In Psychology “generativity” is a focus on future generations. In biology it refers to structures of proliferation. For Linguists it means “using rules to generate varying meaning from underlying, abstract forms.” A generative work of New Media art is one that uses coding to create varied, evolving meaning outside the creator’s direct control. These related definitions all seemed germane to Suyama Space and its history as an engine of creative growth. The precarious state of the natural world was also on my mind as I began work on Generativity last year. Environmentalist John Reuter introduced me to a palette of “generative” forms that appear again and again, as nature shapes itself. These “architectural” structures suggested a vocabulary and syntax with which to approach the space. In searching for a way to make work about the generativity of nature that didn’t contribute to its destruction, restoration and archiving became key studio processes. Ivy vines with their dentritic growth patterns (characteristic throughout nature) are big, beautiful and destructive. Properly removing them extends a tree’s life for many years. Vines I harvested and cleaned by hand became the big landmark gestures shaping space. Collecting native seeds and sounds, vital activities in preserving diversity, brought me into a physical intimacy with nature I hadn’t experienced since childhood. Archives of these seeds and sounds are housed in glass vials in a plethora of generative forms that hopefully evoke some of the marvel I felt collecting them. More than anything I want viewers to experience the connection to nature in their bodies. Sensual performance footage from choreographers Isabelle Choiniere and Linda K Johnson, suggest the animating principal “Eros,” and our inescapable entanglement with life’s proliferating forms. Entwined bodies fade in and out of imagery drawn from nature, at times mirroring the physical structures of the installation. A transparent scrim bisecting the gallery varies the layers of moving images visible from different positions in the space. Projections both appear on the scrim and pass through it, painting the floor and one end of the gallery with distorted echoes of the main scenes. This transparency, along with creative coding mixing the video in real time, produces an endless unpredictably, mirroring both nature’s generativity and the layering our minds produce in dreams.
Working with a mix of natural light and shadow, projections, and gallery lighting was the big challenge/opportunity of my residency at Suyama Space. Because the gallery’s characteristic daylight varies, the installation has moods. On a dark day or at night the eroticism and mystery of the projections comes to the fore; when the light is more matter of fact, sculpture become more important; and on a sunny day shafts of light can land on glass seed vials or on the scrim creating lovely unanticipated moments.