Ultraviolet, a recent three-person exhibition at the wonderful MASS Gallery in Austin, incorporated sculpture, installation, photography and experiential works by artists Amy Yoes, Ezra Masch, and Tim Schmidt. Coming from a variety of backgrounds and encompassing many different ways of thinking and making, we corresponded about a few of the threads that tie their work together: ideas of audience, participation, and architecture.
Gracelee Lawrence: First, talk about participation, audience, and viewer in your work and how/if these ideas connect all of your work.
Amy Yoes: One of the aspects of my practice is that I love working around and with other people. It was a great pleasure to install the work while Ezra and Tim were situating their pieces. The camaraderie during exhibition preparations is energizing. It also has to be said that Scott and his team put a lot of serious work into my piece before I even arrived, allowing me to spend a good amount of time responding to the structure with site specific animations. I did all the animation in the space during the 4 days before completing the piece. I use a very rudimentary technique to animate my drawings. They are simply Photoshop frames strung together in QuickTime sequences. I don’t choreograph the lines to progress at regular intervals and this gives a kind of casual, handmade feeling that permeates a lot of my work. As for the audience/viewer, I’m counting on people to explore.
Ezra Masch: Some of my work involves immersive audio-visual experience with live performance. The space becomes the instrument, and the performer and audience are in it together. This project at MASS Gallery was different, because it was using pre-recorded sound. It’s a 2-channel sound piece that affects projected light on two opposing walls. This is something that I have been experimenting with in the studio on a relatively small scale. The sound comes from jet engines. It’s a low rumbling resonant sound of forced air in a chamber. I’m editing and arranging the sound to be experienced in a small space that I have constructed in the gallery. I want viewers to be immersed in the audio-visual experience.
Tim Schmidt: My relationship to the viewer and their participation with the work is a bit like inviting someone new over for dinner or a drink. I really want the experience to be loose and casual but I want to direct the topic of conversation. My work relates to the viewer primarily through the surface treatment, materials and form, and sometimes that simple conversation leads to a more interesting conversation. For instance, everyone that I talk to thinks the rock in 230,000 Calories is epoxied to the piece but I actually cut the steel and fit the rock in and welded the plate back together. Then the plates are welded together at a 23.4 degree angle, which is the tilt of the earth, and the title refers to the total amount of calories are consumed or transformed or whatever per capita in the United States. So those levels within the piece are like a deepening conversation for me. I admit it is a bit like Radiolab, though.
GL: An interest in architecture and site-specificity seem to be an essential vein that runs through all of your work. Can you talk about that in relation to decisions around your own work?
AY: I always relish the opportunity to respond to a specific space. When Scott Proctor from MASS invited me to participate in the show, I was struck by many of the charming qualities of the space. The beautiful concrete floor and the super high industrial ceiling were of particular interest. I had just finished an installation piece with projected animations that was shown at the Carpenter Center for Visual Arts in Cambridge, MA. My work in Austin enabled me to continue investigating the intersection of animation and form. The lines re-draw themselves and continue to assert their decisive paths, yet the relentless repetition/looping gives the work a slightly melancholic feeling. The dots that flash on and off are part of the pared down geometric language I’m using, but they also recall the chasing lights of a marquee sign. Our brains are always trying to make sense of pattern. The most minimal language will always resonate with us, recalling previous experiences of things felt and seen.
EM: Some of my recent work has been site-specific, with the physical dimensions of the exhibition space dictating the way an installation is created and experienced. Because this was a group show, I built my own little space within the gallery. I worked within that space and made decisions about the arrangement of components based on the proportions of the projected light and the projector’s range of throw. The space that I worked with at MASS is oblong, which inspired me. It gave me the idea to create two projections on opposing walls of the long, narrow space (previously I tried them side by side). And the symmetry of this mirrored arrangement is dictating how I design the audio for the space. It is an intimate space that has a significant effect on the experience of the viewer.
TS: Perhaps this is a question directed more towards Ezra’s installations, but architecture is probably the thing I think about the most when I am making and researching. [Our] work both refers to architecture with its forms and materials and uses the gallery architecture to become site-relative. All of my work was made in my studio as discreet objects, but during installation it was clear that the space between the sculptures was equally important. Although there are four separately titled works in the show, the pieces function symbiotically like furniture to ‘tie the room together’. I really should have made a rug. My studio is in a shared shop with several designers, and I really like letting that world influence my decisions.