Magnificent Error: remember (that you have) to die
All my pretty ones? Did you say all?—O hell-kite!—All? What, all my pretty chickens, and their dam, At one fell swoop?
Shakespeare describes a bird of prey, a “hell-kite”, swooping to the ground to kill all his “pretty chickens”. Even though "fell" is a common word, he intends an arcane definition meaning fierce, cruel, dreadful or savage.
So here, “one fell swoop” meant a sudden, ferocious attack, although now it simply means all at once...
At the age of six I read about systems of electricity and Nikola Tesla. At this time I was also curious about the demise of the RMS Titanic and the catastrophic geological processes of diamond formation. These interests evolved alongside a love of science fiction. The boundary between the scientific and the fantastic blurred in my young mind as I crouched in the corner of the family room and repeatedly placed hairpins into an outlet. My intention was to collect the sound generated by currents on my brother’s Panasonic cassette recorder. I had a sense that the rubber tip would function as an insulator and fortunately steel has low relative conductivity. I was taken with the process of creation and its abrupt subsequent absence. Sound and then silence. I had then and still possess an insatiable desire to harness and examine chaos.
My current research explores the science of electricity and the space between curiosity, self-destruction and self-preservation. This is currently manifesting as images of crumbling cityscapes, decaying species of mold, mountains of garbage and bolts of electricity. In 1771 Luigi Galvani observed the leg muscles of a dead frog convulse when touched by an electrical charge. Something that reacts when electrocuted is not necessarily alive and something that appears dead could be revived if subjected to electricity.
Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus written by Mary Shelley is about eccentric scientist Victor Frankenstein, who reanimates a constructed corpse in an unorthodox scientific experiment. The following is a quote from Mary Shelley: “I busied myself to think of a story, - a story to rival those which had excited us to this task. One which would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature, and awaken thrilling horror -- one to make the reader dread to look round, to curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart...”
I often wonder if the genre of science fiction exists to perpetuate the idea that the fantastic is separate from reality...
Unless rice is certified organic, or comes specifically from a farm that tests its crops for genetically modified traits, you could be eating rice tainted with genes taken from a human liver. This is one of many examples of our own experimentation fit to curdle the blood. The mad scientist bringing a grotesque monster to life with electricity and lightning is an iconic image in literature, film and popular culture and apparently alive and well in food science. I am mesmerized by this desire to create! It is so fascinating to observe human choices and tendencies as they operate outside of the consideration of potential consequence. Then, in these seemingly unorthodox experiments, the only option for the rest of humanity is to deal with the monster. (ugh...I am really trying to keep my head out of politics but it is IMPOSSIBLE right now) Prometheus gave fire to the human race against the will of the Gods. Zeus punished him by chaining him to a rock where an eagle would swoop in and consume his liver. The liver regenerated because he was immortal and the eagle would gnaw it away day after day.
It was all a dream!
I spent one month in Monasterace, Italy as artist in residence at Lo Studio dei Nipoti. This program creates the opportunity for artists to live, work, research in and reconnect to their ancestral home. My Great-Grandfather, Salvatore LaRocca, left Sicily in 1917 to make a new home in Chicago. I have imagined his departure and thought; perhaps, his longing for home left an imprint on me. My first visit to Italy was in 2003. The greatest shock was the need to reconcile the version of Italy I had created, fantasized about all of my life and the actual tangible place. It was like the experience of waking from any dream. There are shreds of familiar things planted by the subconscious as a way to render a believable space…but the rest is out of order.
Before embarking on this journey to Southern Italy I thought of an image carved from the countryside that took my Great-Grandfather’s form. Like a silhouette or chalk outline and if I looked hard enough I could find this artifact that signified his absence. I could lie down in that space and heal a rupture that runs through generations. I hoped this connection would exist deep in the roots of Sicily dislodged but not severed through the course of my ancestry.
Upon arrival I was in awe of Monasterace. There was much to love there. Though it is easy to love when there is an expiration date on the journey and the experience is one that lacks the density of every day life. Two days after arriving I fell down a flight of stairs and bruised and bloodied my legs as I tumbled down and banged my ankles and calves on each sharp cement edge. I hit the cobblestone and if there is any consciousness after death I was sure I had died. After a moment of stillness I was immediately swarmed by women who were panicked and closing in on me. They pulled at my ankles and spit in my wounds. It was one of my most confusing moments of my life. Were they helping me? Were they demons pulling me into purgatory? Will all of the energy I could summon I dragged myself away by the elbows while screaming in pain. In a split second the demons transformed into angels. My eyes cleared and I was met with a floodgate of healing gifts. My legs were quickly packed in ice. Lavender salve and water came to me as quickly as the fall. This stream of gifts evolved over the course of the 33-day residency.
Blessed with fruits and vegetables and bread and spices and desserts. I just could not keep track of this non-stop and ongoing bounty. I found myself keeping lists of who gave what when and could not manage a way to express my gratitude. I tried to make cakes as thank you gifts but when I delivered them I left with ten times more than I brought. Finally I realized it only made sense to pay homage through the work I produced in the studio during the residency.
The entire experience was like a crashing aircraft. I lept into it hoping to find a footprint leading to the history my Great-Grandfather left behind. I literally crashed to the earth and labored to walk out this quest with wounds on my legs that were a physical manifestation of the agony of diaspora. But it was only through this injury that I was adopted into a loving family in this place where I had become a stranger – it was the sacrifice required to earn my way back home.
Uovo, 2012. Archival inkjet print; 13 x 19 in.
Pomodoro, 2012. Archival inkjet print; 13 x 19 in.
Vioxx, 2012. Archival inkjet print; 13 x 19 in.
Siphon and Reservoir
Siphon and Reservoir: an examination of swarm intelligence (inopportune catharsis + unexamined failure) is part two of a three volume series of collages entitled Adorare: Closest thing to death I know (low velocity blood spatter). This body of work examines the collage novels of Max Ernst in conjunction with the mysterious space between obsessive neuroses the brilliance of inventive intellect. Siphon and Reservoir is focused on Howard Hughes and Ernst’s collage novel Reve D’une Petite Fille Qui Voulut Entrer Au Carmel (A Little Girl Dreams of Taking the Veil).
Unlike Ernst’s other collage novels, A Little Girl Dreams of Taking the Veil contains a somewhat coherent narrative, a blasphemous, erotic and schizophrenic dream of sixteen-year-old Marceline-Marie. Being raped at the age of seven and a mystical episode four years later, in which she levitated in church and thereafter devoted her life to a religious vocation, marks her history. All of this is addressed in the dream that follows which is illustrated by 78 collages with surrealistic captions and divided into four chapters: “The Tenebreuse,” “The Hair,” “The Knife” and “The Celestial Bridegroom”.
Born in 1905, Howard Hughes was among the wealthiest and most powerful American men of the 20th Century, particularly noted for his interest in aviation. For all his fame, Hughes is today best recalled as an eccentric playboy who seemed more interested in acquiring partners as trophies than in having any real emotional or physical intimacy with the numerous people he pursued. In time, Hughes' interests aviation and motion pictures gave way to mental illness and reclusiveness. Howard Hughes weighed 93 pounds at his death and had not seen the sun in 35 years. Five hypodermic needles were broken off in his upper arms. His body was filled with track marks from continuous injections. His body oozed fluid from open bed sores, his left temple had a severed, bloodied tumor, and his left shoulder was dislocated. The level of codeine in his body was five times the lethal dose. His teeth were so loose that examining them could cause them to fall out of his gums.
I created this sequence of “swarm sectors” as a theoretical extraction from a larger more effective whole. This is a hybrid manifestation of Hughes’ debilitating fear of germs and mechanical genius. Swarm intelligence describes the collective behavior of decentralized, self-organized systems, natural or artificial. This relates to how I intend to generate narrative text as well as what will become the actual swarm. I intend to collect text using simple connecting points like the Surrealist game, The Exquisite Corpse. I will use these pieces of text to compile a cohesive whole, which will be used to evolve the imagery into a narrative sequence and ultimately an animated work.
No. 1, 2010. Archival inkjet print; 17 x 11 in.
No. 39, 2010. Archival inkjet print; 17 x 11 in.
No. 72, 2010. Archival inkjet print; 17 x 11 in.
Theory of the Meat Machine
Theory of the Meat Machine or Seven Deadly Elements (Combat du Boxeur or Vol de la Ballerine) is part one of a three volume series of collages entitled Adorare: Closest thing to death I know (low velocity blood spatter). This body of work examines the collage novels of Max Ernst in conjunction with the mysterious space between obsessive neuroses and the brilliance of inventive intellect.
A dangerous confusion between birds and humans.
Max Ernst’s collage novel Une Semine de Bonté is divided into seven parts, which illustrate recurring alchemical themes and imagery of the seven deadly elements: Sunday: mud, Monday: water, Tuesday: fire, Wednesday: blood, Thursday: black, Friday: sight and Saturday: unknown. In Theory of the Meat Machine I adapt Ernst’s structure in order to incorporate the -phobias and -philias of Nikola Tesla.
I generated 111 collages, which consist of three components, Tesla’s United States patent drawings, a bound or bandaged fragment of the body and a depiction of each element by example. I distill imagery from dissimilar sources into absolute rudiments and remove all signifiers. Precise compositions render instruments of healing as devices of torture. Wounds are managed and gaping. Chance associations of disparate visual elements chart a path of trauma, invention, obsession and compulsion in seven parts as follows: Dimanche: La Boue (Rupophobia: fear of dirt), Lundi: L’eau (Verminophobia: fear of germs), Mardi: Le Feu (Chaetophobia: fear of human hair), Mercredi: Le Sang (Triphilia: love of the number three), Jeudi: Le Noir (Gynephobia: fear of women and Scotophilia: love of the dark), Vendredi: La Vue (Spherophobia: fear of round objects), Samedi: Inconnu (Columbiphilia: love of pigeons).
Theory of the Meat Machine explores a remarkable inventive intellect so complex, capable of countless contributions to science, engineering and global function that was simultaneously victim to its own demands for specific ritual performance.
No. 03819684953543, 2009. Archival inkjet print; 8 x 8 in.
No. 06138093499441D2696695207396, 2009. Archival inkjet print; 8 x 8 in.
No. 12661754934357D511980, 2009. Archival inkjet print; 8 x 8 in.
Epic Anticlimax: A single realization of three-dimensional Brownian motion (72 days of flight for little farfalla)
This body of work is the culmination of 72 days of travel in Italy. My camera equipment consumed my entire suitcase. Being in a constant state of travel, it became more important to have a digital point and shoot camera at hand than meticulously setting up equipment in an environment that could not be predicted. I had to be vigilant and edit on the fly since I was limited to 512-megabytes of memory. I returned to Chicago with an anticlimactic 803 images.
I paused to shoot one final image as I stepped off the plane in Chicago, all too aware that the heightened observation that one experiences while traveling truly manifests when returning home. While in Italy I was somewhat unwilling to take full advantage of the time I had, which was rooted in the anticipation of its end. The only thing I knew for sure is that I was going home. Trying to respond to stimuli that I did not fully understand left me disoriented and overwhelmed. As if I were consuming fiction that could be revisited at a more conscious moment. This work is an exercise in futility which reexamines and attempts to recreate the experience.
Hyper aware that I had taken tourist snapshots and that they could not reflect the truth of my experience led me to approach the images from another angle. 803 images did not register as enough data to express the impact I felt. I began to consider them one at a time pixel by pixel - a workable method of managing the information that I gathered. Dividing this pool of data into individual pixels resulted in 4 billion pieces of information. A more accurate portrayal. I began to search the grid for the right form or manner of seeing. I began a series of experiments. Dissections.
Using a method of selecting and tracing pixels, I began to generate a map that would hypothetically trace my path in Italy. I chose specific locations, made composites and assessed the value of a simultaneous view of multiple grids. The color and position of the individual traces are preserved. Photographs are arranged and layered based on where and when they were taken. The background color is the result of a color average of every pixel from the group. Through this type of deconstruction my own fictionalized relationship to Italy began to manifest as reality. I considered the complexity of trajectories in nature such as patterns created by butterfly movement, which derived from my research of Brownian motion and random walks, their interrelatedness and specific connection to this body of work. I discovered that tracing pixels actually generated paths, which mimicked the random walk. Each pixel began to read as a step within the larger journey. The ability to determine sense and reason from this experience comes in the form of slow intake and a lengthy process of distillation. It was important to include all of the information. It was important to reconstruct the information. It was important to view the results simultaneously.
Roma, 2007. Archival inkjet print; 12 x 12 in.
Assisi, 2007. Archival inkjet print; 12 x 12 in.
Palermo, 2007. Archival inkjet print; 12 x 12 in.
Subway (an effort to map the probability of convergence via Muybridge) Chicago to Budapest
These images are stills from a two-channel animation in progress that was largely inspired by an artist residency I attended in Budapest, Hungary. The city made a deep impression however it was a connection formed with a group of women and fellow artists that continues to resonate. The color in this work represents transit lines in Chicago and Budapest. In an attempt to understand and perhaps illustrate the oddity of our convergence I borrowed from Eadweard Muybridge whose methodical research has been a source of inspiration throughout my pursuits as an artist specifically the natural intersection he created between science and photography.
A Notation of Multiple Languages in Simultaneous Translation
This work resulted from ten weeks of travel in Italy. Complete immersion into a culture where I was unable to communicate forced me to consider language on a structural and aesthetic level. When I began this research in 2003 there were 7000 languages spoken in the world with over 41,000 dialects. As many as half of these languages are moribund, meaning they are spoken by adults who no longer teach them to their children. In the shame of my own ignorance or perhaps in the spirit of the self-flagellating monks, I used a DYMO label maker to punch out the name of each language and constructed a generic metropolis. Each dialect is incorporated into an animated sequence, which simulates movement along a cityscape. The space above the metropolis consists of 212 aircrafts each significant of one country in the world and housing a randomized word pattern or word search consisting of the languages spoken there. The scale shift of each aircraft is based on the number of languages spoken in that country. For example, the greatest linguistic diversity in the world is in Papua New Guinea where 832 languages are spoken; therefore the largest aircraft represents this country. I created a second animated sequence using the generic aircraft and word pattern form. In this animation each dialect has been found and the circular element in each frame suggests movement though the aircraft remains still.
Metropolis (DYMO prototype), 2005. Archival inkjet print; 24 x 60 in.
41,000 missing (city detail), 2005. DYMO label tape; 72 x 312 in.
41,000 missing, 2005. Archival inkjet print; 24 x 24 in.
Simultaneous World Military Aviation (3-view schematic)
Reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft are primarily used to gather intelligence monitoring enemy activity, usually carrying no armament. They are equipped with photographic, infrared, radar, and television sensors for mapping, traffic monitoring, science, and geological survey. These aircraft may be specially designed or may be modified from a basic fighter or bomber type. Some are equipped with special electronic gear for detecting submarines, such as sonar, and others can give early warnings of enemy approach. Due to the growing number and reliability of satellites, most reconnaissance aircraft are quickly becoming useless. Historically when aircraft reach technical obsolescence they were used exclusively as cameras until they lose function completely. I could not help but draw a parallel between this inevitable death and that of the film camera. I photographed schematics of global military aircraft and then traced and created composites. The traces functions like chalk outlines and an anthropomorphic frailty surfaces in the histories of these mechanisms.
Side View, 2005. Archival inkjet print; 24 x 24 in.
Bottom View, 2005. Archival inkjet print; 24 x 24 in.
Front View, 2005. Archival inkjet print; 24 x 24 in.
Morphemic: An Undetermined Number of Inept Robot Parts
This work investigates the manner in which we collect, process, and examine information. I generated a group of raw data by creating photograms, which are images produced with light-sensitive paper or film, but without a camera. As the series of photograms expanded they required a logical system of organization. Introducing multiples and random patterning caused a series of subsets and unplanned relationships to emerge. Careful editing resulted in 104 images which were subdivided into 26 individually functioning numerically based language systems. A series of mathematical equations in conjunction with a decoding device can be used to translate the information.
26 Languages in Simultaneous Translation, 2003. Ortholitho film, steel, nickel, acrylic and glass; 60 x 117 x 4 in.
Dialogues with J.P., 2003. Archival inkjet print; 36 x 24 in.
rambo mouse (for Terese), 2003. Gelatin silver print; 5 x 4 in.
Gina Grey is an artist who works with photography and digital media. She examines the organization, translation, preservation, and degradation of data, mind, and matter through the lens of eccentric genius, visual illusion, and aircraft anatomy. She distills complex, yet seemingly mundane systems to their absolute rudiments and finds new ways to rebuild them such as breaking photographs down pixel by pixel or dissecting language letter by letter. This is followed by a careful reconstruction that has manifested as digital collage or photographs printed on paper, a sculptural object in space or an animated sequence. She graduated with a BA from Columbia College Chicago and an MFA from the University of Washington. She has shown her work internationally including exhibitions in Chicago, Seattle, Australia, Hungary, Italy and Scotland. She has been an artist in residence in numerous programs including the Burren College of Art, Kala Art Institute, Women’s Studio Workshop and Oregon College of Art and Craft. Gina taught photography and digital imaging from 2002-2015. This is a cross section of work spanning 2003-present. In addition to her studio practice she owns and operates OOliva where she makes luxury soap and skincare products by hand. www.ooliva.com
RECENT / UPCOMING EXHIBITIONS
AUGUST 6-SEPTEMBER 1, 2017 Magnificent Error (after the hundred headless woman) Hillman City Collaboratory 5623 Rainier Avenue South Seattle, WA 98118
JUNE 7-AUGUST, 2017 Kent Summer Art Exhibit Centennial Center Gallery 400 West Gowe Street Kent, WA 98032
APRIL 7-MAY 28, 2017 Repetition Johnston Architects 100 NE Northlake Way #200 Seattle, WA 98105 Opening Reception: April 7, 6pm-8pm
APRIL 4-MAY 13, 2017 It was all a Dream! The Gallery at Town Center 17171 Bothell Way NE Lake Forest Park, WA 98155
MARCH 5-24, 2017 Behind Shape Hillman City Collaboratory 5623 Rainier Avenue South Seattle, WA 98118 Opening Reception: March 5, 7pm-10pm