Vital to the General Public Welfare is a solo exhibition of six works revolving around themes of language, authenticity and contingency. The exhibition consists of a series of text-centered interactive touch works integrated with large-scale prints, with the addition of one wall-sized non-interactive projection display.
The title of the show comes from documents filed in a 1964 Louisiana court case seeking to ascertain an adopted child's racial classification. The judge claimed that the proper identification of the child's race was 'vital to the general public welfare'; in other words, whichever way the child was classified, a wrong classification would endanger the purity of the white race. The now-hyberbolic seeming claim struck me as a powerful metaphor for any conversations we have not only about racial classification but also about any number of other issues that some group or another feels is central to their definition of a well-functioning society.
All of the works in the show engage the question of how we talk to one another, how we locate ourselves in wider cultural geographies, how we authenticate ourselves against our own expectations and that of others, and how matters that are once seen as so vital—so essential—can later be regarded as contingent.Exhibition brochure with critical essay by Steve Loft.
You've Got No Choice About the Terminology is an interactive touch-poem mounted with a 60"x60" textimage print. The phrase "you've got no choice about the terminology" comes from an article in the New York Times describing an old-school ice cream parlor manager who insisted that things be called by their proper names: "A a scoop of ice-cream with topping on it is a sundae." Coming from a household in which ice-cream was taken very seriously indeed, and often struggling with what terminology to use to describe my ethnicity (Cherokee, Hawaiian, Samoan, raised in northern California rural mountain redneck culture), and my profession (artist? poet? software developer? educator? designer?), and recognizing both the danger and seduction of neat categorizations, the line inspired a series of text playing with categories, definitions and the idea that, though we might have some choice about our terminology, we have no choice about our ontology.
"Choice" poem app for iOS (iPad/iPhone/iPod) to be published in Fall 2011.
Smooth Second Bastard is a touchscreen + two printed textimage triptych. The three texts are related meditations on the difference between being asked "where ya from" and being asked "are you from around here?" Growing up where and how I did, I tend to see insider-outsider before I see prejudice. Such a viewpoint can be gracious or naïve, and I sometimes find it difficult to tell which. The title of the piece comes from three points on rating system for the cut, or fineness, of the teeth on files, where smooth is finer and bastard coarser. I found it a powerful phrase for capturing the fundamental arbitrariness of many of the ways we categorize people, as we hunt for ways--any way--to mark who is on the inside and who is on the outside. Using the word bastard is also a conscious acknowledgement of my literal (my birth parents were not married), metaphorical (an adoptee is a always a bastard of sorts, isn't he?) and unexceptional (more people are born out of wedlock then ever) status.
The Great Migration is a touchscreen + printed textimage diptych. Both texts are about the same event—leaving home, setting out to an unknown destination on (what least feels like) a one-way trip. Some days that event is me leaving Downieville for Palo Alto to attend university; some days it's leaving California for Quebec; some days its about my nuclear family all having moved out of California over the years, to the point that the place I most identify with home no longer has a mother or father or sister or nephew or niece living in it. Or it's about the migration of sperm up the fallopian tubes, ever hopeful of successful fertilization. To be truthful, this is a work that remains somewhat mysterious to me.
Things You've Said Before but We Never Heard is touchscreen + two printed textimage triptych. It consists of three texts working together to form an interlocking conversation about the sense-making of crazy talk and kid talk, the difficulty of bringing dreams into reality, and the meanings of different colors.
What They Speak When They Speak to Me is an interactive poem about mistaken identity and the confusion—amusing and alarming—that happens when people believe you are somebody you are not. The text was written on reflecting on my notes from extensive travelling I did in my twenties, where I found myself—in Gautemala, on Java, in the Punjab, in the Turkish section of Berlin—being mistaken for an inhabitant of that locale. Taxi drivers, market vendors, policemen, etc., would speak to me in the local dialect and then become confused—at best—or angry—at worst—when I couldn't respond in kind.
I Know What You're Thinking is an interactive poem about mistaken identity and the confusion—amusing and alarming—that happens when people believe you are somebody you are not. The text was written on reflecting on my notes from extensive travelling I did in my twenties, where I found myself—in Gautemala, on Java, in the Punjab, in the Turkish section of Berlin—being mistaken for an inhabitant of that locale. Taxi drivers, market vendors, policemen, etc., would speak to me in the local dialect and then become confused—at best—or angry—at worst—when I couldn't respond in kind.