This August I will be flying to Amsterdam to install a new public artwork. The event is being hosted by Inkijk Gallery and curated by Jan Theun Van Rees. I met Jan Theun a number of years ago when he was in Chicago photographing his "One Wall Away" series. We have stayed friends ever since and I was thrilled when he invited me to participate in this exhibition / public installation.
Sometimes as an artist, the hardest thing can be too many choices. When Jan Theun approached me with the concept for the piece, he told me that I could do anything that I wanted so long as it somehow drew a connection between Amsterdam and Chicago. Hmmmmm. I've never been to Amsterdam and had no idea how to proceed. Everytime that I thought about my relationship with Amsterdam, my thoughts would eventually circle back to my undergraduate studies of Albert Camus and his novel, "The Fall."
My first copy of the novel had this cover and was borrowed from the bookshelves of my Grandmother's apartment.
"The Fall" is one of my favorite novels and was a central part of my undergraduate thesis. The more that I thought about my piece, the more that I decided it should reference "The Fall" and portray the imagery that Camus created in 1956 and that informed my ideas about the city. Step one was to buy a new copy of it because my old one was overly underlined to the point of illegibility.
Although the majority of the novel takes place in an Amsterdam dive bar, occassionally the main character Clemence leads the reader around the town and to the shores of the Zuider Zee. Upon rereading the book, I decided to focus on the passage that appears at the beginning of this blogpost and to use Lake Michigan as a stand in for the Zuider Zee. I emailed Jan Theun to discuss my plans and he was excited! He told me that he had never read the novel but that he had an old copy of it and it was bookmarked to the exact passage that I was thinking of using. This sealed the deal.
Eric Pickersgill is without a doubt one of the best students that I have ever worked with. We first met when he was in my color darkroom class at Columbia College and he has ta'd and assisted me ever since. Not only is he a great person but he is also really coming into his own as an artist. Eric has been creating large liquid emulsion lightboxes throughout the past year and will be showing them soon at The Light Factory in Charlotte.
For the past couple of years Eric has been working out of an abandoned factory on Chicago's south/west side. He built a gigantic darkroom there and a rig for projecting negatives onto the wall. I had seen his liquid light prints before and decided that this would be the perfect technique for my Lake Michigan image as well. After an initial meeting last thursday night, we met at his darkroom bright and early Saturday morning to get to work.
This is an image of the enlarger tilted on it's side in order to project my image at 8 feet by 8 feet.
Step one was to pin the 8 square feet of fabric up against the back wall of the darkroom. After getting it into place, I sprayed starch on the fabric (this apparently helps the image fix to the fabric) and Eric followed behind with an iron. Once that was finished, Eric applied a bottle of liquid emulsion to the fabric as I guided him with a safe light. Next up, a two hour exposure.
The development of the fabric was far and away one of the most extreme things that I've ever done in a darkroom (no snarky comments please). Eric had built eight foot troughs to house the chemicals and a two person pulley system for agitating the print.
Two hours later, we had a properly processed print (the above is a detail). Here is Eric looking like the tough SOB that he is (twelve hours and one print later):
Next up, hand stencil the text in the studio.