I love the work of Trevor Paglen, artist, author, and cultural geographer at the Department of Geography at the University of California at Berkeley. Paglen’s experimental geography and “anthropogeomorphology” explore ideas about space and culture by capturing and presenting images and texts that are interdisciplinary, pushing the boundaries of science and art. His books and exhibitions range from examinations of the geography of the Pentagon’s secret world to the creation and selection of images to be sent into outer space as an anthropological record. Like Paglen, I make use of photography and am inspired by locations that have a built-in mystery or ambiguity. I am attracted to instances of “epistemological collapse” (Paglen’s words).
Two other contemporary artists who have influenced my work are Olafur Eliasson, whose Weather Project at the Tate Modern museum in London involved a suspended convincing indoor sun, and artist Berndnaut Smilde who became an internet sensation for his photographs of real clouds in art galleries. Noticing a trend here? I didn’t really consider the connection between my own work and these installations until recently. I believe the recent popularity of recreations of natural phenomena in galleries is due in part to our ever-increasing reliance on screens, which are obviously flat, 2D representations of the world. Making a dramatic installation is one way to excite audiences who are constantly looking at representations of reality already.
While my own project is less ambitious, several scenes have the same aim as the works of these two artists–to bring a sense of the awesome vastness of the natural world into the indoor space of the gallery. These works walk the line between representational and experiential art. The installation version of Solgonda included actual boulders within the gallery space, blurring the lines between simulation and reality and between representation and intervention.