Q&A with Mark Adams (‘Secret Decoder Ring’)

April 30, 2008 at 6:30 pm Leave a comment

Continuing our blog series for ‘Secret Decoder Ring’ we hear from artist Mark Adams regarding his entry: A Model of the Universe: the work of Nathalie Miebach

What inspired you to produce this video piece about Nathalie’s work?

I’m always interested in work that looks back at the planet with humility from our exalted position as king of the beasts. Also how we can process real world information into beautiful things. Too often, environmental artists are preachy or hopeless. Nathalie Miebach is a modest questioner with the patience to watch the world unfold. She’s not afraid of looking at numbers and measurements which are normally intimidating and off limits. Even many of the smartest people I know refuse to let themselves dig into real information about the world.
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How do you see this related to “code?”

I’ve always been drawn to the mysteries of forces we cannot see, either because they happen in timeframes we can’t see or because they aren’t directly sensed by our humble orifices. The world is full of code that is being interpreted for us: weather, statistics, fashion, trends — we can’t take it unfiltered and need it decoded in small doses we can easily swallow. Nathalie is someone looking for patterns in the raw code and making it visible. Much art in any medium — my own paintings included — are code but they don’t necessarily translate… Sometimes code is deciphered to clarify and sometimes it is meant to obscure. Both are interesting but the clarifiers are more rare.
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What was your overall concept and design, such as doing audio layering and incorporating ocean scenes?

I began by trying to get her to talk, ask the right leading questions to open up the flow of her ideas without scripting. But her sculptures invited fly-throughs, so much was happening on their surfaces. Also I wanted to mess with scale — the tight shots attempt to blow up the sculptures into little worlds. The layering — both video and audio — was a response to the complexity of layers in the sculptures and in Nathalie’s ideas. I was looking for echoes from the big notions to the detailed execution. Plus I had lots of footage I wanted to distill and couldn’t part with all of it. The ocean stuff was a way to get out of the closed world of the
gallery and go to a source.

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What do you want viewers to take away from watching your installment?

I like being dazzled by the visuals flying by. I love Nathalie’s questions and lack of pretension — how she decided to follow any patterns she found without concern about where she was going. She made a leap when she decided its OK to be naive. The biggest thing is for everyone to be their own observers — tin can scientists.
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What did you learn about weaving and the designs?

I think of the materials as a little mundane, ordinary reeds — and in fact there are no real designs — but the accumulation of pattern creates an intuitive whole. I think it’s cool to build from really simple raw stuff. Like
the notion that when Steve Reich makes layers of simple rhythms and tones, these unintended resonances appear, accidental music. I’m a big fan of following instincts and letting things grow.

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How did you produce this? In what format? Editing? etc?

I’m not much of a techno. I got the cheapest 3 chip camera I could find and Final Cut Express. I also use mpgs from my still camera, a Panasonic Lx2 with wide format. I’ve learned everything I know, such as
it is, in a few months. I work as a cartographer for the National Park Service and use GIS mapping software which is all about layering images and finding conjunctions and geographic relationships. I’ve found
plots of forest that hadn’t been cut in 180 years by digitizing some old maps and layering them on top of recent aerials.

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Entry filed under: Interviews and articles.

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