Saturday, April 15, 2006

Haeckel's Dream

in the summer of 2004 i was an artist-in-residence at acadia park in maine. every day i'd walk out to an island that could only be reached at low tide. one afternoon i found a dead jellyfish stranded on the rocks, and was quite thrilled to have such a beautiful specimen to draw from. during my walk the next day i went back to the same spot to see if perhaps i'd be lucky enough to find another. and sure enough, there was one. and then i noticed another. then five more. suddenly exuberance turned to serious concern. what was happening? why were these beautiful creatures dying in droves? i looked out at the water. an onshore breeze. this combined with the rapidly outgoing tide made the answer to my question obvious. jellyfish are planktonic...they cannot maneuver or navigate. they live and die at the mercy of the elements. at sea they have no need to steer...they just drift. suddenly i noticed a jellyfish, still swimming, in shallow water. i was thrilled. i sat down on a rock and got out my sketchbook to draw. and then i realized that the tide was full of gorgeous, ornate, burgundy-pink jellyfish...tens of them...about to meet their end. it became apparent that i was in the midst of a phemonenon. i ran home to get the super 8 movie camera. there was no time to spare...the tide would be fully out within the hour. i shot until i ran out of film. but while i was filming i had the sensation that my education in marine biology and scientific illustration had prepared me for just such a moment...the chance to capture a rare glimpse into something magical and mysterious, something beautiful and tragic, happening at the harsh, churning, intense interface of land and sea.

named for ernst haeckel, 19th century biologist/philosopher/illustrator, haeckel's dream is an existential 1950's-esque psychedelic nature documentary. copied to digital format from black-and-white super 8 film.

with soundtrack "doughnuts of sound"
by alyce santoro
with tracks by
bill walker on viola
julianne carney on violin
marc goff on didgeridoo
alyce santoro on flute

Saturday, April 08, 2006

jellyfish in the desert

last year i spent some time in the high desert of west texas. being such a water person, never in a million years would i have imagined that i'd fall in so deeply in love with the desert, or feel so completely and utterly at home there. it was the strangest thing...being in the desert was like being in one of those dreams where you're standing at the bottom of the're floating in the peaceful, infinite abyss...but you can breathe...

ever since, i've been yearning to go back, feeling inspired by an urgency to make work that expresses this sensation, bringing the desert and the ocean together. so when i learned about andrea zittel's high desert test sites in the high desert of joshua tree california, i jumped at the chance to apply. i proposed to construct a piece of buckminster fuller-inspired quasi oceanographic-desert research equipment especially for the spot. at the same time, i noticed a call-to-artists for a film festival happening the same weekend in joshua tree. so i applied for that too, with a plan to show the jellyfish movie i shot in acadia park in maine two summers ago. i wanted more than anything to see these jellyfish swimming in the desert, against the black starlit sky (like a phosphorescent sea...). well, the sculpture was rejected, the film accepted. and then, by a serendipitous turn of events, quinn, curator of orion's shorts, the film festival, and i became pals via email, and now it looks like i'll be putting some sculpture in another show she's having. i don't think it'll be the research equipment thing, though...thinkin' strings of tell-tail thangkas, and piles of ice-cream cone buckyballs...

the upshot of all this is it looks like i'll be making a road-trip out west at the end of the month, back to the desert. and i couldn't be more thrilled.