Thursday, July 31, 2008

Scratching the Surface

For this project titled Stop Carrying Out Your Intentions and Wait For My Signals, we're considering the blog as a distant cousin to the ship's log. Our intention is to update entries related to our work in Portland, our research into the maritime history of the region, and how this may all fit together; an archive of what goes (went, eventually) into this experience. Taking our cue from the protagonist in Herman Melville's White Jacket or, The World in a Man-of-War,

It was nothing more than a white duck frock, or rather shirt; which, laying on deck, I folded double at the bosom, and by then making a continuation of the slit there, opened it lengthwise-- much as you would cut a leaf in the last new novel. The gash being made, a metamorphosis took place, transcending any related by Ovid. For, presto! the shirt was a coat!

The image above is a prototype. All of the signage for that work and the pieces that will appear in Portland can be deciphered here.

Something we keep thinking about is how this project (and our time in Portland) in some ways mirrors our life on the Thea Foss waterway in Tacoma. Photograph above is of the Murray Morgan Bridge, now closed to vehicular traffic (this image was taken March 18, 2007). Murray Morgan was a bridge tender there, where he penned his work, Skid Road. Thanks to History Link for this essay, and thanks to The News Tribune and Tacoma Public Library for archiving his obituary here, and more importantly, a collection of his essays here.

The House Bill commemorating Morgan's achievement utilizes language in a manner similar to Melville. Is language maritime? Maritime language? Son of a son of a sailor?

A deep interest in investigating the signal flags is how they have been compromised in terms of their content-- when we went out to decipher the flags (above), we were saddened to find that the letters didn't add up; nonsense. What does this intone for our proposal? As (now) students of the language used for centuries to safely traverse foreign waters, what does it mean that the language has been (if not lost, then) transferred to something..else? Does it look better? What is the purpose of a visual language without a translation?

The images above were photographed at Tacoma's Tall Ships festival on the Thea Foss Waterway, for an upcoming project at galleryHomeland as part of the program Scratching the Surface.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Designed for an exhibition on office products, we shredded our personal documents and affixed them to the facsimile of a full-size grizzly bear rug. Our intention was to highlight the sensitivity of both the documents and endangered species.

Installation view, Gallery Madera, Tacoma, WA, 2007.

Re: Re: Agent

For "Re: Re: Agent", we proposed a project that would comment on the scope and nature of the initiative while using the archives of the project to build itself. In the work, nearly all of the business cards (roughly four thousand) collected during the initiative were employed. The cards effectively become their own map, overlapping layers of type, photographs, and personal information.

The structure of the work is geographically accurate, with each panel corresponding to a different time zone (reading from west to east, or left to right, across the wall). Business cards are placed strategically, replicating the travel routes of all the participating independent agents who made their way to centrally located cities in order to meet with executives and representatives from the Seattle office. The underlying network of sewn cards replicates major roadways across the county and provides a support structure (and point of reference) for the project during its development.

Each strip of paper is created by sewing together (by hand) business cards from the agents that visited those corresponding cities (wherever possible), and then shredding the cards into equal strips. Each strip included here translates to a single agent, and as the meetings occurred in major cities, clusters of strips represent meeting areas.

Working with a GIS (Geographic Information Systems) analyst, we were able to generate a physical model of the initiative, translating thousands of cardholders into points of reference. From this map, we were able to see the form that this work would take, although the rich texture, dense palette, and collision of type, image, and paper stock continues to be surprising and challenging to us.

Through the course of this project, we began to feel as though we were traveling with the agents—navigating new cities, meeting more people than we can remember, and sharing the fatigue of travel. We spent an entire day in Texas--our Texas, a Texas that covered roughly two square feet on our studio floor, and saw hundreds of strips of paper sewn, shredded, and bonded together. We see the design of this work as a proposition; an opportunity to discuss the activity of the Re:Agent initiative while considering its implications in your new space, its place in the collection, and our own experiences mapped onto the Re: Agent initiative.

Installation views, Safeco Insurance, Seattle, WA, 2007.