Tell us about yourself.
I was born and raised in Seattle in a beautiful house near the city center but also across the street from a huge forest and lake. We had city and culture on one side and nature on the other.
What is beauty to you and how do you define beauty?
I think beauty is the background to everything. You just need to clear away the clutter a bit to reveal it. Beauty is harmony, beauty is balance, beauty ultimately is some form of truth, although I don’t really know what that means! I think it is accurate though. I’ll get back to you on that when I’m a bit older and wiser. [Laughs]
What was your first introduction to art? Did you grow up in an artistic household?
Yes, I grew up with wonderfully supportive parents. Some early memories are of stories being told me on stage at the Seattle Children’s Theater. All the kids sit on the floor at the base of the stage, and the parents are in chairs further away. Sitting with all the other kids, it feels like to whole theatrical production is created just for you, and in some ways it was. We went to theater quite a bit. Also my uncle is a professional photographer and it was always wonderful going to his house, filled with painting and photographs.
Your most prominent work pertains to turntables. What was your musical background growing up?
I had piano lessons for some years, although I never quite took to it. I think I developed a love and appreciation for listening to music during, and after college. I listen to music almost eight hours a day. It’s just always the backdrop to whatever I’m doing. I’m listening to Pantha du Prince right now.
Nowadays: vinyl or mp3 files?
I’m going to upset some audiophiles out there, but I find digital music so convenient. I mean it is just amazing to carry whole libraries of music in your pocket. My only record player at the moment is a fifteen-foot tall branch structure with a fifty gallon pool of ink underneath. My speakers are tumbleweeds. [Laughs] It’s a little bit unruly of a sound system, so I’m happy for the digital convenience at times.
What prompted you to start integrating turntables into your work?
I was at a concert – Amon Tobin – an amazing composer and producer of electronic music. He had designed a huge sculpture that filled the stage, with light and projected images moving across it in harmony with his compositions. I had never seen sound, music, and sculpture fused so seamlessly before. I’ve always been a bit envious of musicians, their medium is so immediate. Well at this concert, I started thinking- if this musician can so fluidly move sculpture into his music, then maybe I can go the other way and create sculpture to house sound and music.
Why “submerge” the turntables? What effect does this have physically and also metaphorically?
This is another question I may have to get back to you on when I’m a bit older and wiser! [Laughs] That image, the turntable under a dark pool, crystallized quite rapidly in my mind. Without ‘knowing’ quite why or where it came from, I undertook the long arduous process of actually making it. The pool feels like a metaphor for loss and the human subconscious.
What music do you play underwater?
I began playing almost anything under the sun at first, but as this piece has evolved, I’ve gotten to know the voice that the sculpture requires better. The best match for the tone and mood of the sculpture is Jan Jelinek, just an amazing and talented German electronic musician. I’ve collected most of his albums and remain mesmerized by his compositions. I am curating the music and sound more closely every time I present the piece to the public. I will be performing in a sound art festival this summer, with the theme of water. I plan to create sound and auditory content based specifically on iterations of this pertinent theme of water issues.
Is it important that the pool of water is “dark”?
Yes, it is important. The decision to use ink was practical, aesthetic, and metaphoric. On the practical side, making the water opaque allows me to obscure some of the underwater mechanisms and machinery. This helps produce a sense of wonder and mystery. Aesthetically, the ink mimics the black vinyl of the record so closely, that the border between fluid and solid dissolves into motion. I also feel the inky, unknown water a good metaphor for the subconscious.
Continuing with these turntables that you created, why did you create “crystal turntables”? What is different about working with these new materials?
You know I’ve never actually shown that piece. It exists only in that video and really I had it set up just briefly to document it, so I miss that piece a bit. In the ‘crystal turntables’ I am attempting to turn sound into drawing, in real time, and this is a simple machine of sorts that does this. I use turntables because the movement, the circling is just so mesmerizing it draws me, and I hope the viewers, into the piece every time.
On another note, Transistor Hive deals with time. How did this project come about?
One of my favorite pieces. I have to say I’m now working on a new installation- an extension of sorts from the Transistor Hive. It’s turning out absolutely stunning and I’m so pleased to be a part of it. But perhaps, that’s for a future interview. Yes, the Transistor Hive speaks in a very quite way towards time, especially time’s tendency to march forward and dissolve, disassemble, and entangle objects, ideas, and memories. I chose a bureau- a humble human object, to house a grandfather clock of sorts, measuring Time with a capital ‘T’. And as the wheels slowly unfold, the bureau slowly dissolves.
Tell us about some of the materials you work with for your projects.
I’m fortunate to be pretty fluent, as an artist and maker, with a wide range of materials. Plaster, wood, natural branch structures, water and flour- these recently form the backbone of my vocabulary. In general I like natural, simple, and quiet materials. I activate these materials with motors, electronic, sound equipment as well, but these are never meant to upstage the simple organic materials. I’m creating a piece now that is a story telling machine of sorts. So in this installation, the human voice and sound really are another material and medium I’m incorporating.
In an ideal world, where would you like your work to be exhibited?
Hmm, I think these things just fall into place. I try not to want, or force my career. I’d like to show in more art institutions, as they generally have large and well-lit spaces.
Describe your work space at home.
Well I outgrew my home studio a couple years ago. I have a wonderful studio ten blocks away now – a large garage space, with a roll-up door and a side room where I can work on electronics. This one I’ll be growing out of shortly as well- it’s a challenge and a blessing to make large scale work!
If you could collaborate with anyone, artist or not, who would you like to work with?
I’m hoping to collaborate with W. S. Merwin, a Pulitzer prize winning poet. A third party has connected the both of us in hopes to house one of his poems in one of my installations. I’ll keep my fingers crossed and let you know what he decides.
To that note, what are some exhibitions, artists, photo series, or images that continue to inspire you today?
Alexander Calder was one of the first artist I just was wowed by. I actually don’t refer back to him too much these days but thought I’d mention him as really the first that mesmerized me.
What items remain unchecked on your bucket list?
I don’t really have a bucket list. Maybe I’ll start one- that’s my first unchecked item.
What are your favorite locations around the world?
My home, my studio, home with family, out in nature with friends.
What songs are on your personal playlist?
Them, Their / Jan Jelinek
Actium / Aphex Twin
All We Have Broken Shines / Bright Black Morning Light. Actually, just listen to this whole album.
Describe your ideal food day.
Kale, eggs, and coffee for breakfast. A sandwich at lunch. Coffee again. Then, dinner with my wife and friends.
Conversations Before The End of Time by Suzi Gablik.
I just watched Her and loved it.
What is the best advice your parents gave you?
Do what you love.
What are three things most people don’t know about you?
1. I laugh out load watching Family Guy.
2. I like to cook.
3. I have a cat named Princess.