Monday, April 11, 2011

Art as Catalyst for Change

The following exchange is from "Richard Serra: The Coagula Interview", by Mark Simmons, from Coagula, Issue #36 (1998). (See:
MS: What would you hope that the people who assist in the production of your work would get from having experienced working on Richard Serra's vision, from idea through fruition? And I'm talking about the people who do the computer thing and the steel workers, and the riggers.

RS: I think this, I think basically I'm not interested in people following my work or making work like my work. But what does interest me is the notion that if you do a lot of work it means there's a potential for other people to understand that a lot of things are possible with a sustained effort and that the broadening of experiences is possible and I think that's all art can be. A little catalyst for change. It's not going to change the world. But it can be a catalyst for thought and thought can change and how people think about what's possible can change and I think that if the work has any value at all on its interpretive level I can't get into how people are going to experience it but if it has any value at all I think it stands for one person understanding that the potential for change is in all of us.
The image below represents my latest attempt to broaden experience, seconding Serra's proposal. I've been generating patterns with polygons and code. Last year, I realized I wanted to add density and scale changes within the patterns. Up to that point my diagrams were like many patterns, overall consistent and therefore a bit boring. Scale and density changes outside of patterning are usually simple because you can control graphite, ink, paint in any way you choose to get the full range of densities possible within a medium. But with polygons as your drawing unit and programming as your tool, it's different. Then too, I imposed a not so arbitrary restriction that the polygons had to be from a finite set, placed edge-to-edge, with no overlaps, with boundaries, but not necessarily gaps. So I encountered the density and scale problem, and found a solution that changed the way I make patterns.

Now, I wouldn't expect anyone to repeat this same process, or get into all the particulars of how to generate girih patterns with scale changes. This is my own solution, and not likely of interest to another artist. On the other hand, patterning is frequently subject to innovation by artists and designers. What might be of interest to other artists is Serra's idea about the potential for change. Rather than simply personalize existing techniques, we should promote change.

Here's the last exchange from the Coagula interview:
MS: One last question. Do you have any advice for sculptors and artists?

RS: Work out of your work. Don't work out of anybody else's work.