utopian dilemma



The Utopian Dilemma: Upstream/Downstream

U   T   O   P   I  A   N         D   I   L   E   M   M   A  

I explore connections between photography and sculpture by investigating the object and the material that comprises it, while commenting on the potential for recycling. Photography’s role in fixing the object, in the generation of a record, becomes enlisted in this project, as I consider notions of permanence and the transitory, of value and waste.

Aluminum forms are reclaimed and formed into a new sculptural structure, presented in these photographs as an idealized, yet absurd comment on the possibilities for reuse. Everyday aluminum cans, culled from streets and streams, are flooded with color, from shocking pink to glittering gold, and enlarged to become visually mesmerizing configurations. These photographs document objects collected during walks around my neighborhood. In my landscape imagery, I mark GPS locations of local waterways that over time have become the resting place for refuse-- the objects that travel from the street, through gutters and sewer drains, and finally to creeks and streams-- reminding the viewer of the impact of our daily rituals.

I chose aluminum metal because it endures as a visible emblem of the traces of consumer products that mark our environment. I present these objects as larger than life-size. My reconfigured sculptures are bound by rubber bands, which add tension and foreground their temporary or transitional status. The material characteristics of the aluminum itself, which both resist and allow folding and bending, guide the creation of these forms. The emphasis on detail invites visual scrutiny, as I elevate these forms, underscoring the potential of the material, which can be recast, transformed into something new.

As we confront our contemporary existence, our desire for convenience and embrace of consumerism, we find ourselves faced with a Utopian Dilemma. The euphoria of modernism, with its promise of an elevated standard of living achieved through the availability of affordable mass-produced goods, has been replaced by an anxiety aligned with 21st century concerns regarding sustainability. We consider Utopia to be an ideal state: freedom from want, in a land of plenty. I strive to transform the discarded by inverting our value system, inspired by Thomas More’s 16th century story of Utopia. Responding to Thomas More's text, media scholar Stephen Duncombe notes that Utopia (translated as "No Place") "is the world turned upside down," where gold becomes worthless (40). I turn trash into treasure, with the hope to prompt changes in social behavior.

Duncombe, Stephen. “Imagining No-Place: The Subversive Mechanics of Utopia.” in Utopia and Contemporary Art. Eds. Christian Gether, Stine Hoholt, and Marie Laurberg. Ostfildern, Germany: Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2012. 39-46. Print.