January 20, 2007
OK! Some new photos of essentials I forgot to post previously, more explanations and some answers to various questions.
First, how could I not document paper?! Right now I have quite a lot of it… Ideally, I would like smaller rolls (as in less yardage, but wider) of more different types of paper so I could have a lot of different weights and transparencies. However, paper is expensive and it’s particularly hard to find specific weights and transparencies that are made of recycled papers. When it comes to materials, it’s a balance between what my budget will allow (1000 doesn’t get you very far—I’m already almost half way through it), what I have time for (heavier weight papers mean I can only cut one sheet at a time and I only have a month), and what it is that I really want. Often I have to pare my ideas down to the most essential elements to make sure those get the attention and monetary support that they need. This means, most of my paper is cheap recycled craft paper. Not much weight or translucency variation. I have one super wide roll of translucent vellum, bought off an illustration student that was trying to get rid of it, and one roll of a heavier weight grey backed paper. If I have time and money towards the end of this project, perhaps I’ll invest in some different types, but most likely I’ll have to compromise and stick with what I’ve got. I think I’ll also drag in every sheet of paper I have at home and cut all of that up.
Grey backed paper you say? The question of color, which is one of the first questions Xander asked at my interview, has come up multiple times. In order to stick with the stark white of the traditional gallery space, everything is going to be white. However, I have no idea how quickly or slowly the paper will deteriorate. It’s quite possible that the place will be in shambles after the first month (or first week!) and just look terrible for the rest of the installation. Since it will be up for three months, that’s a lot of time to have an ugly installation and that’s not in the museum’s best interest, or mine really. So in order to allow it to decay while maintaining some control over how quickly it falls apart, I’ve agreed to re-install elements if it becomes necessary and as often as it seems necessary. Each time I have to install a new set of plants and flowers it will be colored in some way to indicate the change. Visitors will be able to track its progress; the color will mark the cycles of elements falling apart and “growing” back. I picked up the grey backed paper from the recycling center thinking that might be an interesting way to start introducing color. Since it’s white on one side and grey on the other, it could be a nice transition. I’ll have to experiment with some before deciding whether or not I really want to use it, but since I got it at the recycling center, it was dirt cheap and I can always take it back to them if I decide not to use it.
Next most popular question: are you really cutting it all by hand? Why not have it laser cut? Yes, I’m cutting it all by hand, because I’m just that crazy. I want the variation that happens when everything is hand cut. Even if I use the exact same pattern, at the exact same scale, or cut it at the same time (by layering sheets), each sheet will always be completely unique, kind of like the way things happen in nature. No two plants or flowers—even of the same species—will ever be exactly the same. Also, I’m planning on cutting a ton of different patterns and in order to use a laser cutter I would have to draw each pattern on the computer as a vector image. To get the number of different patterns I want, this would take just as long, if not longer, than free hand cutting and drawing with the help of the projector. Sure, for each vector image I could have 100 sheets of paper cut instantly, but then I’d lack the tiny variations that happen with the knife as well as the wide range of plant patterns that I’m going for. (Image is of other essential tools for working with paper—paper clips! And push pins, and scissors and tape)
What about documentation? Do you intend to document the change over time since that’s what you claim is most important? You betcha. One idea that would be really great is time lapse photography. Wouldn’t it be sweet if I took a daily photograph from the exact same place over the entire 3 months? And then turned it into a video clip after the show was over? Yes, yes it would. However, that would cost money and I have none. Instead I’m going to use my budget to invest in some Polaroid film, borrow a friend’s camera and take a weekly photograph from the exact same spot. Since Polaroids give you an instant print, I’ll set up a series of glass picture frames on the wall just outside the room and add the weekly picture as I take it. This way, visitors who can only come once will be able to see what it used to look like and perhaps imagine what the next Polaroid will reveal.
Last bit of explanation for this post—the flowers. Everything you’ve seen so far has just been plant forms. The flowers are actually separate objects and those are what I’ve been concentrating on over the last couple days. All the plant patterns are designed with little nodes—basically they look like flower buds (you can see some before flowers have been added in the top half of the photo). Each flower pattern has a small hole cut in the very center. This hole is so that a node (which is larger than the diameter of the circle) can be pushed into the hole and just the shape alone is enough to hold the flower in place. Since it’s only this really simple mechanical connection (just like slotting or tabbing) holding the flowers in place, it’ll be really easy for visitors to come and pull flowers off without tearing down an entire curtain. And if they rip off a stem or a leaf, that’s ok too!
Tomorrow I’m hosting my first pizza and paper party, meaning I’m paying some friends with pizza for sweatshop labor. Since it would be a little too crazy to have everyone cutting 10’ sheets of paper, I’m going to start by just having people cut flowers for me and see how that goes. I spent the last couple days working out flower patterns so that I can just hand them to people when they walk in the door and have them cut out as many as they can in the couple of hours that we all hang out. All of these photos are of various flower experiments—most of which were inspired by Japanese family crests, wallpapers, or other graphic flower forms. This means that they’re not very three dimensional, but for right now that’s ok. None of my patterns are at all three dimensional until gravity or the natural curling of the paper takes affect. Perhaps I’ll experiment with using some tabbing or slotting techniques to make more three dimensional flowers, but that will only happen if time allows.
And finally, a few pictures of essentials I forgot to show earlier! I have the most ridiculous stash of food and beverages in my studio right now. I could easily live there for 2 weeks just off of caffeine, MSG, and fruit. I even have a water boiler for perfect coffee with the help of a French press, and a microwave in the wood shop (Sustenance Tools). What else could I possibly need?! Perhaps a mini-fridge for some ice cream and beer…