haven't the senses for these, "we don't see in ultra-sound, since our ears aren't that good. But we know how to use technology so that we can eventually "see" in infra-red, x-ray or ultrasound. With the aid of these sensors that we built and have extended and added to our arsenal of interchangeable senses. You might say we are in the process of reinventing mankind. Or have we always been doing that . . .
The book, that ancient storehouse of knowledge changes form, from three dimensions to the flatworld, then back again.
Time shifts, vanishes, reappears somewhere else, perhaps like moving into a black hole and emerging somewhere else.
In films, actors live and then fade and die, then re-emerge, to act once again, on the cyberstage but in new dramas, with actors and actresses who were not even born when they died.
The robots of the next generation are now among us, waiting for their turn to speak their piece.
Time too is a circle -- the past returning to influence the present
-- determining the future
Understanding Time is partly a process of understanding entrophy --
seeing change in the form of rust and decay.
So, many of my sculptures use rusting metal, or rotting wood to incorporate the essence of time and change within them.
Of course I also use cracker jack boxes and breakfast serial boxes too. Every element of a culture is an important artifact, no matter how small or insignifigant. Understanding that fact is paramount to the proper understanding of a culture.
I try whenever possible to incorporate into my works as many of the senses as the work will allow. Change in shape or color, texture, light, smell, change in relationship to space, movement, all are important elements. Sound is an important dimension but I've found that it demands a concentration of time and energy equal to the construction of the physical sculpture itself.
Conceptually, if I build a cityscape, for instance, I have in mind that eventually some of the kinetic parts will fail, lights will burn out, gears jam, motors fail. Initially they should be repaired but in the long run they should be left as ruins, to be replaced by new devices, another layer over the old, leaving the remains as artifacts. In the long run all of the kinetics in the sculpture should fail and so the city returns to darkness, stasis, and death. Over time the sculpture should rust and fall apart and in time become a mound of ruins, for some archeologist to discover and explore.
Now, even as the artist envisions this landscape and its populace, the other dimensions to the work have nothing to do with him or her, but are products of the audience. The viewers see the work from their own perspective, essentially through those "multi-spectral spectacles" which are the unique vantage point of each person.
A work of art then has many dimensions beyond the visible surface. It
extends from the mind of the artist who conceived it into the minds of
those who view the work and each may have a different viewpoint.
Marcel Duchamp's nude started to descend the staircase and her image began to multiply until there were dozens of her on various steps, from the first landing to the last. Her greeting from the top had been, "Hello," which quickly became a multiple echo - Hello! - Hello! - Hello! - Hello! - one more echo for each additional image, surrounding James. The sound increased in intensity -- runaway feedback -- until he had to hold his his hands cupped over his ears to avoid the pain.
He blinked and found himself in a field of tall grass. There was a young woman lying there, looking toward a white house in the distance. He saw the viper next to her, poised behind the woman and he wanted to warn her, but when he tried to yell, he found that he had no mouth. Groping for his lips he felt only a membrane of twisted skin. The viper struck, the woman screamed, and her face turned to butter and melted into the earth. He closed his eyes and opened them to . . . a bedpost and the screams turned a clanging alarm clock. Dripping with sweat James turned off the alarm and walked downstairs for breakfast.
Among those of us, "old timers" who learned electronics during the age of vacuum tubes I doubt if there are many who never looked into a vacuum tube and didn't ask, "Who lives in there?"
Most radios of that day had open backs, to let out the hot air from all the heat those tubes generated by their filaments. So as you looked into the radio you could see a village of sorts, perhaps a dozen or more red campfires burning with a warm red glow down there inside the jungle of wires, resistors and capacitors of the superheterodyne.
Of course this thought, that someone or something lived within the tubes was only a passing fantasy, usually on a subconscious level, never uttered out loud or even considered as a legitimate thought.
I built my sculptures and was content with them until a seven year old asked me, "Who lives in your houses?"
"What!" I replied, "Why they're not . . . I mean, they may look like buildings. . . Well, maybe they are structures, buildings, but they're not . . . and nobody really . . . " I stood there, scratching my head. But I knew then that she had me. That impish smile on the little girl face, I'd seen it before -- many years past as a small child standing next to me on the beach asked, "What kind of dragon is that you're painting?"
"It's abstract," I said, "not a . . . Well, it does look like a . . . maybe, but . . . Yes, your right. Of course, it is a dragon. . . "
"So what kind of dragon is it?" she said as she slid down in the warm sand next to me and her little brother toddled up to join in the party.
"Okay," I said, giving in to the power of her childish smile: "Dragons! There are many kinds of dragons, sea dragons, flying dragons, and . . . "
That was it: the summer was ruined. My image of sitting on the beach and painting abstract pictures was shattered by a kid, and a dragon. There are moments in your life which vaporize the line that you're following, instantly, irrevocably, and, for me, that was one of them.
I drew them a dragon, and then drew a stick-form of a little girl and then a smaller boy and a sailboat on the sea. Of course there was a dragon in that crowded picture.
"Does he like kids, the dragon?" asked the girl.
I was tempted to answer, "yes, he does, with a little garnish." But instead I said, "Yes, I think so." I drew about fifty pictures that afternoon as one child after another stood before me and said, "Draw my picture, please."
That night my dreams were interrupted by strange music coming from the house next door, a new musical group, what was their name, The Bugs or no, the Beatles, I think. At the time, they weren't famous. And their music was an odd song about a girl named Eleanor Rigby who hid her face in a jar by the door. I slept after a while but that faceless woman kept opening doors and walking into my room.
I didn't see those two little kids again but for the next few days I churned out a lot of dragons and other pschedelic stuff, women with swirling faces, skies that looked like "starry night" and all that.
When, one evening, my landlady and friend Rhoda complained that 9 year old Amy was not having much of a summer since she didn't have any friends there I thought about the problem for a while and then had an answer.
We lived in a summer community, The East End of Provincetown, made up of artists, musicians, their wives and children. When the musicians went on the road they left the families behind for days at a time. So here was a whole neighborhood of "Pro Musica" kids and a few "Starving Artist" kids thrown in too, but none of them really knew one another. What they needed was a mythology, a common bond. That's where the dragons came in.
Amy discovered one of my dragons, not by accident, since I left it where she had to sit on it in the living room. "Did you do this dragon?" she asked.
"Yeah, its one of mine," I said.
"Draw my picture," she said.
"Okay." So I drew her, then warped her face, much like Eleanor Rigby and handed it to her. She nodded and left the house with the drawing. In five minutes she was back with nine year old Toby from the wharf across the street. "Draw my picture," he said.
Now there was a psychedelic boy and girl. They kids went out to the beach and in came two more, then another two. I said to Amy and Toby, "I'm writing a book, would you like to be in it?"
"Sure," said Amy. "Okay!" shrugged Toby.
That began a process wherein I took the children to the beach the first day in my green old Chevy Van and the following day there were two more kids for the beach and two more the next day, until I was driving off with a dozen neighborhood kids each day. I didn't write a book, just sat in the sand and wrote or drew pictures while the kids scampered off down the beach, playing and doing whatever kids do. My son Tony, who was fourteen at the time, only shook his head at his crazy dad, then he shouldered his guitar and took off with a friend for the Far Point.
At the end of the summer the kids had all become friends, but there wasn't any book. So, one day when Toby and Amy came for their ride I told them I was going to "finish" the story and that we weren't driving down to the beach that day. I took my portable, manual, typewriter across the street, plopped myself down in the sand and began writing. All day there was a steady parade of neighborhood kids, one or two at a time peeping over my shoulder as the typewritten pages began to pile up. By the end of the day there was 45 pages of "The Children of Gronicus."
I said to Lorn, one of the kids, to tell his mother that I'd babysit for the neighborhood that evening. Right after supper Lorn's mother went out to the movies with a friend and I had twelve children sitting in a circle around me in the living room. I read all 45 pages without an interruption, or a single cough, that I could hear. When it was done, they nodded, and I could tell it was a success. This had been the final stitch in creating a summer mythology to bind them together. From then on they were a neighborhood and you always saw them in pairs or groups and when there was an event that needed a group they all went as one unit.
I sat, a few evenings later, on the lawn with Rhoda, drinking a gin and tonic as they boys and girls zipped up and down the street on their bicycles before heading off into town. "It worked," said Rhoda, "I didn't think you could do it, but you did."
Over the next few years I kept in touch with the families via a magazine that I put together with the help of my son Tony, called "SandCastle Lands" and each issue had a new chapter of "The Children of Gronicus" Actually, at that time it was called, "Toby On Mars" with hand drawn illustrations based on photos I'd taken of the kids on the beach. After the kids grew into their teenage years I lost touch with most of them and the story was never completed entirely to my satisfaction. Though I did finish the manuscript and Ricky's mother tried in vain to find a publisher. I'm not surprised, it was still in pretty raw form.
I began to build sculptures soon after that, when I was back at Yale, as an electronics associate with the physics department and I didn't think too much about who lived in my sculptures.
Recently I went back to revisit friends in Provincetown, met Toby his wife and children, and Amy who was visiting her mother. Amy was now a 28 year old single mother living in New York with her child and doing well. We talked about the other "Gronican kids" who were now living in Paris and California and elsewhere around the world.
I came home, built some more structures and forgot about who might live in them. Then John Sims and I got together and attacked the concept of time with our sculptures. That kept me busy for a long while, until a little girl asked me, "Who lives in your houses?"
Then, I realized that there were occupants within, in each and every one of them. I just hadn't noticed. It was time to consider the residents of those various worlds. After the next sculpture was built. I began to wonder who lived in it and why? "What did they residents look like? and who were they?"
But the characters couldn't just be drawings, they had to be three dimensional. They had to move. I took out some clay and began to shape faces which I quickly realized were Trolls. So, that's who they were, Gremlins, Trolls, Elves, and a whole range of mythological creatures.
As the characters started to arrive at my doorstep, some of them literally, I needed a place to put them and so revisited the Land of Gronicus and found that it was a good vehicle for my characters. Sand Castle Lands, the magazine, then came back into being.
So that seems to be my direction, at least during this period of time, populating some of my structures with citizens. There are structures that I truly don'e know anything about, who lives in them, or what their purpose is -- the ideas and designs came from my subconscious and my hands merely followed the dictates of those subconscious messages.
I've found too, recently, through a visit by Arthur Wensinger, co-author with Walter Gropius of "The Theatre of The Bauhaus" that I'm a third generation Bauhaus artist. Professor Wensinger recently discovered my work and gave me a copy of his book with the inscription, "To Bob White who has authentic connections to this material."
I hadn't thought too much about where any of my designs came from except from within. My ego said that I was an original, but when Arthur mentioned Bauhaus it dawned on me that my teacher/mentor, Jordan Abeshouse was a student of Albers at Yale. Albers, master of color interaction, a Bauhaus artist from the old school.
That caused me to think and to realize how Jordan had steered me, very
subtly toward the Bauhaus artists who I grew to know and to love. Of course
their work was reflected in my own, how could it not. So I did have earthly
roots after all. Images of the work of Mholy Gnagy and Marcel Duchamp slowly
materialized within my mind. Yes, there were strong connections.
Now, almost once a week, someone knocks on my door and says, in their own way. "Hello, I'm here, another character. Do you have a role for me?"
Of course I do . . .
Addenda: I began searching second hand stores for children's toys, as I wanted the mechanical elements to add life to my beings, and then went directly to toy stores themselves to see what there was that I could use as raw material for creating characters. I was surprised to find the evolution in toys from Furbees to Dancing Santas and Robotic Dogs.
I think life is about to get very interesting . . .
"I've met many people, many of them young students, who aren't happy with their direction in life. Often, as we discuss their problems I find that they have stopped following their own path and are following the instructions of others. By keeping "too open" a mind they've been sidetracked by well-meaning people. I tell these students. Find your way back to your original direction, review your goals and make new decisions based on your own desires.
Sometimes, to find ourselves we have to remember who we were at ten, if we can still find that ten year old. I suggest talking with the him or her within yourself and listening to what that voice says. I think, by age three we have most of our identity answers. Life just makes those answers blurry. Too much stuff comes at us after that so we get lost trying to live up to the expectations of others for us, not our own expectations.
The last time I was in Tampa was almost half a century ago. I came there to visit my cousin David who was in the Air Force and stationed there. He, his wife and three children were living in a run down trailer park. Our dreams of becoming deep sea divers was lying beneath the trailer, a corroded aqua lung we'd built in Connecticut. I asked David about the lung, he showed it to me and when I looked it at it I knew there was no hope for that machine, or our dream as well.
As children I'd saved David's life once, as we swam across Cockaponsette Pond. The swim across was okay but during the return trip David ran out of strength and started to go down. I told him to relax, lie back and put his hands on my shoulders while I breast stroked him back to the shore. He didn't drown that day, but many years later I stood around the grave while his coffin was put into the ground. He'd drowned on alcohol. It was sad standing there that day as his kids watched the body of their father being put into the earth. Fate perhaps.
Lost dreams, forgotten directions. We need to go back to that ten year old and find the macrocosm in the microworld.
I think old men cry a lot not only at what they've lost but at what they've had . . .
It is the year 2000 and the world has changed. It is not the same place that I knew as a ten or twelve year old. At twelve I used to take the train from New Haven to New York and spend the day wandering The City, usually ending up at the Museum of Natural History or the Planetarium.
But, most of the day I took subways here and there, asking people for
directions, asking three people the same question and if they were the
same directions I'd feel safe that I was okay.
That was over half a century ago. The world today is not that world. What makes old men cry is that they begin to understand the ways of the Universe. . . "
After the show James talked with several students, Andrew Jones, Sean Harris, Terrence Henesy and Kathy Chan, discussing parts of the show that each of them was interested in.
After the talk he spoke with Johnette Isham the vice president of the college for a few moments. Johnette thanked James for the presentation and told him she thought he was a "very special person."
When the show had been put to bed, John and Ginger took James downtown for something to eat at a Spanish restaurant. John wanted to take him to some museums the following day but James said that he'd like to drive over to Vero Beach to visit with his brothers, his nephews and sister in law if John didn't mind. "No I don't mind, he said, we can do the museums on Saturday when you get back.
James headed north out of Sarasota on the Fruitville Road, then switched to route 70. Almost immediately the landscape changed from urban sprawl to flat, low countryside with very few trees. For a short while his was the only car on the road, then one passed him going toward Sarasota, and a while later a car flew past down the dual lane highway.
Occasionally he'd see a house in the distance or cows grazing on the land. But, other than that the land was empty. Stopping at Dave's Mini Mart, the only store or place he'd found so far he got out of the car and stretched. A portly middle-aged man sat at a single picnic table, reading the newspaper. James went inside, bought a bottle of water, peanut putter and bread. He asked the pert young lady at the counter if she had a plastic knife. She rummaged around and found one. "We got a little bit of everythin, I guess," she said.
James replied, "That's better than having a lot of nothin."
She laughed. "I like that," she said, "I might use it some time."
He took his bread and peanut butter out to the picnic table and asked the fellow occupying the bench if he could use one corner of it. "Sure, go ahead," said the man, not looking up from his paper. As James made his sandwich several folks came in and out of the store and greeted Dave, who was apparently the man at the table.
James ate his sandwich, then put the bread and peanut butter. He said, "Thanks Dave. Have a good day."
"You're welcome my friend," replied Dave, "You too," but the man never
looked up from his paper. Must be interesting stuff in there, thought James.
Three hours later he came to Okechobe and stopped at a sign that read,
"Books and Coffee" and below that "Sally's CyberCafe and Bagels" That sounded
like a good idea so he went in and met Sally and Paula. Paula had the books
and Sally had the Cybercafe and bagels. He had a bagel and cup of coffee.
Harry Tomb was there too discussing problems on the Internet.
James pulled up to the trailer of his brother John. John saw him coming and met him at the screened porch. "Hey you old buzzard!" said John. "You too," replied James as they hugged and John took him inside to see the insides of the trailer he was renovating, opening up, redoing from floor to ceiling. It was impressive work. But, of course, John was good at that.
John called his brother Art and nephew A.J. and they arranged to meet at a restaurant by the ocean. AJ was waiting for them there and they talked for a while, had some drinks while they waited for brother Art. More drinks were ordered and some food. They took James on a tour of the restaurant which was constructed mainly of driftwood. A.J. spoke of finishing his education and his need to redefine his direction.
Identity -- thought James, again the question, Who am I? and What am
I? He wanted to give his nephew an answer but he knew that the thought
must come from within the man, no longer a boy, himself. There was no exact
Right away, only experimentation to see where one fit into the universe
and making mistakes in the choosing were part of that. Still, it was necessary
to take charge of one's life, even at the risk of offending he fates. .
Afterwards they drove over to Art's place where Rosemary, his wife,
greeted them and they sat and talked, took some photos. "Well, I hate to
rush but I've got four hours of driving," said James, "want to get back
tonight and spend a while with John and Ginger in the morning."
Toward the third hour he started getting sleepy and pulled into a parking lot at Acadia, drank some water, then let some out, and ate an orange. Feeling better he continued and reached Bradenton by eleven. Arriving in Sarasota he had trouble finding the highway to the college and just drove around for a while before stopping a young woman and asking her for directions. By midnight he was back at the apartment.
He awoke at six am and went walking, in the opposite direction from his last jaunt. He explored several side roads and tried to find an open market to buy some more disks for his digital camera, but nothing was open.
John came by with Ginger and they drove into Sarasota to have breakfast at a small cafe. Since the plane out was at 4:30 there were several hours of exploration left. "What would you like to see?" asked John. "How about the troll park," he replied. "That's at the Ringling Museum," added Ginger.
"There's a good exhibit of paintings inside," said John. "That's okay,"
said James, "I really want to see the troll garden mainly."
"There's the troll garden, over there," said Ginger, pointing.
"Come on," said Ginger, "I'll show you John."
"You mean he's on exhibit?"
On the way to the Tampa airport John stopped at Saint Petersburg, at
a gallery where he had some of his work on display. James wandered the
gallery taking pictures while John talked with the manager.
He studied the land, searched it out, every inch on the trip back, hopeing to catch the sunset when it arrived. But the clouds moved in and seatbelts were required. Turbulence bounced the plane around a bit. James decided to call his Mother with the cell phone on the seat in front of him. He made the call. "Hi. Is this the first time anybody's ever called you from 30,000 feet."
His mother laughed, think he was joking but then he explained that he
was in the plane on the way home and using the cell phone there. Afterwards
he called his friend Val, and brother John. The signals were crisp and
In Pennsylvania there was a short layover while some folks deplaned and others were to board. He took his pass and left the plane for a while. Stopped at a stand and ate some pizza, then wandered on for a while, exploring the airport before reporting back and boarding.
The flight from Pennsylvaina to Connecticut was remarkably short. He hardly had time to eat the peanuts they handed out and didn't finish the soda they poured since he was served last, at the rear of the plane. Still he watched the approach to the airport, his neck sore from being turned constantly to look out of the window. The ground came up, flaps down, engines reversed and they were down.
Michaeleen met him with her car at a pre-arranged spot and they drove off to try and catch a 10pm movie in Springfield. As they drove down the highway James smiled, realizing that he was back where he started. It was almost as if he'd never left. But he was glad he had a 'ton' of photographs to show where he'd been.
And the time was still Now. . .
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