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The Measure of a Vine (2015)

In The Measure of a Vine, the vigorous growth and graceful movement of the noxious weed kudzu is visualized in a two-channel synchronized video. It combines scientific methodology devised by Charles Darwin and digital time-lapse technology to present two contrasting ways of perceiving and experiencing this controversial plant over a five-day period.  The project also includes a series of schematic drawings made with ink derived from the kudzu plant. Despite huge strides in the biological sciences, mimicking a 19th-century experiment sets up a symbiotic relationship between plant and artist, revealing our troublesome inability to comprehend ‘plant-time’ or the ‘plant-intelligence’ that we rely on for survival.

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Sweetness and Light (2013)

The starting point for the “Sweetness and Light” project was the history of Øregårdsparken, a house and garden built by a Danish plantation owner and shipping merchant in 1806-8. This estate borders the Traneudstillingen gallery where the exhibition took place. Construction was funded by the trading of slaves and the shipping of exotic commodities, primarily sugar, from the Danish West Indies.

In the exhibit Øregårdsparken was recreated as an island seeded and planted with sugar, in this case Sugar Drip Sorghum. The idea was for the plants to transition between the controlled environment of an organized park and then through natural growth take back the house and grounds turning it into a wild (and free) plantation island. On the wall behind, photographs depict some of the numerous sugar plantation windmills left behind on the island of St Croix, now a part of the US Virgin Islands. The garden in the exhibition is reflective of the way this plant and our craving for sweetness has been the basis of the construction of architecture in various forms - as such sugar built Øregård as well as the windmills of many Caribbean islands and led humans down a treacherous path through the horrors of slavery to the health problems of today. The accompanying photographs showing how nature has reclaimed the windmills, seem to act in a contrasting way – the encroaching vines are more like a fig-leaf over the injustices of the past uses of these structures. Here nature has taken back and made the architecture of mechanized farming and forced labor look romantic, sometimes beautiful.

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Sun City (2013)

Sun City explores the town of Benidorm, Spain, a metropolis that benefits from an extraordinarily sun-rich microclimate. Using stop-motion animation, Benidorm transforms from sleepy fishing village to the vacationers mini-Manhattan visible today. Through photographic reconstruction and collage of past and present imagery, the video suggests that man has worshipped the sun here for thousands of years, and the buildings have evolved like plants, grown by the sun itself. In the end, this living town is transformed into something far more valuable than a tourist destination; it is a machine for harnessing light. It’s the ultimate solar power station, where energy value trumps that of beauty and pleasure.

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Untitled (films4peace) (2013)

This video, commissioned by ‘films4peace’, attempts to make sense of the layered history that lies within the town and landscape of Ebensee, Austria, site of the Ebensee Nazi concentration camp from 1943 to 1945, where unspeakable horrors and atrocities occurred. As opposed to the disquieting images we have of the camp's liberation, Ebensee’s breathtaking landscape, especially Lake Traunsee, is peaceful and still, which creates a powerful emotional juxtaposition. Featuring time-lapse photography and stop-motion animation, this video uses imagery from a contemporary visit here to reanimate the place, and describes how the land has recovered its tranquility, but not its innocence. Deep within the rocky landscape, the remnants of armament bunkers and tunnels remain. Their silence barely contains the remembrance of the terrible noise.

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Versteckt (2013)

Versteckt examines an existential space between historic buildings, predominantly composed of still images shot through a window in Austria. On one side flows the majestic Danube river, and beyond it, a huge Benedictine monastery. On the other side, a maximum-security prison converted from a Redemptorist Monastery dominates the view. Presented as a split channel time-lapse video, these buildings appear to change over a series of days, in constant flux depending on light, human interaction, and weather. The transition into night is understood via an imaginary ear inside these structures, capturing and magnifying the eerily familiar sounds of interior light switches and circuit-breakers.

Time-lapse photography creates a sense of pseudo-surveillance. Everything appears visible and recorded, but the relentlessly sped up video footage only gives fragments of personal insight into the world behind the walls. The video conflates the experience of the hermetic with the imprisoned, sometimes making it unclear which building the viewer is seeing, prison or monastery. At the heart of both architectural experiences lies the desire for reformation and enlightenment, but outwardly they express domination over their inhabitants and the landscape.

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Se Aquila (2012)

Se Aquila means for rent in Spanish. This photographic series documents the architecture of Benidorm, a seaside resort town in Spain. Sixty-years of development has seen the town grow from sleepy fishing village to high-rise metropolis. Today, diverse and mostly cheap skyscraper architecture dominates the horizon. Everything feels very much in transition in Benidorm. The changing definition of tourism and what it means to this town - who comes here, and why, and for how long - is evidenced in its buildings. Set apart from the warmth and beauty of their natural surroundings - the reason the buildings exist in the first place - the distance between the architecture and its inhabitants is exploited in this series. The photographs also show the contrivance and artifice of this seaside town, focusing on such things as fiberglass rock formations, a strange high-rise clock-tower church, and the contrast between an original local house and its neighboring sci-fi 1970s tower – both now available for rent. The use of slightly washed-out color and black & white imagery suggests that the photographs might not be contemporary with one another, giving the group a peculiar sense of being artifacts from different periods of time, mirroring the displaced qualities of the buildings themselves and giving the whole seaside town the feeling of being for rent.

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Faith In A Seed (2012)

Faith in a Seed intertwines the languages of science and history into a living sculptural form. In the installation, miniature replicas of three 19th Century homes - Charles Darwin’s Down House, Henry David Thoreau’s cabin at Walden, and Sir John Lawes’ Rothamsted Manor — slowly disappeared, overtaken by their gardens, during a ten-week exhibition. The three buildings are the centerpieces of a triangular garden consisting of dandelions, bush beans, and corn, planted in three distinct sections, representing each man’s interests. Viewers are invited to observe the foliage overcoming each estate in this controlled but fragile ecosystem in three different ways: time-lapse video projections, magnified peepholes cut into the sides of the garden walls, and from an elevated viewing platform. Quietly read audio recordings of writings by Thoreau, Lawes, and Darwin, emphasize the significance of observation and their different methodologies. Darwin’s text focuses on the science behind the movement of plants, Thoreau’s writing discusses mystical detailed observations about the natural world that surrounded him, and Lawes’ text touches on a number of agricultural theories involving the interconnectivity of animal and arable farming. The final section displays a series of photographs taken at the agricultural science institution, Rothamsted Research. The exhibition lives between the gallery and the outside world, exposing our conflicting relationship between food and shelter while highlighting man’s willingness to experiment with the uncanny plants we are so dependent on.

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Culte (2010)

Culte is a high definition, two-channel video projected onto adjacent right-angled walls. The product of an eight-month period of time-lapse photography, it uses architectural and plant imagery to conflate ideas of mysticism and the concrete, of illusion and devotion.

Initially the viewer observes a tangle of dead plants that reabsorb their fluids and return to life. As the video develops the plants appear to grow and shrink and ultimately ‘un-grow’, burying themselves back into the soil from which they once emerged. As the un-growth occurs, the forest clears to reveal an architectural fantasy: a model building made out of photographs of European Gothic cathedral architecture. However, this is not a normal cathedral of Christianity, but a sports stadium complete with an evergreen artificial playing surface. As the jungle of plants changes and simplifies we hear them rustle and slurp, while simultaneously the dual-purpose architecture is characterized by the passionate fervor of imagined events: sounds of religious and sports chanting and singing. These sounds represent the harmony brought about by such activities, but also the devotion or fanaticism elicited by these communities and their followers.

Culte is the French word for worship, but like the English word cult and cultivate it derives from the Latin word cultus, meaning to have been cultivated, nurtured, or figuratively to have been honored or worshipped. The combination of these meanings brings together ideas of both material and ideological promotion: our lives often revolve around such contradictory choices and preconditions. The video represents the contrasts and similarities between the mysticism of the natural world and the comparative devotion of a shared belief, whether it is in God or a team, or the community that those institutions encourage. Of course, the human race is reliant on the ability to feed itself, so the video can ultimately be read as a satirical representation of plant worship; referencing recent Western semi-religious movements like locavorism, bioregionalism, and the organic food movement.

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Union Territory (2009)

Union Territory is series of photographs that act as a record of the growth and death of plants over a period of seven studio-bound months. This symbolic garden was seeded in the gaps between collaged and cut-out imagery that brought together two politically charged historical buildings: Le Corbusier’s Assembly Building in Chandigarh, India, and The Royal Pavilion, in Brighton, England. They are two unique structures that have virtually no design features that signal where they might be located – they are at once icons of their location, but architecturally alien to them.

Le Corbusier’s concrete Assembly Building was a key component of the design for the new city of Chandigarh that celebrated the end of British colonialism in India and the future freedom and development of the country. In contrast, the Pavilion was created for The Prince Regent (later King George IV) as a seaside retreat to help cure his gout and served essentially as a luxurious palace for entertaining guests and female companions. Its style borrows heavily from the architect John Nash’s personal perception of Indian design.  Both places represent an abstract idea of architecture that bears little thought to its surroundings. The Union Territory images isolate these structures in a new landscape and create a site to observe nature activating, unifying, then dividing and dying amongst these artistic and political artifacts of history.

The garden is made up of simple British stereotypical plants, mainly cucumbers, borage and garden cress. Surrounding the Assembly Building are Marigolds, grown in vast quantities in India for festival celebrations and religious ceremonies. Photographed from both sides, with the second building visible in the background, the plants complete the illusion and unify the two buildings. As the dominant cucumber plants take over the space and lean on the paper structures, the buildings are once again separated from one another and distorted. As time passes, a dialogue develops between the frailty of the rotting paper buildings and the strength of the simple ‘pop-up book’ illusion. This is paralleled by the repeated photography of these buildings and the plants’ interaction with them, representing both the power and folly of man-made structures and artistic endeavor. Divided by location and several hundred years of British Imperial politics, the combination of these two famous buildings creates a historical rupture that quietly takes aim at political hubris and bears witness to our interconnectedness both culturally and environmentally, despite geographical distance and financial inequality.

>> Click here for text written by curator Patrick Amsellem >>

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Stone on Stone (2009)

Stone on Stone, a stop-motion video animation, uses the architectural language of High Gothic and Modernism to invent a contradictory history of their evolvement. The theme begins and ends with the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. This vast anachronistic building remains unfinished and partially ruined, after over a century of intermittent construction and restoration. Its recreated 13th century medieval construction unintentionally symbolizes those eventful years of indecision, tragedy and changes in the meaning and purpose of the city’s architecture and landscape, especially its religious buildings.

It is contrasted with Le Corbusier’s La Tourette monastery in France, competed in 1960. The video uses this anomalous but single-minded architectural vision as the foundation for a new emergence of Gothic expression, resulting in a complete and unified fantasy cathedral– akin to the building that the Church of Saint John the Divine might have aspired to become.

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Circvlvs (2008)

This video is made up of several thousand images that the artist photographed at the Lowes Motor Speedway, in Concord North Carolina. They document the 2007 Bank of America 500 NASCAR race. Shown as a split-screen video, the images are comprised of a series of shots taken directly over the start finish line (approximately two stills per lap), and a selection of other views and details that describe the action of the 10 hour event in approximately 6 minutes. The soundtrack to the video is appropriated from the chariot race in the 1959 epic movie – Ben-Hur. The audio footage has been reassembled to fit and complement this similarly grueling modern day race.

NASCAR is one of the most popular sports in America, but it is also one of the most politically, environmentally and socially divisive in terms of its audience. This video forms an ironic dialogue between a modern day social and sporting gathering, the Roman version of 2000 years before us at the Circus Maximus, and the grand illusions and dissimulation of the Hollywood epic. It highlights the entrenched political divisions that exist in America today, and reaffirms the imperial understanding that the manipulation of the people by those in political or financial power is especially effective in the form of entertainment.

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Landscaping II (2008)

In six large-scale photographs, Rob Carter documents the growth of plants as they emerge from manipulated photographic imagery. The primary scene is a dual image of Burghley House in England, and The Coeur d’Alene golf resort in Idaho (USA), with sections cutout to literally reveal the soil below. Over the course of two months these combined scenes were repeatedly photographed, revealing the growth and subsequent interference of the plants with the landscape, as they gradually knit the two scenes together. The premise comes from the human desire for interaction and control over the landscape, in terms of art, entertainment and sport.

The chosen locations compare the English Stately Home and 18th century landscape gardening of 'Capability' Brown, with 20th Century golf course design; specifically Scott Miller’s unique floating green, on Lake Coeur d’Alene. Both designs were essentially a sanitization and beautification of the landscape for the wealthy to enjoy, and they both require intensive attention for nature to remain contained and orderly. The six photographs describe a return to the wilderness, where the plants dwarf the landscape, and take over the image itself.

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Metropolis (2008)

Metropolis is an abridged narrative history of the city of Charlotte, North Carolina. It uses stop-motion video animation to physically manipulate aerial still images of the city (both real and fictional), creating a landscape in constant motion. Starting around 1755 on a Native American trading path, the viewer is presented with the building of the first house in Charlotte. From there, we see the town develop through the historic dismissal of the English, to the prosperity made by the discovery of gold and the subsequent roots of constructing the multitude of churches that the city is famous for. As the landscape turns white with cotton, the modern city is ‘born’— with a more detailed recreation of its more recent economic boom and architectural transformation.

Charlotte is one of the fastest growing cities in America, due primarily to the influx of the banking community, creating unusually fast architectural and population expansion. This new downtown metropolis is therefore subject to the whim of the market and interest of the corporations who choose to do business there. Made entirely from images printed on paper, the animation represents a sped-up urban planner's dream, but suggests the frailty of that dream, however stable it may seem. Ultimately, the video continues the city development into an imagined hubristic future of excessive skyscrapers and sports arenas, concluding with a bleak environmental future. It is an extreme representation of the water shortage many expanding American cities face today; however, this is less a warning than a statement of our paper-thin significance, no matter how many monuments of steel, glass and concrete we build.

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Reseed (2007)

Reseed is the result of eight weeks of time-lapse video, compressed into nine minutes. Seedlings emerge from the turf of the Wimbledon tennis courts, animating then dwarfing the static image. Finally everything is overrun and a single French marigold comes into flower. In this video the sport’s playing surface actually becomes the action or entertainment, and the game continues with the crowd clapping the performance. The significance of the game is in itself a fleeting event, but this video combines those fleeting moments with something that is even more momentary and common but invisible without video/film technology: the amazing transformation of seed to flower.

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This England? (2007)

The basis for this video is a book called From the Pilot’s Seat. It contains a nostalgic series of aerial photographs of England taken just after the end of World War II, along with poetic quotes chosen by the author (Cyril Murrell). The images give us the odd glimpse of the destruction and bankruptcy of the country at this time, but mainly focus on the romance of its historic and natural riches. This video attempts to literally bring a forgotten book back to life, taking the viewer on a continuous flight over the land and supplying a sense of the author’s feeling towards these places. With the use of stop-motion and digital animation some of the locations have been manipulated to include the artist’s comprehension and memory of his ‘homeland’. These moments range from the trivial to the sinister and suggest a sense of frailty in these picturesque scenes. It is an attempt for the artist to rationalize and depict his understanding of the place he comes from, as well as the enculturation of his parents.

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Stadia Photographs (2006 – 2007)

These photographs address the conflicting relationships between architecture, sport, religion, class and entertainment that have made these structures so historically significant. The first series focused on English football stadia by visually removing them from their actual location and placing them within more unusual environments. The Church of England is an image of Old Trafford (home to Manchester United), placed in the partially blurred town of Canterbury. Here a stadium which is sometimes referred to as ‘The Church of England’ is placed along side (and obscuring) Canterbury Cathedral – home of the Anglican Church. The image represents the great historical disparities that exist in England in terms of the significance of the country’s cities in relation to faith, community and scale.

The most recent series of photographs represent a more international perspective. The idea of the stadium (in this case Baseball) as a fortress or palace refers to the role of ‘the team’ to their fans, but also considers the iconographic and historical status of the buildings themselves. Here all the locations and stadiums are essentially American, but the castles are from Europe. The implication is that these stadia are often the iconic structures of the U.S. urban landscape in a way that older structures (like castles) are in other parts of the world. Though they form a significant part of the identity, culture and employment of the community, the architecture and franchise is often surprisingly disposable.

Process: All these images are made by digitally manipulating an existing image – adding or removing items to create a composite. The perspective is then altered (stretched) and the image reprinted. The imagery is then cutout or twisted out of position in three dimensions and sometimes new photographic elements added, then re-photographed from an angle that corrects the perspective alteration. As a result, physical transformations take place in the space just above and just behind the imagery. The viewer can see the thickness of the paper, as well as the imagery or printer pixilation on its surface. This process helps to make the digital changes more visually compelling, but also undermines the slickness of these changes by drawing the viewer’s attention to the surface of the image. The idea is to involve the viewer in questioning their perception of the imagery as well as to form a metaphor for its malleability and the transience of the architecture pictured.

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Postcard Project (2006)

This series of images is designed to physically exist only as postcards, as souvenirs of the cities, their cathedral and football (soccer) team. Each cathedral shares its name with its local football club, and its architecture has been re-emphasized and isolated with the use of the local club (or clubs’) colors. The idea is to compare the societal place of the church with the impact of football clubs over the last 100 years or so. The obvious connection is the idea of sport as religion, but these images also conflate the idea of what the iconic structure of a city now is, and how money and class play into that local society.

It is interesting that the cathedrals do not always match the stature of their club, so a masterpiece of Norman or Gothic architecture may take on the symbolic colors of a club that struggles to maintain league status. However, the vibrant coloring of the structures serve as a reminder that some of these great buildings were not always so grey, but were also adorned by colorfully painted statues and ornamentation. These postcards will therefore act a souvenir of a place both past and present, and symbolize its evolving cultural significance; something that a tourist postcard rarely does.

These images are designed as if they were locally bought postcards. Therefore they are designed to be printed as postcards with the reverse side detailing the football club rather than the cathedral. As part of an installation, they would be available for the gallery visitor to walk away with and distribute. Installed alongside the postcards would be a wooden church collection box: the visitor would be asked to place a small denomination coin in the box for each postcard taken.

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Foobel (An Alternative History) (2005)

This animated stop-motion video was made in direct response to social and political arguments over the construction of new sports stadiums, both in the US and UK. Though inspired by the somewhat ill-conceived plan to build a new JETS football arena on the west side of Manhattan, this video refers more directly to the English game of football, creating a brief, absurd history of the evolvement of the stadium from playing surface to ‘Babel-esque’ monstrosity. It is a satire of the need for bigger and bigger stages of any popular type of theatre at the expense of everything else. However it conflates the greed and absurdity of the issues with the thrill of the game and the epic religiosity associated with it.