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 employs the image of a bird of prey, a “hell-kite”, swooping to the ground to kill all his “pretty chickens”. The word he uses is “fell”. Though a common word, he is using a rather obscure sense of that word, meaning of terrible evil or ferocity.
So, “one fell swoop” originally meant a sudden, ferocious attack, although the sense of savagery in the phrase has been lost over the years and people now use it to mean, simply, all at once…
After living in a home infested with toxic mold I got sick. It took four years and many, many doctors to learn that a genetic anomaly prevents my system from detoxing from mold as one typically might. When a liver is overrun with toxins it releases them into the GI tract where they are reabsorbed by the body. This is particularly disastrous for certain people who lack key enzymes to detoxify and break them down thus creating a constant circulation unless the toxins are somehow sequestered. My immune system is trapped in a constant loop as it attempts to rid my body of this invader.
I faced thyroid and adrenal issues, food allergies, and debilitating fatigue, relentless episodes of tachycardia and convulsions and, most upsettingly, loss of cognitive ability. Eventually my health was so compromised that I was no longer able to teach. My art practice, a teaching career of 13 years and my health simply disappeared. In one fell swoop. And I mean it as Shakespeare did. In the most obscure sense of terrible ferocity. I never thought that I would make it to the other side of this massive interruption and now, six years later, I have learned how to deal with this on a day-to-day basis and am so relieved to be back in the studio.
It has been interesting to dig into my studio space and find scraps, shreds of ideas and false starts that have come and gone over the last six years. I feel so alienated…as if I am going through someone else’s things…but then there is a spark of something familiar and I feel a surge of energy in sketches of a crumbling cityscapes, decaying species of mold, mountains of garbage and bolts of electricity…I had been in the midst of researching the science of electricity and the space between curiosity, self-destruction and self-preservation. 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…”
Mary Shelley gave birth, prematurely in 1815. The infant passed a few days later. In 1816, her son was born in January and her daughter in September. The boy lived three years and the girl one. After the death of her infant and while pregnant she began to write Frankenstein. She was tormented by the loss. A journal entry in 1815 reads, “Dream that my little baby came to life again; that it had only been cold, and that we rubbed it before the fire, and it lives.”
My work was left dangling, paused on the image of shocking something back to life. Now I have managed to plug in the leads – I just need an energy source…
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 focused on Howard Hughes and Max 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. She was raped at the age of seven. Four years later she levitated in church and thereafter devoted her life to a religious vocation. 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”.
Howard Hughes was born in 1905. He 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
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 examine the -phobias and -philias of Nikola Tesla.
I created 111 collages, each consists of three components, one of 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 (Rymarcsuk) 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.