Artist’s Notebook: Lucas Ajemian

July 28, 2014 | Marina Galperina

ANIMAL’s feature Artist’s Notebook asks artists to show us their original “idea sketch” next to a finished artwork or project. This week, artist Lucas Ajemian talks about his installation “Analog dispersion piece / to be named upon dissemination, if / to scatter a parse to scale / inaccessible volume and phase out of order / descendant / aspirational / and reverse” at Invisible-Exports, inspired by experimental film and moving mages “at rest.”

For over ten years, a significant aspect of my practice has involved transposing or transporting works across seemingly incongruous mediums. An example would be going from a static to a moving image, playing off of their respective disparities of presentation. This isn’t something that necessarily happens in the early stages of a work, it can take up to a year or more for me to think of pushing a work into another medium or format (I’ve never considered them as stages, but as folds in an idea or life of a thing). The logic of these transpositions/translations can move into more obscure corners, but in the case of this particular work, it was quite simple; the ladder laid flat took on a physical resemblance of a train track or a roll of film…

I began cutting ladders in the studio and modeling the ladder on the computer. Friends and coworkers contributed a great deal in making the 3D model and teaching me how to manipulate the virtual lights and camera.

From there, the animation and the objects moved on parallel paths. The wall pieces and the film are construed as corollaries to the film pieces as absurd structural equivalents.

Where the physical length of the film segment defines a suggested duration, the wall piece’s duration is either suggested through it’s metadata (title, dimensions, etc.) or left open. In this way, I seek to dramatize the viewer’s interval of attention.

I showed the objects in a few places, and, by means of a few private and public actions, I experimented with ways of grafting temporal or filmic aspects onto the objects. For example, I installed a sequence of ladder parts onto a movie screen in the studio and invited a class of SVA students for a screening of the work. They took their seats, the lights went out and after a short interval a theater spotlight was turned on to illuminate the ladder. The spot light went off after 5 minutes, the room lights turned back on, and the screening came to an end.

One night, I photographed a series of Street Screenings. I took prepared ladder sections to sites in the vicinity of my studio. I would choose walls where there was very low light and open the shutter for exposure times ranging from 30 seconds to 1 minute. Usually I would set everything up beforehand, but occasionally I would photograph myself as I fixed the pieces into place.

Though both of these gestures were extremely helpful in developing other aspects of this work, I didn’t feel the need to develop them further.

In the past, I’ve mostly used 16mm film as a kind storage or repository for works that accumulate, for example, by filming a series of drawings of unrealized projects or ideas that came up short in the studio. Deciding whether to work in film or video comes down to thinking about how the work exists when it is “at rest”. For example, a reel of film can be looked at with or without the use of a projector, whereas video is constant data, ephemeral.

I knew that I wanted to make a piece that would be dispersed in some way, scattered or chipped away at. Having people retain some piece of the artwork became important – not in the sense of it being purchased by a collector, but more reasonably priced like a souvenir. Each parcel not necessarily being modular. Pieces of a sequence but not of a sentence.

Someone recently told me that the Austrian experimental filmmaker, Peter Kubelka, would try to give swaths of his films away at screenings, but no one would take them. The positive and negative prints of my film were cut and paired in equal but non-corresponding lengths of 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 feet. The paired lengths were packaged and placed in the space with the projectors. Each reel was labeled with inventory information and sold at $20/ft.

In the run up to the Invisible Exports presentation, I visited the Robert Heinecken: Object Matter show at MoMA. In his work, the material aspect of the photograph, its status as an object, is accentuated, often by making objects out of photographs. With digital media and the internet, this is probably an obsolescent concept by now. In my film, not even the object is an object, neither is the camera for that matter…


Previous Artist’s Notebook selects:

Artist’s Notebook: Kim Laughton
Artist’s Notebook: Leah Schrager
Artist’s Notebook: Labanna Babalon
Artist’s Notebook: Ramsey Nasser
Artist’s Notebook: Rhett Jones
Artist’s Notebook: Tima Radya
Artist’s Notebook: Eva Papamargariti
Artist’s Notebook: Brenna Murphy
Artist’s Notebook: Genevieve Belleveau