floatinghouseDEADMAN originated from my reaction to the specific qualities of the University of Massachusetts Gallery. This Gallery, a ponderous, dense, concrete tomb of a space in the basement of a supra-human-scale concrete building, is further defined and dominated by four concrete support columns in its center. My first response was to build something light, blond, and buoyant in the heavy center. As I had previously been involved with suspending or elevating objects and had become fascinated with wooden structures in Japan where I've travelled several times, I began thinking about suspending from the ceiling a wooden building that could be entered. A dead-hung structure seemed too static and might further reinforce the gallery center, so the idea of attaching it via cables to heavy counterweights (deadweights) throughout the space evolved. The overall gallery space would then be strongly woven together, and the central dominant weight would be redistributed to many peripheral areas.
I depend on reversals and contrasts. Things that are heavy should be down around your feet, but you could unexpectedly find them up around your ears. Concepts that are thought to have no physical weight can achieve major mass. Space that is thought to surround becomes a stone at your feet. What you think is inside is the outside of something else. A gigantic thing may become small at the right distance. Certainly, a house cannot float?
My interest in elevating, dislocating or suspending things, i.e., floating as in water, is perhaps an attempt to mediate between the constant sinking and disintegrating of the physical and the buoyancy of the non. Sculpture is a Pygmalion enterprise in which you are constantly trying to bring the dead to life.
Though not a conscious or literal goal, there are inescapable associations in floatinghouseDEADMAN. One cannot avoid the East/West contrast of the elegant, luminous, ethereal and empty interiority of floatinghouse with the heavy, dark, material, exterior, and mortal weights ("deadmen") that support it.
floatinghouse has an anthropomorphic floor plan. I lay down in the gallery and drew out a floor plan by extending my arms and legs. A long one-end-rounded room was added, as if I had swallowed a small nave and apse of a church. One may enter floatinghouse through a leg and exit via an arm. The cabled connection of the floatinghouse with the gallery structure and the counterweights creates a strange dependency and balance between a very disparate and uncooperative group of objects. There are 14 counterweights (deadweights) supporting floatinghouse. They all have unique identities. Some may relate to the architecture of floatinghouse but others are harder to connect. GATE is a form I've used in many works (e.g., SWEATHOUSE and little principals), and its latticed structure relates to the hanging hall main entrance into floatinghouse. The steel mattress of holebed has several thousand perforations drawn from the touch of fingertips. HEAVYSEAT is 1,300 pounds of cast iron.
I wanted to make a chair of conventional dimensions that was so dense that one would have difficulty sitting solidly down on it. One would tend to float off the chair. Emotionally and physically, one could never sit as heavily as it could. The sunkenhouse in its tank of water is a further play on the sinking and rising of the exhibition structure. I also liked the idea that floatinghouse, which is too large to be perceived as a whole and is instead absorbed as a series of fragments, could be clearly seen as a discrete and complete object in model form, i.e., sunkenhouse. In a further reversal, ironsight peers down at a small fragment of the sunkenhouse. To wrap a single point of view with a massive straightjacket of steel is to give the sense of vision an unexpected physicality. Though arbitrarily chosen, the model fragment viewed through this densely exclusive ironsight becomes ironically substantial and whole itself.
heavycorner, the most non-objective object in floatinghouseDEADMAN, was placed close to bones, the most graphic, concrete, and objective counterweight, because, despite their superficial difference, together they encompass my curiosity and confusion about the continuity /disjunction of space and body. DEADMAN is a two-ton cast concrete weight whose spread-eagle plan is related to the plan of floatinghouse but whose inert mass is clearly earthbound.
I find that the perception of phenomena and the presence of memory are interdependent in the conception of my sculpture, and that the physical, sculptural, and pragmatic considerations in making the work are inseparable from its image or significance. In floatinghouseDEADMAN, heavy objects support a building, and this fact can't be separated from the images. What makes sculpture strong is that it deals in the most physical way with the least physical of things-- ideas. It is at once felt and graphic. Living in a body that eats, sleeps, defecates, reproduces, and dies, and yet is full of soaring imagination, evolved concepts, and strong emotions is our concrete experience of this tension and connection. I like the idea that if there is a narrative aspect to my work, it is totally grounded in matter. The virtue of sculpture is its solidity, its physicality, its literalness. If you don't attend to that, then you're just missing the boat.