Tesserae of Venus: a science fiction project imagining the 'arrival' of carbon-saturated atmosphere on Earth

  1. A tribute to Carolee Schneemann's MEAT JOY (1964) set in the oil fields and dipped in red paint.

    a film by Christina McPhee

    Shot at the San Ardo Petroleum Fields, Monterey County, California; remix/appropriation of clips from MEAT JOY;
    Concept, sound, photography and montage by Christina McPhee christinamcphee.net

    Artist's comment:

    " I had never seen "Meat Joy" until I happened upon it at the Tate Modern in November 2007. I like to shoot video under the radar (as it were ) guerilla style so I stole a few shots on my little Canon camcorder-- as much as I dared (lest a guard stop me).. Later in post production I was working on combining footage of my own performances pouring toxic (but very pretty, dayglo) paints-- with my shots from a nearby petroleum field. I am interested in the 'pharmakon' meaning poison, drug, antidote, paint, etc. There, too, at the oil fields, it is difficult to shoot- often security guards will stop me from filming at these kinds of sites, even from a public road. So the 'stolen' or 'stolen kisses" aspect of the shooting is important both at the Tate and at the oil fields-- an illicit look of love. In post production, I was working with effects of doubling and tripling a shimmering repetition of frames shot at the oil field. The montage increasingly intensified around multiple stacks of frames of the moving 'limbs' of the well heads. The limbs movement reminded me of Meat Joy... and that footage I had archived from 2007. Now, the performance footage of your work would reverb in the strange almost zombie repetitions of the body-like pumps. An aura or echo of Meat Joy could act as a touchstone or point of entry, or even a pharmakon itself--as people begin to be able to think about consumption 'as' bodies -- meat R us-- oil R us. Even the color associating flesh and blood-- each of my energy field films in the Tesserae of Venus series tends to move towards its own signature dominant colour, and in this case, it was the shared deep reds of the pouring paints with your film's colors of flesh and thrown meat-- how our 'meat' is invaded by the 'paint' of petroleum-- or as if to say we are painting in oil on a cellular, inside out level, within and without....)

    On a more personal level, "Meat Joy" has inspired since that cold day in London- because of the courage and finesse that it took Caroleeto create this work-- it has infected me as well, it has reminded me of how necessary it is to make outrageous claims through powerful forms. " -cm

    # vimeo.com/11178855 Uploaded 684 Plays 0 Comments
  2. Outtakes from the Tesserae of Venus photomontage suite

    with sound by Brian Mackern from the suite Temporal de Santa Rosa, tracks 10 and 12 netart.org.uy/xtcs/archivos.html

    # vimeo.com/8724021 Uploaded 113 Plays 0 Comments
  3. Direction,camera, editing, sound design: Christina McPhee
    a naxsmash group production 2010

    Ambient local sound with additional recordings from the series “Temporal de Santa Rosa,” by Brian Mackern netart.org.uy/xtcs/archivos.html

    from the project “Tesserae of Venus” by CHristina McPhee 2009/10



    HDTV 1080i 1920 x 1080 16:9

    3 minutes 20 seconds

    In the Sacramento River Delta, amidst high tule reeds and exurban towns clinging to the edges of the vast flat waters, levees cache new alternative energy plants--natural gas. Shot at the Medanos plant, ludb.clui.org/ex/i/CA3463/ near Antioch and Pittsburg, California in spring 2009. Steam vents open breathing lungs, expanding and contracting, while water streams to cool the superheated turbines. Tesserae drawings spring from steam, lace, or laser-trace. Droplets like cilia explode from the center, tiling outwards, Fibonacci lilies. Volumes from a deep center, birth from turbines, white clouds placenta.


    I film on the fly at high tech energy installations. They are often under surveillance so you have to shoot at dawn, dusk or after hours on weekends, and never more than for a few minutes at a time. I shoot the video as a a kind of drawing. I use the camera as an on the fly editing tool by taking careful note how long to shoot. I work within a sense of the rhythm of the site, for example, in response to the rich sound rhythms from turbines. The shoots -- guerrilla-style as they are-- involve a poignant gesture or kairotic moment, which in urban slang may mean, not only the ‘perfect time or apt moment of luck,’ but in a strange reversal also  “is used to express gayness or queerness or just to make fun of people who you don’t  like as in “You are very kairotic” or  “go away you kairotic bastard” “ (urbandictionary.com). You can find the alternative and petroleum energy extraction going on, usually, in rejected or neglected natural areas, especially littoral or marginal streambeds, riverbeds, and swamps or sloughs in estuaries near the ocean-- usually because of the need for large amounts of watter for cooling (at geothermal and natural gas extraction sites). Waste or trashy places--often, where sensitive micro-ecologies involving cleaning and sifting wastewaters is a natural process. These sites are 'trash' or bastard-- hobody wants to think about them. But the bird, animal and inasect life there proliferates despite the technological incursion . Thus an assemblage of disconnected elements= things that shouldn't be together-- are thrown together-. At the point of contact is a kairotic moment--

    # vimeo.com/8716011 Uploaded 729 Plays 0 Comments

    with music by Pauline Oliveros

    Tesserae signal supersaturated carbon and methane topographies of our sister planet, Venus. In California, large scale energy landscapes, from natural gas and geothermal plants to water control, dominate huge landscapes. Could it be here that the first poetics of a future landscape of carbon saturation appear? What does living in a landscape of massive ambient atmospheric threat and beauty feel like? What is the deep connection between our footsteps, our voices, our machines, our breathing and our planet? How are we finding ourselves in these places both beautiful and dangerous, slipping on the sticky tiles of the tesserae, slimed with carbon-laden air, strange brews, and luscious sunsets...

    Sites: Sacramento River Delta Natural Gas; Salton Sea Geothermal System; Ballona Wetlands and the California Aqueduct, Los Angeles.

    Technical note: This single channel installation video* combines smaller films from the Tesserae of Venus series into a large ambient work enhanced by the music of Pauline Oliveros.

    Concept, direction, cinematography, montage, sound design: Christina McPhee 2009 christinamcphee.net

    Ambient site sound composition remixed to Pauline Oliveros, Ghostdance, ©Deep Listening Publications, ASCAP). paulineoliveros.us/

    Apple HDV 1080i60 digital video 16:9 1920 x 1080
    also available in extra long format: 3840 x 1080 or as a two channel work at 1920 x 1080 per screen.
    Sound: multichannel (2 to 5) Dolby, 48 khz

    For curatorial or screening inquiries please contact the artist: naxsmash at mac dot com

    A naxsmash group production 2009

    *TESSERAE OF VENUS (PART TWO) in production 2010

    Premiere (beta version, without Ghostdance soundtrack): Tesserae of Venus Part One, installation videoISEA (Intersociety for Electronic Arts) Belfast, University of Ulster Art Gallery, Ireland, curated by Kathy Rae Huffman, July-August, 2009.

    NOTES: Imagine conditions of carbon saturation in the atmosphere beyond 550 parts per billion. A new world is being born-- assembling in energy producing sites at the edges of cities, in the remote littoral regions, wetlands and scrublands, deserts and outliers. Tesserae appear and disappear in montage--stand-ins (metonyms) for the landscape of Venus, where tesserae, or complex ridged folds, are characteristic of the surface tectonics under the heavy weight of the carbon and methane entropic atmosphere of Venus. As if Venus arrives on Earth, the tesserae are post-digital traces of the atmospheric crisis on Earth. Where this crisis emerges is in the promise and desperation of the landscapes of new energy production. Alternative and petroleum energy extraction is usually going on in rejected or neglected natural areas, especially littoral or marginal streambeds, riverbeds, and swamps or sloughs in estuaries near the ocean. Usually this is because of the need for large amounts of water for cooling. Thus an assemblage of disconnected elements are thrown together. The point of contact is a kairotic moment—that's where the video montage is an attempt to condense these points and extract their sweetness, like squeezing fruit for a stream of luscious juice.

    # vimeo.com/5981784 Uploaded 828 Plays 2 Comments
  5. Sites: wetlands remnant near LAX, electrical power transformers, and discount big box food store. At the wetlands edge a marginal explosion of wires and cut-rate food in bulk- hot yellow interiors. Invasion of the tesserae--folding terraforms crash and meld consumer technologies at the edge of a denatured nature, west Los Angeles. an atopia, where site dissolves into an event-disturbance you can only grasp through glutted layers of visual and auditory information. Walking along the Ballona Wetlands in west Los Angeles, skirting the edge of the Tahiti Substation. Looking through the wires. Intense hum. Danger. Grid of food, grid of fire. Mesh to wholesale shopping at Foods 4 Less. Yellow papers spread. Trash like scrolls could be wings. Could be wire escapes, fire escapes. An energy loop, foods 4 less > transformers > wetlands: now a degraded failed ecology. Could tesserae-energy synthesize food back to the wetlands?

    # vimeo.com/4189136 Uploaded 277 Plays 0 Comments

Tesserae of Venus: a science fiction project imagining the 'arrival' of carbon-saturated atmosphere on Earth

Christina McPhee Plus

Jamming the liminal sites where biosphere meets big scale energy technology-- a dream of Venus arriving tectonically in tesseracts, squishing time, mixing toxins in hopes of a cure, deliriously overheated-- our hothouse landscapes move into a new space/time..we

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Jamming the liminal sites where biosphere meets big scale energy technology-- a dream of Venus arriving tectonically in tesseracts, squishing time, mixing toxins in hopes of a cure, deliriously overheated-- our hothouse landscapes move into a new space/time..we montage shelters out of transverse tents, we signal with solar powered warning lights in the midst of parking lots, shopping malls, geothermal plants and oil fields-- we immerse in prosaic and secret assemblages, while daily dream life morphs into clouds and flocks of birds: migrations of the spirits..of things seldom seen, coming out from invisible spaces, moving in the wake of complex waves--

“...Tesserae of Venus... explores the buckling or folding of skin: the skin of the body, the skin of drawings of technological landscapes as these drawings buckle and fold over time in the weather, the skin of the photograph documenting this deterioration over time, the skin of the earth as it submits to processes of energy extraction and other kinds of technological deformations, the skin of the buckling surface of the carbon-saturated landscape of Venus, the cultural/architectural buckling that occurs as biological systems clash and meet with technological landscapes at the urban edge. -Sarah Drury

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    next showing at Art Cologne Open Space curated by Vernissage.tv April 2010

    by Christina McPhee

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