Time Intensive
10.30.2017, 1:13 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

bask in the light

and open medium

of time.

-from The Mastheads, 10.13.002107

Welcome to The Mastheads. Your writer’s residency, housed on the grounds of MASS MoCA, in North Adams, Massachusetts. There are no requirements for your residency and the time is free.

Pick your studio for the next three hours.  Each, a “spatial interpretation” of the homes of American Renaissance writers Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

May you be inspired by the history, the context, the time, the light, and the landscape. Enjoy!

This is how we took up our three hours at The Mastheads last month. No one actually said any of this out loud to us, but for weeks, we had been carefully considering how we might activate our time at The Mastheads.

A micro-residency of silence and solitude is the perfect thing to help “busy” New Yorkers experience a three-hour interval of time in a conscious, creative way.  The irony was not lost on us that such an interval filled with such potentials happens eight times each and every day.

Yet it was clear that for us, having a such a context to “grasp” three elusive hours and activate them with meaningful thinking and making had become, well, necessary.  Recently, sustained focus hadn’t been easy.

When we arrived, there was suddenly so much to do!  How to not squander this unrepeatable span?  Would we sit and watch the light?  Would we write?  Would we draw?  Anything was possible.

As it turned out, most of the above did happen, and more.

Light angled across the page of a notebook.

Roaring lawnmowers came and went, and came again.

Leaves rustled on the hills.

It was close to freezing at 11am, but by 2pm the sun had warmed everything.

Carry-in lunch was eaten on the steps of the studios in silence.

Other residents came and retreated inside their spaces.

No effort was required to maintain an attentive awareness of the transition of light, thoughts, and shifting energies throughout these three hours.



The time was lived.

And then it was over.

And there had been an inexplicable, yet joyous shifts in us and our work, as a result.


The Mastheads were created by Berkshire architects Tessa Kelly and Chris Parkinson as writers studios.  They debuted in Pittsfield, MA last summer (applications for summer 2018 open on December 1st).

At MASS MoCA, where the studios were installed and open for residency in September and October, the residencies were much less structured.  During this time, anyone could book a free, three-hour slot.

Though some minor writing did occur in our studios, overall the residency became a practice for us, as most things usually are for FOP/smudge, in deliberately activating the medium of time.

Time was spent considering why we had been so intently looking forward to having three hours in the studios at all.  These three hours became a stopgap, a pause within the onflow of life and information overload.  It became clear that this manageable duration had provided a means for us to intentionally take up and let go of certain ways of living of time. Phones were not on inside our Mastheads. Without an internet connection taking us elsewhere, doors and windows onto the hills and autumn landscape grounded us, right here.

The porosity of the spaces provided just enough shelter of exposure to retreat from the wind, but also allowed us to be warmed by the sun. October 13th in the Berkshires felt like one of the last days of the year that we could sit still in open-air shelters and remain comfortably warm. It was the hinge of seasonal transition.  Our time and space at that hinge were a gift.

As a means for arriving at The Mastheads, we spent the first thirty minutes sensing where we were and what else was also here with us.


For FOP/smudge, one medium for doing this is a process of interactive photography.  We attach a camera to a cardboard box fitted with a pinhole aperture and a translucent paper projection screen.  We photograph the upside down image that is visible on the paper screen.  The transformation of reflected light that enters the box brings us into contact with a material exchange of light, surfaces, and human eyes that happens all the time, but is hard to perceive through habitual ways of seeing.  An object that appears like this to our usual, “encultured” cameras …

… appears like this when we revert that camera to a way of seeing that “captures” what it felt like in our human body/brain/mind to meet and address The Mastheads.

Taking the digital camera obscura images involves us in a dance-like exchange with all things that are present and in constant movement.  An open sky carries the same weight as solid wood.  All things become mediums of shifting palettes of light.  The resulting images are not “of” architecture, but rather, are image-sensations experienced and then made through responses that are performed inside movement and fields of color.

The obscuras, which we have been making for close to 10 years, has become a means for us to tap into various registers of the unfolding that takes place around us.

For those who has visited MASS MoCA recently, looking through the obscura box may recall the spectral color change that takes place inside James Turrell’s piece, Perfectly Clear.  In both experiences, a different visual/cognitive register surfaces while the familiar world is temporarily suspended.  Things never quite look the same again, even after you exit Perfectly Clear, or end a session with the digital camera obscura.

Perhaps in ways also similar to Turrell, our intention in making the digital camera obscura images is not to disorient or “warp” reality.  Instead, it is to engage the embodied, locative dynamism that is unfolding all the time, even though it might be challenging to access in daily life — especially when we don’t seem to have the time to sense it.

The Mastheads are on view until November 26th, 002017.

Thank you MASS MoCA and The Mastheads project, for the residency opportunity.

all images FOP/smudge studio 002017.

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