Gauge is a video loop of being subject to a Sisyphean existence. (2010)
CPAP: Prana is a series of video loops meant to be played simultaneously on wall mounted screens. This video is a version of all the loops edited together.
CPAP (Continuous Positive Air Pressure) is a device used for treating sleep apnea. The sleeper wears a mask over his nose and the continuous air pressure keeps his soft palate tissue from collapsing and causing breathing and sleep disruptions. The figure to the left was made around 2000 BCE in Harappa, India. It has the soft belly of natural breathing. It looks alive and embodies the Sanskrit notion of prana or life force. Notice the negative toroidal spaces on the shoulders. Clearly they were meant as a place to attach something to the torso. These hollowed out, unnatural, almost mechanical spaces incorporated into flesh intrigue me.
CPAP: Prana is my own soft bellied creation, complete with a toroidal negative space. The raffia-like material surrounding the “face” balances the figure and is my nod to the forces of nature sometimes depicted in African masks. Thus there are masks on both sides of the figure.
Guantánamo is a video installation consisting of five wall-mounted video monitors playing loops of different views of a scene created with 3D animation software. Each video loop in the installation is of different durations. Each loop has a sound track of sound effects, music, and speech. As the sound tracks fall in and out of sync with each other a wall of sound is created that is both buoyant and unnerving.
Guantánamo explores the parallels between Kafka’s In the Penal Colony and the adoption of torture and the abrogation of due process at Guantánamo Bay. Some of the worst aspects of Guantánamo Bay are no longer practiced; however no one has been punished for what has happened.There are no consequences for the perpetrators of violence at Guantánamo Bay. I dread these practices will return in a more virulent form. Next time I may be on the inside, not the outside, of the nightmare.
I created a Guantánamo version of the prison and harrow from In the Penal Colony. Instead of a machine that inscribes the transgressions of the prisoner deeper and deeper into his flesh until he attains enlightenment and death, my apparatus subjects the prisoner to an endless cycle of water boarding without the relief of death. In In the Penal Colony there is a visitor who witnesses “The Process” and escapes from the horror in a ferry. In Guantánamo we are the witnesses. We cannot escape. We are already home.
We do not need particulars to empathize with a victim of torture. The victim in Guantánamo is a writhing crescent moon of anonymous flesh illuminated by an interrogation spotlight. Who are our stand-ins as witnesses in Guantánamo? Who can convey to the viewer of the installation our society’s paltry reaction to this travesty? Cartoon characters can. Cartoon characters can exist in a world with no consequences for violence just as there are no consequences for us. In cartoons violence is a form of entertainment.
The dichotomy between real victim and playtime, cartoon witnesses is underlined by the different ways the realities of the victim and witnesses are rendered. The victim is rendered as part of and existing in a naturalistic 3D space. The cartoons exist as flat cutouts. Their presence and movement in the naturalistic world is mediated by mounting them on naturalistic, hoverboard-like vehicles.
Because of the link with water boarding I searched for cartoon characters created or distributed by Warner Brothers (“The WB” as it was known in an advertising campaign from the past). I was gratified to find a “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” version of the Animaniacs (an appropriate name for my purposes). The Brain from Pinky and the Brain is also a good fit for the tableau. The most famous quote from Pinky and The Brain:
Pinky: “Gee Brain, what are we gonna do tonight?”
Brain: “The same thing we do every night, try to take over the world!”
It also helped that The Brain looks a lot like former Vice President Dick Cheney. I exaggerated this likeness and did some additional editing on the Animaniacs to look make them look a bit more like some culpable high ranking administration officials.