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Group-shot Group Bead1 Dsc00623 Bead1 Rodney_mcmillian Dsc00575 Dsc00651 Dsc00697
'rak'rüm (noun);
the back room of an art gallery
where artists and art lovers hang
E-bead1
production shot, Philosophy of Time TravelPhilosophy of Time Travel, production shot,
2007, Pasadena, CA
© artslant
production shot, Philosophy of Time TravelPhilosophy of Time Travel, production shot,
2007, Pasadena, CA
© artslant
model rhombus "bead", Philosophy of Time TravelPhilosophy of Time Travel,
model rhombus "bead", 2007
© artslant
Studio Museum, model, Philosophy of Time TravelPhilosophy of Time Travel, Studio Museum, model,
2007, Pasadena, CA
© artslant
polishing beads, Philosophy of Time TravelPhilosophy of Time Travel, polishing beads,
2007, Pasadena, CA
© artslant
Rodney McMillian, Philosophy of Time TravelPhilosophy of Time Travel, Rodney McMillian,
2007, Pasadena, CA
© artslant
Matthew Sloly, Philosophy of Time TravelPhilosophy of Time Travel, Matthew Sloly,
2007, Pasadena, CA
© artslant
beads after paint and patina, Philosophy of Time TravelPhilosophy of Time Travel,
beads after paint and patina,
2007, Pasadena, CA
© artslant
beads being strung, Philosophy of Time TravelPhilosophy of Time Travel, beads being strung,
2007, Pasadena, CA
© artslant
Vincent Johnson, Philosophy of Time TravelPhilosophy of Time Travel, Vincent Johnson,
2007, Pasadena, CA
© artslant
Olga Koumoundouros, Philosophy of Time TravelPhilosophy of Time Travel, Olga Koumoundouros,
2007, Pasadena, CA
© artslant
Edgar Arceneaux, Philosophy of Time TravelPhilosophy of Time Travel, Edgar Arceneaux,
2007, Pasadena, CA
© artslant
standing bead, Philosophy of Time TravelPhilosophy of Time Travel, standing bead,
2007, Pasadena, CA
© Edgar Arceneaux
hardcoating, Philosophy of Time TravelPhilosophy of Time Travel, hardcoating,
2007, Pasadena, CA
© artslant
Emilio Loza, Philosophy of Time TravelPhilosophy of Time Travel, Emilio Loza,
2007, Pasadena, CA
© artslant
Leigh Jerrard and Nico, Philosophy of Time TravelPhilosophy of Time Travel,
Leigh Jerrard and Nico, 2007, Pasadena, CA
© artslant
bronzed bead, detail, Philosophy of Time TravelPhilosophy of Time Travel, bronzed bead, detail,
2007, Pasadena, CA
© artslant
Sketch, Philosophy of Time TravelPhilosophy of Time Travel, Sketch, 2006
© Courtesy the artists
Sketch, Philosophy of Time TravelPhilosophy of Time Travel, Sketch, 2006
© Courtesy the artists
Sketch, Philosophy of Time TravelPhilosophy of Time Travel, Sketch
© Courtesy the artists
CAD Drawing, Philosophy of Time TravelPhilosophy of Time Travel, CAD Drawing,
2006
© Courtesy the artists
CAD Drawing, Philosophy of Time TravelPhilosophy of Time Travel, CAD Drawing,
2006
© Courtesy the artists
CAD Drawing, Philosophy of Time TravelPhilosophy of Time Travel, CAD Drawing,
2006
© Courtesy the artists
CAD Drawing, Philosophy of Time TravelPhilosophy of Time Travel, CAD Drawing,
2006
© Courtesy the artists
CAD Drawing, Philosophy of Time TravelPhilosophy of Time Travel, CAD Drawing,
2006
© Courtesy the artists
installation detail, Philosophy of Time TravelPhilosophy of Time Travel, installation detail,
2007, Studio Museum
© artslant
installation detail, Philosophy of Time TravelPhilosophy of Time Travel, installation detail,
2007, Studio Museum
© artslant
installation detail, Philosophy of Time TravelPhilosophy of Time Travel, installation detail,
2007, Studio Museum
© artslant
installation detail, Philosophy of Time TravelPhilosophy of Time Travel, installation detail,
2007, Studio Museum
© artslant
installation detail, Philosophy of Time TravelPhilosophy of Time Travel, installation detail,
2007, Studio Museum
© artslant
the project Studio Museum, Harlem, April 11-July 1, 2007 What if history had a mind of its own, moving from the past, through the present and into the future? A team of five artists is exploring this idea with a large-scale installation, Philosophy of Time Travel, opening April 11, 2007, at The Studio Museum in Harlem. The installation evokes the work of modernist sculptor Constantin Brâncusi (18...[more]


RackRoom
Interview with Philosophy of Time Travel

April 2007 - ArtSlant's editor, Georgia Fee, met up with the Philosophy of Time Travel team on several occasions throughout March and April, 2007.  Georgia tracked the production of this extensive project and talked with the artists about the history of the piece, the ideas behind it and their process in creating the various parts of the installation.

To see more about each team member please link to their ArtSlant Profiles:

It was one of those crystal clear it's-about-the-light days in Pasadena as ArtSlant team members arrived at the Amory Center for the Arts Nothwest facility in Pasadena, CA.  This was the working site of the Philosophy of Time Travel project.

Huge pieces of Styrofoam floated across the outdoor lot looking like so many chunks of post-warming iceburgs.  Bodies drifted around in white suits, face masks and goggles, coming and going from plastic tents covered in a fine film of styro-beads. .  A two-story wooden structure, looking somewhat like an oil rig or high dive platform, held sway at the center of things.  Insulation and wiring and other structural debris hung from its ceiling.  A column of sorts was lodged within its confines after having apparently pierced through the roof of this structure.  Cell phones ringing, whirring table saws, crows cawing and somewhere in the distance a blaring radio added a wall of sound to this spectacle.  The whole scene looked like some extra-terra base camp in the Arctic or South Pole or another place of gleaming light.

The following conversation comes from ongoing discussions between the artists and Georgia Fee. 

Courtesy of the artists


Georgia Fee: This is obviously a huge project.  Can you talk a little about how it came together?

Olga:  We had the opportunity to do a collaboration at the Studio Museum and that became the frame for our discussions.  Everything flowed from that context.

Rodney:  The project has always been about the history and dialogue of the Studio Museum.  I cannot imagine this piece developing outside of this institution. 

Olga: It wouldn't have developed in MOMA looking like this.

Matthew:  And we probably wouldn't have been working together.

Rodney:  At another museum, it would have been a different history crashing into it.

Vincent:  There has been long standing desire for us to do a project that took advantage and combined each of our sensibilities and skill sets. This project is the formal - and might I add - heroic manifestation of those desires.

GF :  Why Brancusi?  How did you settle on the Endless Column?

Rodney:  It was interesting.  Olga and I began thinking about Egyptian pyramids and doric columns and we were talking about how certain histories were eclipsed by certain forms.  Around this time, Edgar was watching Donnie Darko and was turned on to Brancusi.  Actually the title of the piece comes from this movie.

Olga:  We liked the idea of using Brancusi as a symbol of modernism.  The Endless Column came with a different history from the ancient structures we had been considering.  It was very loaded.

Vincent:  Part of the early conversation involved our collective desire to produce a work on the scale of the massive earthworks in the Western United States. As our concerns shifted, selecting Endless Column allowed us to directly consider the entire history of Modernism, to reflect upon that history, and through the notion of time travel, imagine Endless Column being transported through both space and time into New York, the city that influenced Brancusi to want to work on a larger-than-life scale.

Matthew:  There is a vague anthropomorphic reference in the Brancusi and doric columns that was part of the initial gestalt.  I came in after the options were on the table and being discussed.  It all landed in this configuration.  The Brancusi column sseemed to reference all the different parts of the initial geistalt.  It felt right.

GF:  So what is the backstory of the project?

Edgar:  Essentially the Endless Column has flown from its location in Romania and crashed into the Studio Museum in Harlem.

GF:  The Endless Column is a World War I monument.  Does this have a bearing on your piece?

Matthew:  We have definitely considered this aspect of Brancusi's piece.  However, when Brancusi first conceived of the Endless Column it was in the context of architecture and the skyscrapers in New York.  He wasn't able to realize it then.  It wasn't until he was given the opportunity to build a World War I monument in Romania that he realized this project.  So, the point is, that the column as an image wasn't tied to that originally.

Olga:  We are not opposed to a relationship to that aspect but it was not the original impetus.

Vincent:  It is a war memorial, but it was not even the first choice of the woman who went to Brancusi to ask that a war memorial be built. It is also a war memorial by a true mystique, whom himself believed he was reincarnated. Brancusi redeployed his elemental and remarkable concert of forms and moved them from the private to the public sphere with his commission to create Endless Column. He desired to do this with his Bird in Space also, by having it recreated at a massive scale, but none of these massive in scale projects were ever realized beyond Endless Column.

Matthew:  We are dealing with something fundamentally symbolic and therefore unstable.  This project did come together in the context of 911 and its aftermath; however, the important part is that we are simulating the crash of an art object into a museum.  The museum holds art objects so it is not that they shouldn't be together, but in this situation the way in which this object has entered the museum creates a discussion about the system as a whole.

Rodney:  The funny thing is that this is also entering the proper way - it will be packed into crates and trucked from Los Angeles to New York in a convoy arranged by the Studio Museum.

Matthew: So we are having the fantasy within the Holodeck.

GF:  What has gone into the construction process?

Olga:  Initially we did a lot of work with the museum and architects to determine the feasibility of installing something of this scale.  The building is quite old and there were a number of issues regarding the weight of the piece.  We finally landed on the solution of using Styrofoam because of those matters.

Rodney: So the beads are being carved out of Styrofoam.

Vincent:  Olga's husband, the architect Leigh Jerrard, has been instrumental in providing us with an amazing array of site-specific museum interior CAD drawings, that allowed us to view and review the project, that allowed us to envision and re-envision the project, until it was able to become the work that exists today. Olga's wonderful scaled-down version of the museum and our sculpture entering the building was also a necessary element to us seeing the project's possibilities.

Matthew:  It's the Hollywood version.  Emilio did most of the carving using a curry comb and a number of other hand-held instruments.  It's funny - when we walked into the tack shop and asked for a curry comb, they knew immediately that we weren't horse people.  Not sure why.

GF:  Why do you call the rhombus sections beads?

Edgar:  Matthew began calling them that because they look like beads on a necklace.  He's very inventive.  Now we all use that term.  And we talk about stringing the beads on their metal frame when we raise the column.

GF:  The shape of the sections are different from Brancusi's - how have you determined the shape?

Edgar:  What you see here are the individual beads after crashing.

Olga:  We have tried to determine the effect of the puncture and the resulting compression and damage.  The beads near the rooftop would be truer to the original form because there would have been less damage.

Matthew:  We did a lot of workups using digital and drawn imagery.  The source material will be in the catalogue.

Vincent:  There is a black & white photograph of a portly but handsome tall man wearing a suit and hat, who is walking past Endless Column. This photograph intrigued us. We took account of how his body, though large, appeared to be small in relation to even a single bead. So we shifted the scale of the beads upwards, about twenty-five percent, so that when a museum goer approaches the work, they will experience the same sense of  dramatic totemic scale we saw in the old photograph of the man walking by Endless Column in Romania.

GF:  Do you envision a flight pattern for the column?

Matthew:  No we don't have one.  It could be an inside job - from some dimension within the Studio Museum.  We don't really know where the entry hole is.

Vincent:  Since the column travels through both space and time, there is a path, but it is from the past coming into the present, not merely the column following a trajectory that can be mapped.

GF: What about the crash?  How will that be explained?

Matthew:  Originally we weren't going to have a catalogue.  We were trying to get the institution to participate in the fiction, with a fictional artist.  But, in working with our idea, we realized we did not want anyone to think this actually had happened.

Vincent:  The crash is part of the impossible narrative that we wished to convey.  How can the past itself crash into the present? How can time itself travel? What happens when time and its elements travel and regroup in another space and time? Those were some of the questions which drove our creation of the project.

Olga: We are not doing War of the Worlds.  We don't want that kind of experience.

Matthew:  Right.  We don't want to traumatize anyone.  We want people to relate to it on a visceral level and to move from the experience of the simulated crash.

Olga:  And the catalogue will provide a lot of process information about our work to project the crash and what it would do to the column.

GF:  Can you describe the process of creating the beads?  The different stages?

Edgar:  After carving and shaping the Styrofoam structures, we hardcoat them, sand and bondo them, paint them and put a patina on.  Then we have to clean and polish each bead.  There has been a lot of handling and labor with each one.  From there, the structures will be convoyed to New York for final installation.

Matthew:  With each new stage, I miss the last one.  But I am very happy with the transformation from Styrofoam to bronze.  I came here late in the evening when no one was around and the beads were almost vibrating.  (With all of the handling) they have a new energy.

GF:  Do you go home and debead?

A collective groan was heard just above the ringing and whirring and cawing.  Artslant will continue this Interview at the Studio Museum and final images and comments will follow.



ArtSlant would like to thank Philosophy of Time Travel team for their assistance in making this interview possible.

-Georgia Fee

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