“Ground Control to Major Tom”
– David Bowie
"Untested Territory" could be an alternative title for this exhibition. While artists, aerospace experts, engineers, scientists, visionaries and entrepreneurs are exploring utopian and apocalyptic implications of space, as noted in this June 2012 ARTnews article, the Harwood Museum of Art is testing her capacity for new media.
Many of the artists in the Harwood's series of exhibitions celebrating the theme ISEA 2012 Albuquerque: Machine Wilderness (In Zero Gravity) create using new media. The pieces in Falling without Fear focus on work experienced through digital means. Looped videos will give the viewer the opportunity to experience the creative and technical work being done in digital media by regional, national and international artists:
Jeff T. Alu
Jeff T. Alu has produced 3D graphics and animation for clients ranging from Nasa/JPL to Hasbro. Though a freelancer for over thirty years, he has also held a number of full-time positions along the way working with companies such as RGA/Epoch Internet and Zing.com. He is also a photographer, having had his black and white photographs exhibited in museums and galleries around the world. Alu is also an accomplished composer studying at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. He completed his degree at Chapman University in Orange, California in the 1980s while working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratories, where he discovered several asteroids and near earth comets. Spoiler alert: http://vimeo.com/44056073
The music of Paul Elwood often incorporates Elwood's background as a folk musician and an experimentalist on the five-string banjo with that of his voice as a composer who loves the processes and syntax of contemporary writing. Elwood has held residencies at the American Academy in Rome as Southern Regional Visiting Composer, the Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico, the Frank Waters Foundation, the Harwood Museum of Art, the MacDowell Colony, Djerassi Artists Residence Program, Ucross Foundation, Camargo Foundation (France), and Fundacion Valparaiso (Spain). Paul Elwood is currently associate professor of composition at the University of Northern Colorado. In this video presentation Elwood presents a performance of Edgard Varèse in the Gobi Desert - a Velcro-tap dancing concerto in three movements (all titles are from The Air- Conditioned Nightmare by Henry Miller). Velcro tap-dancing is the brain-child of Werts, a guitarist/fiddler from Kansas City who, while meditating one day in 1981, posed himself the koan-type question: what is the reverse of tap-dancing? He reasoned that the sound would be made when lifting the feet from the floor, rather than striking the floor. The feat would be possible in weightlessness or- zero gravity. This train of logic led eventually to the idea that Velcro, attached to the soles of a pair of shoes, would create a sound when lifted from a surface such as indoor-outdoor carpet. As noted by Paul Griffiths in The New Yorker, "Edgard Varèse in the Gobi Desert is a piece that manages to be at once funny, touching, and atmospheric. The Velcro tap dancer makes his steps while wearing Velcro-soled shoes and stationed on a few square feet of carpet: with amplification, the virtuoso is able, through executing hectic stomps and slow turns in T’ai Chi style, to create vicious tears and exquisitely protracted squeezings. In Mr. Elwood's composition, these were accompanied by a sextet of piano and percussion, the latter doubling as chanters, clappers, and bird-whistlers, in what was a surprisingly fitting homage to the composer mentioned in the title."
Scott Moore believes that "The Rio Pueblo de Taos Canyon and river call out for a community-wide response that educates people about the impacts of environmental degradation, and that engages the positive energies of local youth and the community-at-large in a communal creative act honoring both human culture and wilderness. The problems we face are not just a matter of the loss of biota, they are about the loss of imagination in the face of overwhelming environmental degradation, and the effects of that degradation. Artists have the potential to bring creative energy to issues and redefine public space in ways that stymie the scientist and change the matter- of-fact. Land-based art now has the capacity to address social issues and the ability to inspire a public that is alienated and/or in denial. People who are eager to find constructive channels for acting on behalf of local wild and semi-wild places will find within this realm a vehicle of stewardship and impact."
Christina Sporrong is a performance artist and metal sculptor based out of Taos, New Mexico. Born in Sweden and raised all over the world, Sporrong evidenced a fierce artistic drive from an early age. She abandoned city life to live in the inspiring high mountain desert, where she established Spitfire Forge - her own commercial blacksmithing and fabrication shop. Sporrong teaches national welding and blacksmithing workshops to women as a means to empower and de-mystify the medium. Somewhere along the way she found the circus, and she now uses aerial dance, fire arts and a range of self-made props and constructions to create unique and thought- provoking performances. She has choreographed and performed several pieces including Amortec, a dance between a woman on stilts and a robot. The sculptural and performative process intersect on many levels for Sporrong. Two most recent examples of this fusion of interests are The Heron Project- a 30ft tall kinetic performance playground for aerialists, and Caged Pulse Jets- a large scale instrument where audience members create a cacophonous symphony by playing jet engines. Sporrong spends a good part of the year traveling around the country and the world participating in various shows and festivals, showcasing her large scale sculpture projects. She continues to merge the mediums of performance art and steel sculpture with provocative and exciting results. She is currently working on the completion of Caged Pulse Jets Rev2 as an honoraria for the 2011 Burning Man festival.
The only sculptor in this exhibition, Steve Storz' Saw Screams adds the one post-apocalyptic element in this exhibition. Storz, originally from the industrial Gulf town of Texas City, moved to Taos in 1996 and lived there until 2010 (15 years). Currently Storz lives near downtown Gallup with his girlfriend Erika. According to Steve, “The creativity of the locals is raw and direct in many cases, and I have new inspirations by being immersed among the Navajo Nation and the rail-town environment here. I record the trains (more than 100 per day) that come through and modify the sounds digitally for use in some of my sculpture installations. My drawings have been influenced by these elements and have flourished into a blend of calligraphic notation and collaged elements that resemble aged ephemera." Storz recalls his first awakenings as an artist when he picked up a rusted spring from the alleyway behinds his parents' home. The spring started a collection in a junk drawer in his, normally, immaculate room. By the time Storz had entered early adulthood, his first electro-mechanical sculptures, monster heads with moving mouths and lights in their entrails, had been shown in the first science fiction convention in Eugene, Oregon, where most of his ordinary schooling occurred. During the 1980s and '90s he maintained a cavernous studio in a San Jose cannery left over from the 1930s. The nearby Silicon Valley became a mountainous supply of electronics and cast-off industrial materials that became reshaped and combined into mechanical and electronic sculptures inspired by mad scientist oddness. His work included large scale installations for haunted houses, night clubs, film and performance-art companies, electronic and steel sculptures, avant-garde music, the World's Largest Top Hat and drawings. Storz currently concentrates on the steel and electronic sculptures, constructions resembling ancient-futuristic architecture, while also creating "Grunge Machines" made of mechanical VCR and answering machine scraps. Storz refers to these pieces as “the teeth of darkness melted down to a waxy smear”. Drawings in graphite, ink and oil pastel continue to be a basis for much of Steve's work, and bronze sculptures are being cast of his mixed media materials resulting in permanent forms of haunting strangeness and detailed textures.