Turning into the Night
05.18.2018, 7:45 am
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image FOP 002018, from a LinkNYC station at Madison Avenue and 53rd Street

Greetings from the hinge of a month-long experiment — Turning into the Night. We are excited to be embarking into this project as of next Monday May 21st, 002018.

The project is motivated by our sense that now is the time to explore what happens when we attempt to hold the thought of, pay close attention to, and track Earth-magnitude change on local, daily-life scales. In ways related to our East is a Circle project, we wonder what creative, spiritual, cultural, and material consequences might result from living this awareness.

We have been inspired by the night walks of Clark Strand. He writes of his own experiments of living without artificial lights in his 2015 book, Waking up to the Dark:

“Waking up in the dark is a way of reaching around the Anthropocene to catch a glimpse of what might have existed before it — a time when it was still possible to recognize a human being as part of the landscape of the world, before it become what it is now: a dazzling figure against the ground of nature with such an overwhelming sense of its own destiny that the ground it sprang from is virtually invisible to it now. It is as if it had no backdrop, no context, and no home. As if it were a thing unto itself, glorious, self-determined, and alone.” 

For the next month, we will make every effort to live without artificial light from dusk until dawn. During daylight hours, we will reduce our time on screens (of all kinds). As evening approaches, we will live the transition into night and darkness. As much as possible, as night ends, we will be awake and paying attention to our planetary transition into day. The project will end on summer solstice, June 21st.

Even though we can’t control the degradation of our “photic habitat” by the excessive artificial light that floods streets and buildings in highly industrialized, densely populated areas, we plan to greatly reduce the presence of artificial light in our lives by simply leaving interior lights off, staying off phones/TVs/computers, and not riding in cars after dark. Though we might miss a few evening movies and dinner gatherings with friends, we hope to gain a singular chance to “[reach] around the Anthropocene to catch a glimpse of what might have existed before it,” and practice a way of inhabiting our lives and our planet that makes it possible to sense and appreciate the earth’s daily turns into and out of darkness.

During the month, we will relay signals from the project to this blog. At the end of the project, we’ll publish “field notes” from the experience. Eventually, we plan to make specific aesthetic responses to Turning into the Night.

Conversations on Survival from the Hinge of the Earth (23.5º)
04.25.2018, 11:26 am
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Tea ceremony staged while in residency at the Kugel-Gips house (Wellfleet, MA) and aligned to 23.5º (Earth’s axial tilt) on the occasion of the Spring Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere (March 20, 002018, approx. 12:12 EST in Wellfleet, MA, while at an eastward Earth spin of 772 mph). *special thanks to Cape Cod Modern House Trust

This Saturday, April 28th, we’ll be participating in a group discussion, Being Alone, Sharing: Conversations on Survival at the Leubsdorf Gallery at Hunter College. The day- long event is being convened to celebrate the work of Chilean artist Juan Downey and the current exhibition on view at Leubsdorf, The School of Survival: Learning with Juan Downey, curated by Javier Rivero Ramos and Sarah Watson (through May 6, 2018).

“Downey sought to redefine architecture as the wielding of invisible forces—physical, social, and psychic. In his assignments, he likewise challenged his students to reconsider their potential as producers of social change through the transformation of space. Created in a historical moment of economic decline, the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, the energy crisis, and environmental degradation, these works are a call to action that continue to resonate with a sense of immediacy. … This archival material further shows that Downey was driven by the ambition to push art and architecture beyond their historical fixation on the visible and tangible. He urged his students to rethink the possibilities of these practices and to envision how they could become vehicles for societal change. Read in the context of this pedagogical philosophy, Downey’s artwork reveals itself as similarly instructive: he recasts the role of the artist from a maker of objects to a designer of futures.” – exhibition announcement

We’ll be in conversation with Tattfoo Tan, moderated by Dylan Gauthier, from 2:45-3:45pm. During our hour together, we will share updates on our ongoing project: East is a Circle project (What does it take for two artists|humans to continuously sense and attune to the spin of their Planet? What creative, spiritual, philosophical and material consequences might result from living this awareness?).

And we’ll also be sharing updates on a related project we’ll begin next month, Turning into the Night. It will continue our research into daily life practices that invite us to rethink our concepts of ourselves as artists living the Anthropocene. We will be exploring what happens when we attempt to hold the thought of, pay close attention to, and track Earth-magnitude change on a local, daily life scale.


East is a Circle
03.11.2018, 3:11 pm
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What does it take for two artists|humans to continuously sense and attune to the spin of their Planet? What creative, spiritual, philosophical and material consequences might result from living this awareness?

We’re starting an open-ended project to help us find out what it means to co-exist with an awareness of our planet’s eastward spin.After a week of informally experimenting with this idea, we’ve realized it’s actually quite difficult to hold an awareness of our eastward spinning. Part of the challenge has to do with English word such as “sunrise” and “sunset.” These concepts actually work against our efforts to imagine, let alone sense, the reality of our eastward spin.  Card #23 of our Living Deep Time Calendar Year 00001, “The Times of the Sunset,” takes this up.

When we land creatures face the sun and watch it disappear over the horizon at sunset, we’re not watching it “set.”  We’re experiencing our personal horizon line rising “up” and “away” from the sun as our planet continues its constant spin eastward.  An excerpt from László Krasznahorkai’s recent book The World Goes On, from the chapter, “On Velocity” puts it more poetically:

“…in my desire to move faster than the Earth in whatever direction this thought has taken me, for everything has converged to such a point of departure, leaving everything behind, leaving behind the Earth, and I set off, rushing instinctively, doing the right thing by rushing, because it isn’t East or South or North I am heading or in some other direction in relation to these, but West, which is right, if only because the Earth spins from left to right, that is to say from a Western to Eastern direction, that is right, that’s how things are, that’s how it felt right, was right, from the first half-fraction of the the instant in which I started, since everything moves most definitely from West to East: the building, the morning kitchen, the table with its cup, the cup with its steaming emerald-colored tea and the scent spiraling upward, and all the blades of grass in the meadow that are pearled with morning dew, and the empty reindeer-feeder in the dark of the forest, all of these—each and everyone—moves according to its nature from West to East…”

Using English words such as “sunrise” and “sunset” encourages us, on a daily basis, to forget that we and our planet spin eastward all day and all night long, making possible the optical events we inaccurately call “sunrise” and “sunset,” along with the sun’s arcing progression through the sky throughout the entire day (a.k.a one Earth spin).

We (and everything on Earth) are continuously “Easting,” all day and all night long.

Head outdoors.  Face East. Sense the location of the sun. That eastern edge of the horizon you see out there?  From your perspective as a two-legged ground dweller, it’s always tipping “forward” and “downward” in relation to the sun at a angle of 23.5 degrees (Earth’s axis of rotation).  We’re used to thinking of the sun as moving through the sky. But stop imagining that it is the sun moving overhead. Fix the sun in space in relation to where you are. Allow the Earth to be set into motion instead, the motion that it actually, always is performing.

There have been 4.5 billion years of “Easting” here on planet Earth. Our eastward spin is born of supernova inertia.  As the Earth coalesced, its “angular momentum” set it spinning eastward at a pretty regular rate. It’s a lovely fact to imagine and know that Earth spins continuously Eastward, as does every other body in the solar system (except for Uranus and Venus, which, according to theories, were struck by objects large enough to knock them into a westward spins).

That movement never stops. Many of the concepts and words we habitually use  don’t actually express this material reality. Our project, East is a Circle, accepts the material reality that cardinal directions are arbitrary concepts humans invented to help make sense of our continuous movement in space.  At times, this all can feel like a paradoxical trap of our own making. For example, because of the language we use, it’s hard to makes sense of the material reality that even when we’re flying “west” from New York to LA, the planet is moving east beneath us. While in that airplane, flying West, we are going in one direction (West) and the planet is going in another (East).

As the pressures of the Anthropocene increase, it feels increasingly important to make note of how our language distracts or misleads us from this material reality. Our project is more than just an effort to update outmoded language (though we do expect to come up with some new concepts and words to assist us in sensing our “Easting” motion). 

As artists living the Anthropocene, we are increasingly curious about what happens when we attempt to hold the thought of, pay close attention to, and track Earth-magnitude change as it plays out on local, daily-life scales. To explore that question, we are reshaping everyday actions and developing and honing new capacities of perception and attention at scales that are beyond our usual habits of mind. As conventional languages of “sunset,” “sunrise” and “east” begin to change meaning for us as a result of our performative research, we will change the stories we tell of them. As we multiply our perspectives on Earth in creative response to its ceaseless changes in direction, we will cultivate  ways of “knowing” and “seeing” ourselves in relation to the planet that are, likewise, in-motion. Making such shifts in scale, language/concepts/meanings, and perspectives is one way that aesthetic practice might address, and live, the Anthropocene.

From the Hinge of 002018
12.01.2017, 8:59 am
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at the hinge of things, 2018, 14th annual smudge/FOP holiday card

A year ago, we started living the outcomes of our previous year’s project, Living Deep Time Calendar Year 000001.  Some of you might have been putting your calendars to use throughout the past year.  If so, we hope that, as a result, your sensations of time have become more flexible, open, multiple, perhaps even released a bit from the confines of Human Standardized Time.

Over the next few days, as we continue to soar through the cosmos on our spaceship Earth, we will return to a spot (only in relation to the sun) that is relatively close to where we were 365 days ago.  At this darker time of year (in the Northern Hemisphere), we tend to think a lot about our relationship to the sun.  At winter solstice, we begin our  journey towards spring, more light — and new beginnings.

image: courtesy Durl Kruse

One of our highlights of 002017 was having the incredibly good fortune of standing in the path of totality of a total solar eclipse.  Months later, we continue to think about this experience.  We recall the elusive shadow bands we glimpsed racing across the grass at our feet, seconds before the bright world around us tipped into deep twilight. We recall the diffused filtering of the extreme Southern Illinois heat, humidity and light that occurred over 20 minutes leading up to totality. How strange and silvery our skin looked in those minutes.  Instinctual awe kicked in as we got our first direct and bizarre glimpse of the force that fuels all life on Earth.

An empty round vacuum of blackness hung in a dark afternoon sky, resembling nothing familiar.  The distance between the earth and the sun in those moments felt gapingly vast.

enigma_small images: courtesy Durl Kruse

That day, our practiced attempts to document and responsively image the event didn’t turn out as planned.  Yet, some of the unexpected outcomes ended up feeling like our best work of 002017. In celebration of our imminent turn into 002018 and the generative hinge upon which we revolve, we offer one outcome, a video short entitled hinge (不思議), shot on color negative Super 8 film.

The temporality of the film (several hours, time-lapsed into 53 seconds) conveys a small, dark marble (our Sun?!) vibrating and shimmering in a unbounded sky/world/cosmos, unto itself.

When this tiny dot shuttled into motion, flaring a black spill of light, simultaneous sensations of wonder and foreboding arose in us — sensations not unlike those that we often feel in response to living within the material conditions of contemporary life in the Anthropocene.

When reversed into color, the footage displays a multitude of wavelengths running concurrently. A spectral array of radiance reveals itself to human perception. The shift leaves us humbled and in awe.

Happy new year to all.



releasing change: empty practice chapbook
11.17.2017, 8:07 am
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all images this post from, smudge book of changes, 002017

We are happy the announce the release of a special smudge/FOP project that has been in the works since early July.  We’re putting finishing touches on a limited edition chapbook, the smudge book of changes.  This 12-page, photo-based, hand-sewn (by us) book is currently in production.

Unlike our previously produced printed works (field guides, books, postcards, decks of cards, calendars etc.), this small book presents image-sensations in ways that are poetically provocative, perhaps even mysterious.

Nested within the smudge book of changes, you will find the final version of our work, empty practice for meeting the path of totality, created in early July in response to the 2017 North American total solar eclipse.  This 8-page “practice” is a visual/poetic meditation on how our work as artists might meet vast planetary events, such as a total solar eclipse, while simultaneously attending to our species’ intensifying questions about how we might co-exist with planetary changes wrought by the Anthropocene.

The limited run of 55 chapbooks is available on our website for preorder and will ship by the first week of December.  All proceeds directly support the production of the work.

Thank you for your support of smudge/FOP, and we look forward to hearing how empty practice might resonate in your life.

Inhabiting Porosity
11.06.2017, 2:48 pm
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“The perfected one said: “The [part of] heaven [where there is] nothing is called space. The [part of] a mountain [where there is] nothing is called a grotto. The [part of] a human [body where there is] nothing is called a [grotto] chamber. The empty spaces in the mountains and organs of the body are called grotto courts. The empty spaces in human heads are called grotto chambers. This is how the perfected take up residence in the heavens, the mountains and human beings.”  — Zhou Yishan, born 80 B.C.E. (aka, Perfected Purple Yang, at the culmination of his quest for transcendence). – from James Miller’s 2017 book, China’s Green Religion: Daoism and the Quest for a Sustainable Future

* unless otherwise noted, all images this post, Super 8 stills from sleeve (無為), FOP/smudge 002017

In mid-September we had the rare opportunity to spend two nights in a house that no one had yet inhabited. The recently completed sleeve house, built by our friend, colleague, and architect, Adam Dayem, is sited on a hillside in the Hudson Valley with views of the surrounding forest, Taconic and Catskill mountains.

The primary materials of this house are raw and elemental: shousugiban (wood), glass and concrete. These same materials are used inside and outside, creating a deep blend between the interior and exterior, which often become indistinguishable. The massive glass windows reflect and project images of landscape and moving shafts of light onto interior walls and, at times, onto facing windows. These reflections can create an infinite mirroring of landscape projections inside the house, further blurring the division of inside and out.

interior glass reflection on left,  view outside window on right

We’ve been struck by the lingering impressions that we gained from this rare chance to inhabit a domestic structure before it’s been domesticated — to dwell there before a particular human experience of living there has “settled in.” There were no clothes in the closets, no artworks on the walls, no family photos, no dishes. There were no personal or family stories residing in the house with us.

Only after spending several hours in the house did we realize how few, if any, architectural spaces (let alone domestic living spaces) we’ve been able to inhabit while they were this “empty.”

Most dwelling spaces mirror human culture back to their inhabitants at nearly at every turn. Even spare architectural spaces such as many contemporary art museums, traditional Japanese houses, meditation centers, or remote dune shacks, hold charged imagery and materialities that pull a human brain, mind, body into culture.

Until residing in the sleeve house, we had never encountered a house that allowed, if not commanded, a certain kind of disappearance by its inhabitants. In the absence of clutter, traces of language (books), habitual ways of seeing (photos), and tools that presume a particular mode of daily living (domestic objects), a human brain/body is prompted to  sense and align with other forces at play in any given moment — such as the movement of the sun.  We slowly realized how deeply, maybe instinctually, we each crave contact with such forces, with emptiness, and with what becomes possible when distractions from within and outside of our own selves disappear.

Time and experiences of day and night unfolded in surprising ways for us during these 48 hours.  What wasn’t there allowed the house’s glass, wood, concrete, light, shadow, and reflection to speak volumes through its expansive soundscape.

We found it hard to stop ourselves from simply looking out the windows and watching  trees wave and light change. We had come with other plans, but the landscape and active building materials were too captivating and engrossing.  We had been given a front row seat with a view onto planetary change and we took it up, alongside local deer, crickets and coyotes.

While the sleeve house is a powerful, even forceful work of conceptual architecture, what it made sense-able to us was highly nuanced and delicate: the fluid relationships among ground, sky, body, and shelter.  For us, this resulted in feeling as if we had no choice but to let ourselves be made aware, 24 hours a day, of our very literal movement around the sun.

Both sun and moon cast sprawling shadows and light on interior surfaces.  The shadows moved through day and night. The absence of curtains or shades on windows made us acutely aware of moments of sunrise, moonrise, sunset, and moonset. From the second floor, the sense of being lifted by the site’s hill was heightened, and we literally felt the sleeve house become toboggan-like in its suspension above the forested landscape.

Despite our fixation on 360 degrees of surrounding views, we managed to take photos and reset the time-lapse on a Super 8 camera several times.  In the moment, we weren’t sure whether what we were making would end up being worth keeping.  But, when the processed film was returned to us, we recognized in the images the powerful and somewhat disconcerting feelings of emptiness that we experienced while inside sleeve house.  Those feelings, and the house, looked back at us through the photographs and film.

Through time-lapse film, we witnessed the ongoing generative power of planetary forces. Clouds and light continuously appeared, shifted, disappeared, appeared again. All is in shape-shifting motion. This is a world where where shadow, reflection and materiality exert the same weight, leave equal impressions.

Earlier this month, we learned of scholar James Miller’s new book (China’s Green Religion: Daoism and the Quest for a Sustainable Future) on Daoist practice and its potential relevance to the age of the Anthropocene.  In it, we found words and ideas that speak to the power of our time at the sleeve house. For over ten years, we have made work that engages forces of change at planetary scales and across immense spans of time.  We have been interested in how to bring these forces and scales into meaningful relation to human life, aesthetic experience, and cognition. The sleeve house was a profound and stark provocation to our work because of the ways it activated emptiness as the medium for our experiences of deep connection with its structure, site, and interactions with time.  This emptiness was the ground for experiences of deep connection.

sleeve house, composite of in-camera double exposures, medium format film, FOP/smudge 002017

Miller writes of Daoist practice in a ecocritical context, and his words about emptiness give us perspective on our experiences of sleeve house:

“The uniting factor of this cosmology is the term wu 無, which is usually translated as “nonbeing” or “emptiness.” The quotation relates three kinds of wu: the emptiness of heaven, or the skies; the emptiness of the mountain; and the emptiness of the body. An ecocritical reading of this text should note two things. The first is that these three dimensions of existence — the sky, the mountains, and the body— can be read fundamentally as locations. … therefore the most significant cosmological details is that these three dimensions of the cosmos — the body, the mountain, and the sky — are to be understood fundamentally as locations in which things take place, most notably the encounter with gods or perfected beings, who “take up residence” in the sky, the mountains, and the body. In order for them to do so, they require an “empty space” in which to be located. The key aspect of this Daoist cosmology, therefore, is that it is the interior emptiness of things that constitutes their ultimate significance. … The kind of emptiness that is significant in this text, therefore, is a locative emptiness: The Daoist relates the body, the mountain, and the sky together because of their foundational spatiality. The body is significant because it contains spaces in which the gods can take up residence and be encountered. The mountains are significant because they contain the caves where gods can take up residence and be encountered. The same is true for the sky, which is also constituted largely by empty space.

The second element of an ecocritical reading of this text would be that this very locative emptiness is what brings together these three dimensions of the cosmos in profound interrelationship. That is to say, because the body, the mountains, and the sky are pervaded by the same “emptiness,” they are ultimately related to one another. In their interior spaces, the Daoist finds the same wu, or empty space. This thus points to the fundamental ecological and cosmological nature of human beings. Humans are pervaded by spaces in which vital energy flows and in which gods take up residence. It is precisely this interior emptiness and accompanying porosity that also deems humans bodies at the same time landscape bodies. Human bodies are ineluctably constituted and pervaded by the same emptiness that lies within the mountains. In this sense, although different from that of mountains, in terms of the internal disposition of bodyscapes and landscapes, humans and mountains are exactly the same. The empty spaces of our bodies are the same as the empty spaces of the mountains.

The same can also be said in terms of the relationship between the human body and the far reaches of the cosmos, namely the stars that occupy “outer space” and the “outer space” that divides the starts from one another. In the Daoist imagination, the stars were understood to be palaces for perfected spirits, occupying the vast “emptiness” or “nonbeing” (wu) of the sky. Just as human bodies are in their interior emptiness identical with the mountainscapes that they inhabit, so also, says Perfect Purple Yang, are human bodies identical with the skyscape of the heavens. In other words, human bodies are not simply the product of their fleshy frames, skeletons and cells. They are also the product of the emptiness within, an emptiness that is identical with that of the natural world, and with that of the heavenly world. Human bodies are, at the level of their being empty spaces, at the same time ecological bodies and heavenly bodies. Their emptiness is the emptiness of their ecological relatedness, a relatedness not constituted by matter but by emptiness.

The emphasis on “empty space” draws on a tradition of Chinese religious practice know variously as “pacing the void” or “flight beyond the world.” (p. 95-6)

What we see in the film and photography we created in response to the sleeve house is an intense event of porosity:  an ongoing exchange; content emptied out; an invitation from a “house” emptied of distractions and channeling elements of the universe through windows and through us. Who was doing the looking?  We, the house, the sun and moon? The sleeve’s porous channel of exchange generated sonic, visual, and temporal shiftings into nameless and moving trans-formations–invitations into mystery, aesthetic experience, wonder, and at times a sense of humbled foreboding at our own apparent porosity.

We read and experience the sleeve house’s commanding disappearance as generative, life-flourishing emptiness.  Arguably, this is a notable turn from contemporary environmental activism and projects of “sustainable” design in the Anthropocene.  It’s the hinge that motivates our current and present projects.

“… ecological relationship from the perspective not of the individual practitioner but rather the physical spaces in and through which such transitions take place. … the important characteristic that this gives to any Daoist ecological discourse is that the transfiguration of the body is seen as the inevitable functioning of the Dao in the world. As a consequence, the goal of any ecological ethic that may derive from such a view cannot focus solely on environmental conservation or preservation of some natural space in an absolutely wild state. The Daoist focus on transformation within nature and the concomitant transfiguration of the body through the porosity of the flesh suggest a radical process of continuous cultivation as the best mode of engagement between the individual and his or her environmental context. In such a context, the individual, the social world, and the cosmos are locked together in a process of coevolution and mutual interpenetration. Subjectivity is distributed radically throughout such an ecological matrix, dissolving the boundaries between self and other in favor of a continuous ecology of transfiguration. 

Such a transfiguration is, in the traditions of Daoism articulated here, an act that takes place in specific locations and requires an understanding of the Taoist construction of space and place.” (p.88)  – James Miller, China’s Green Religion: Daoism and the Quest for a Sustainable Future, 2017.

We offer the resulting film from our inhabitation, sleeve (無為), shot on Super 8 color negative film:

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.