Using science fiction as a point of departure A Smeary Spot is a 53-minute 4-channel video installation that draws on theater, surrealism, philosophy and ecological anxieties. A Smeary Spot is the opening episode to a cycle of video works and exhibitions currently in progress. Re-orienting the audience within a speculative present, this work is an introduction into a parallel cosmology where aspects move or flow, are controlled, measured, used or cared for, setting up larger questions about how value is allocated and perceived. The audience is situated in an installation space that mimics the seamless illusion of a black-box theater—a stage of perpetual construction. Within—office chairs provide seating on wheels, and 6-channel audio is orchestrated to shift attention between the three primary screens—movement and an active viewership is implied.
The title, A Smeary Spot is a references to the sun borrowed from feminist sci-fi writer Johanna Russ. The sun, a dense concentration of heat and light, is an organizing principle of time, place and ego. What potential emerges when we glance away from the source and settle into the blurry residue of the afterimage?
A Smeary Spot is shot in two locations: on public lands in the deserts of southern Utah and inside a black box theater. In the desert we follow two Free Radicals, as they meander the vast landscape accumulating, depositing and interacting with contemporary detritus, water, smoke and light. Free Radicals, like other performers in this work are shifters of energy and represent that double meaning—in this case both activists and electron seeking molecules. Them and their environment are documented through a lens sometimes moving with or counter to these subjects. The desert is dually documented and observed by the camera toting Obsurveyor, leaving the audience to assemble multiple points of view.
Everything shot in the theater is constructed with materials from and returned to the central waste pile. Performers, known as acting agents, deliver recitations of appropriated texts. Throughout the duration of the video a loose manifesto on being is composed in speech, gesture, props and metaphor. The desert dwellers reappear here in activist drag: jeans, black boots and shirt—accompanied by other free radicals and performers that emerge and recede into the infinite blackness. The theater becomes something akin to a mental landscape with performers occupying metaphysical roles such as; the clairvoyant psyche, the shape-shifter and re/productive labor. The sound track is scored by artist Geo Wyeth.
Notes on Negative space: Negative space is a mutable matter — the between, under, and around space. Positive space is the thing, the object of our desire, the subject of our attention. We might conclude that negative space is subordinate to its other, but if we shift our focus toward the formless, we see it is always becoming, always adaptable, always there even when the thing is gone.