A History of the Earth photograph by Thomas Gustainis
My Friend Thomas Gustainis shot this beautiful photo
A History of the Earth interpreted by one of its inhabitants.
I moved to a new apartment and began sorting through the material I have accumulated. I began to archive the work Ive made over a period of more than twenty years. I sifted through hundreds of tapes and myriad documents. Unfortunately, a large portion of the earliest works are lost. Some were only moments in time, works of vivid imagination, done in collaboration with my old friend Elliot, The material evidence of this work - the cassettes and films are deteriorated beyond recovery and the stories we wrote have long since disappeared beneath the Eden Prairie landfill.
As Ive continued this has become a growing concern, Ive become painfully aware of the transience of artistic materials. Ive lost many pieces beyond recovery, A years work was buried beneath rubble and another 20 paintings were destroyed while I was away at grad school in 2000.
Fears about losing my art lead me to do extensive documentation. Seeing my work recorded, I began to think about what would be left behind. This led me to consider how my work would be viewed after my passing, which in turn led inexorably toward the idea of "A History of the Earth".
"A History of the Earth" (AHOTE) is intended as an archive and a history, a posthumous body of work. I still am trying to formulate why it is important for this work to viewed as posthumous, but I do know I want the work to be viewed from a distance: so it can be seen without a filter. It wasnt until I was well under way with AHOTE that I learned of Marcel Duchamps Boites en Valise. These are mini retrospectives contained within small boxes and briefcases--similar to what I am doing with AHOTE. On the surface it is a retrospective of works created throughout the lifetime of one person, an accumulation of art encompassing multiple mediums and genres.
Over the years Ive made a continuing series of works dealing with language; they often point out its fallibility as a medium for communicating ideas. I do believe, though, that something does survive the passage to the listener/viewer. I believe in the possibility of successful communication between the artist and the viewer.
I seek the moment where your work surpasses yourself and you feel a sense of connection with something greater than yourself. That is what I live for. I have always sought experimentation in order to gain access to that connection.
An experimental work that calls attention to the degradation and the resilience of an idea-- 20th generation approximation-- was generated from a discussion I had with Ron Dahl in his critical studies class, based on my assertion that each word is only an approximation of an idea. A word is an attempt at description that results in a symbol which is less than the idea itself. To illustrate this concept I recorded a song from a record, Angola Prison Blues (Lonesome Blues by Guitar Welch). I played this record through a battered tweeter from a trashed car speaker, The sound was recorded through a microphone onto a cassette. This was played again through the damaged speaker and recorded. This process was repeated 20 times. (Go to Twentieth Generation Approximation on my mnartists.org site to hear it.)
The result is distorted and diminished version of the original, But I also feel that something persisted and is still present. There was a paper I wrote during that time Love Letters to Language, which delved into this notion of language as approximation. In 1984 I made a piece called Thought Map. The text was derived from periodically recording random thoughts every 10 minutes.
In 1990 I created a series of text pieces called
Time and Space Study. The text was inscribed using heavy, steel letter-stamps on found pieces of wood. They state:
I AM OVER THE RIVER NOW.
I AM IN THE CAVE NOW.
I AM ON THE ISLAND NOW.
These pieces were recordings of a sort.
They were made, in truth, in the locations mentioned. There are accompanying photos, which served as proof of their authenticity. (See Time and Space Study and the accompanying documentation.)
The heart of the Tome will be a set of 30 small photogravure prints entitled A History of the Earth. The obscure and deeply personal nature of this imagery is in paradox with its grandiose title. Paradoxically, it is intended to express universal ideas through personal experiencewhich is our only source for universal ideas. It is a kind of personal archaeology.
Beyond being seen as a documentation of my work, A History of the Earth is presented as a collection of historical and archaeological documents: a history of the earth. Seen without the filter of artworld expectations, the work is embedded with countless bits of information, which speak to technological capabilities and geological and meteorological information, as well as cultural, political and personal experience. (See my mnartists.org site for more on this.)
I have begun improvising with words, in a format which more closely resembles song than the aforementioned 20th generation approximation. The creation of these audio pieces is little different than other works more recognizable as Art. In fact, they employ the same strategy I have used with painting; that is, drawing from the random field and trying surpass my own imagination, and its inhibitions. One can watch a live thing emerge from a random collection of information. I am curious about the nature of those narratives and where they come from. I find voice to be an extremely ergonomic tool. It reacts almost instantaneously, Its a very responsive medium, while painting still requires a host of technical requirements, and requisite materials. The CD's in AHOTE are to be viewed as an oral history of the earth.La Mano Poderosa is one of those pieces.
AHOTE will contain c-print photographs enumerating other conceptual works I have created, and am still creating. One such piece, Citizen, was created in 1988 by smashing a television and fitting it inside of a jar, and accompanying the television is a second jar, which contains the accumulated receipts from one year.
http://www.seanconnaughty.com/images/pages/IMG_1266_down.htm 3 M&Ms
http://www.seanconnaughty.com/images/pages/IMG_1267_down.htm snapper scale
A History of the Earth (the Video) is a series of videos which document the passage of one year (2005) from a very close perspective, from the myopic view of a human, urban dweller in the early twenty-first century. The videos note climatic activity, the diversity of species, human anatomical, cultural, commercial and economic structure, from a deeply personal vantage point. It is a strange paradox, to be addressing such polar concerns in one act of expression.
Looking back on the entirety of this alternate body of work, so different from my paintings, I see that it truly is one piece. This is reassuring to me now. I have always believed in the idea of non-intentionality. All actions which consciously attempt to approximate natural behavior are unnatural. This is self-consciousness. One cannot act natural Natural action comes from the suspension of intentionality and a suspension of self consciousness. I attempt to express myself without the imposition of intentionality, or self-consciousness.
In mining a territory which is so characteristically unfamiliar, new abysses are unveiled with each discovery, illumination of one area reveals another which was previously unlit. It is a process of perpetual discovery, but through it all there is a thread of purpose.
Sean Connaughty, November 5 2005
A HISTORY OF THE EARTH
An edition of thirteen handmade boxes (exterior 7x7x7, interior 5x5x5)
Containing original photogravure prints, C-print photographs, audio and video by Sean Connaughty. Design by Matt Zaun
If you did not know of the Earth and had no context for understanding it, the smallest document or object would contain a wealth of information with which you could learn about the Earth. Its geological makeup, Its climate, its resources and its inhabitants.
The term Anthropocene is used by some scientists to describe the most recent period in the Earths history, starting in the 18th century when the activities of the human race first began to have a significant global impact on the Earth's climate and ecosystems. The term was coined in 2000 by the Nobel Prize winning scientist Paul Crutzen, who regards the influence of mankind on the Earth in recent centuries as so significant as to constitute a new geological era. (wikipedia.org) Recent climatic changes, and human warlike activity has caused me to reflect on the possibility that the earth as we have known it may cease to exist.
All the work in the history originates from deeply personal experience and intends to evoke the quality of memory and unspoken significance.
In each box will be a set of 30 small photogravure prints.
A History of the Earth is presented as a collection of historical and archaeological documents: the work is embedded with countless bits of information, which speak to technological capabilities and geological and meteorological information, as well as cultural, political and personal experience. In addition to being an archaeological document the history is a collection of art works that span a time period of more than twenty years.
The boxes will contain photographic documents of objects and artworks. One such image, Citizen, was created in 1988 by smashing a television and fitting it inside of a jar, and accompanying the television is a second jar, which contains the accumulated receipts from one year.
A History of the Earth (the Video) is a series of videos that document the passage of one year (2005). The videos note climatic activity, the diversity of species, human anatomical, cultural, commercial and economic structure, from a deeply personal vantage point.
An Oral History of the Earth 9 CDs 1984-2005
We used archival papers, CDs, DVDs, photographs
CD sleeves were specially die cut using Rives BFX 280g paper. These will be letter-pressed by master-printer Chip Schilling.
1: THE PRE-CAMBRIAN SEAS 1984-1989
2: THE ANTHROPOCENE EPOCH 1989-1998
3: PHOTOSYNTHESIS 2003
4: MATTER AND ENERGY 2004
5: CLIMATIC CONDITIONS AND ATMOSPHERIC PHENOMENON 2005
6: TECTONIC ACTIVITY 2004
7: OPPORTUNISM AND PREDATION 2004
8: ORBIT AND ROTATION 2004
9: MODES OF COMMUNICATION 2003
10: DVD: A HISTORY OF THE EARTH 2005
1. "Memory" c-print, 2006. This is an image of a jar containing a journal or sketchbook entry and river water. The page went through a process of decomposition within the jar and was then ceremonially returned to the river. This piece was made around 1989.
2. "Home" photogravure print, 2006. This is an image of the home I grew up in. It was taken around the time I was born.
3. "Linoleum" c-print, 2006. This is an image of two old pieces of linoleum.
4. "Snapper Scale" c-print, 2006. this is an image of a large 'scale' from the shell of a huge snapping turtle.
5. "Big Dandelion" photogravure print, 2006. This is an image of a kind of plant that makes a puffy seed bloom similar to a dandelion, but much bigger, I don't know its name.
6. "I FEAR HELL" c-print, 2006. This is an image of a cast lead piece I made first in wood in the 90's, then later as a cast lead piece around 2000.
7. "Mullein" photogravure print, 2006. This an image of a common Mullein plant sans stalk.
8. "Superior" photogravure print, 2006. This an image from pebble beach on Lake Superior's North Shore.
9. "The Wires" photogravure print, 2006. This is an image of the powerlines that run by my childhood home.
10. "Purgatory" photogravure print, 2006. This is an image from Purgatory Creek in Eden Prairie.
11. "Memory Site" photogravure print, 2006. This is an image of a bridge that crosses Purgatory Creek.
12. "Hemlock" c-print, 2006. This is an image of a dried hemlock umbel I collected.
13. "Pre-Cambrian Seas" This is a CD of recordings that date from 1984-1993
14. "Spirit" photogravure print, 2006. This an image of me smoking the cursed cigarettes.
15. ""Russian Hill" photogravure print, 2006. This image was captured in the Russian Hill neighborhood of San Francisco around 1985.
16. "Citizen" c-print, 2006. This is an image of a piece I made in 1989. I took a television and broke it down to fit inside of a jar. The second jar contains receipts accumulated over a period of one year. (piece was destroyed or lost)
17. "No Context" photogravure print, 2006. This is an image of David Pitman strapped to a car seat in the forest. "No Context" was the title of a multi-media exhibition David and I had in the mid nineties.
18. "Apokalypsis Arm" photogravure print, 2006. This is an accidental image that also bears a resemblance to a painting I made in 1988, from the "Apokalypsis Series"
19. "Elevator" photogravure print, 2006. This is an image of a grain elevator in Northeast Minneapolis.
20. "Gold Medal" photogravure print, 2006. This is an image of The Gold Medal Flour Building in Minneapolis.
21. "The Anthropocene Epoch" This is a CD of recordings from 1993-1997
22. "ONE CANNOT ACT NATURAL" c-print, 2006. This is an image of a cast lead piece I made around 2000.
23. "Cave Sculpture" c-print, 2006. This is an image of a sculpture made by David and I in a cave in St. Paul, shot by flashlight, by friend Colleen, these tiny prints are the only documentation.
24. "Infra Red" photogravure print, 2006. This is an image of a friend, the original image was shot using infra-red film.
25. "Time and Space Study" c-print, 2006. This an image of a piece I created in 1990 using letter stamps on found wood in various locations. The text reads:
a. I AM IN THE CAVE NOW
b. I AM OVER THE RIVER NOW
c. I AM ON THE ISLAND NOW
26. "Time and Space Study Documentation" c-print, 2006. This is an image of the making of the previous piece.
27. "Love Letters to Language" c-print, 2006. This an image of a paper I wrote in Ronald Dahls Critical Studies Class in 1989.
28. "Fish Dream" c-print, 2006. This is an image of a piece I made transcribing directly from the memory of a dream.
29. "Electricity" photogravure print, 2006. This an image of the music room from 5748 Nicollet ave.
30. "Bison" c-print, 2006. This is an image of a chunk of Bison Hair I found in the badlands.
31. "Badlands" photogravure print, 2006. This an image of the picnic benches in the Sage Creek remote campsite in The Badlands of South Dakota.
32 "Dead Carp" photogravure print, 2006. This is an image of some dead burned carp I found along the Mississippi.
33. "Cleopatra" photogravure print, 2006. This is an image of the dog Cleopatra at the Confluence of The Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers.
34. "Extraction" photogravure print, 2006. This is an image some stitches on my sternum.
35. "Medicine" c-print, 2006. A collection of medicines.
36. "MEDICINE THE BEHAVIOR OF MATTER" c-print, 2006. This is an image of a cast lead piece. circa 2000.
37. "Photosynthesis" A CD of recordings from 2003, recorded at The Blacklock Nature Sanctuary while I was on a month long residency for painting.
38. "Clutch" photogravure print, 2006. This is an image of a UHaul Truck that broke down while my Friend Todd and I were driving art from Savannah, Georgia to New York City.
39. "Highly Specific Residue" (wheat) c-print, 2006. This is an image of residues from the making of the painting "Birds of Appetite".
40. "Palmetto Bug" photogravure print, 2006. This is an image of the big cockroaches they have in Savannah, Georgia.
41. "Highly Specific Residue Thumbs" c-print, 2006. This an image of residues from the making of the painting "Birds of Appetite"
42. "INFLUENCE IS CONSCIOUSNESS AT WORK" c-print, 2006. This is an image of a cast lead piece. circa 2000
43. "Alexander" photogravure print, 2006. This is an image of a bridge over the Savannah River.
44. "Savannah" photogravure print, 2006. This is an image of a vine growing on a building in Savannah, Georgia.
45. "Modes of Communication" This is a CD of recordings of long form verbal and musical improvisations. circa 2003-4
46. "Karma Tape" c-print, 2006. This is an image of a cassette tape, with text.
47. "Super America" photogravure print, 2006. This is an image of a Super America station in Eden Prairie, Minnesota circa 1998
48. "Orbit and Rotation" "Opportunism and Predation" "Tectonic Activity" Three Audio CD's circa 2004
49. "Valerian" photogravure print, 2006. This is an image of a valerian plant, in Duluth Minnesota.
50. "Shoveling" photogravure print, 2006. This is an image of me shoveling snow.
51."Matter and Energy" This is a CD of Recordings from 2004
52. "The Charleston" photogravure print, 2006. This is an image of a Urinal in a bar in Brooklyn called "The Charleston".
53. "Atmospheric Composition and Climatic Phenomenon" A CD of recordings from 2005
54. "My Hemlock" photogravure print, 2006. This is an image of a hemlock plant in the early spring.
55. "3 m&m's" c-print photograph, 2006. This is an image of three m&m's.
56. "A History of the Earth" A DVD of Videos from 2005
Sean Connaughty has explored the emergent idea for more than twenty years, in many forms;
In words, paint, print, video, and song.
terraforming at Soo VAC
concrete bio sphere float
Dogsign Variations Wallpaper
Concrete Float version 6
Bird Feeder Mask
Open Field WAC 2010
pod with wool
Human Head Bird Feeder
Human Head Bird Feeder
Bigloo Versions 13, 14 and 15 Best Friends Forever
apple tree camouflage print
A History of the Earth image 1
A History of the Earth image 2
A History of the Earth image 3
A History of the Earth image 4
A History of the Earth image 5
A History of the Earth image 6
A History of the Earth image 7
A History of the Earth Image 8
A History of the Earth Image 9
AHOTE photogravure "Alexander"
A History of the Earth (the boxes)2
A History of the Earth the photogravures
A History of the Earth photogravure prints
AHOTE gentle ride
AHOTE Valerian Plant Duluth
AHOTE gravures "Super America"
AHOTE Time and Space Study
AHOTE "Love Letters to Language"
AHOTE Savannah Wall
La Mano Poderosa
AHOTE "ONE CANNOT ACT NATURAL"
AHOTE karma (video)
AHOTE The New Charlie Close (video)
AHOTE Advertisement! Video
AHOTE La Mano Poderosa (the song)
AHOTE "20th Generation Approximation" Ron Dahl's Class 1988-89
Bigloo Versions 13, 14 and 15
Bigloo version 9
Bigloo Medicine Lake
Bigloo Medicine Lake
Bigloo Ice Quarry
Bigloo Medicine Lake 3
Bigloo cd gravure
Incident at Utopia Planetia
Incident at Utopia Planetia 3
"Beneath all things" At The Soap Factory (whole)
"Beneath All Things" detail
"Beneath All Things" Detail
"Beneath All Things" Detail
"Beneath All Things" Detail
"Beneath All Things" Detail
"Beneath All Things (In Progress)
"Birds of Appetite" whole
"Birds of Appetite" Detail
"Birds of Appetite" Detail 2
"Birds of Appetite" Detail 3
"Godzuki Presides Over Prakrti" Detail
Big blue stem (detail)
"Bunnyman Prays for the Souls of Savannah" detail
Bigloo Versions 8, 10 and 11
Lost Painting have you seen me?destroyed
Homunculus with Reliquary
La Mano Poderosa painting detail
Bunnyman and Friends 1993
Spaceman Looking at Himself
Garden Project CD
indoor living pod
Winter Survival Pod
figure four 1991