I moved to a new apartment and began sorting through the material I have accumulated. I started to look back. I began to archive the work I’ve 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 I’ve continued this has become a growing concern, I’ve become painfully aware of the transience of artistic materials. I’ve lost many pieces beyond recovery, A year’s 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 wasn’t until I was well under way with AHOTE that I learned of Marcel Duchamp’s “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 I’ve 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 experience—which 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, It’s 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. http://www.mnartists.org/work.do?rid=69925 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 EARTHAn 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, photographsCD 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 1984-19892: THE ANTHROPOCENE EPOCH 1989-19983: PHOTOSYNTHESIS 20034: MATTER AND ENERGY 20045: CLIMATIC CONDITIONS AND ATMOSPHERIC PHENOMENON 20056: TECTONIC ACTIVITY 20047: OPPORTUNISM AND PREDATION 20048: ORBIT AND ROTATION 20049: MODES OF COMMUNICATION 200310: DVD: A HISTORY OF THE EARTH 2005
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