In civilizations without boats, dreams dry up, espionage takes the place of adventure, and the police take the place of pirates.
– Michel Foucault, “Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias” (1984/1967) .,
These pages compile research, experimentation, and process documentation of projects, some of which resulted in finished artwork, others of which remain sources of future work.. For exhibitions and completed work please refer to the Projects section of this site.
a blog of current interests and goings-on inside the studio and out…
click or scan QR code to access: http://howtoucla.info/
HowToUCLA is a website that was part of my contribution to the 2014 edition of the Hammer Museum’s Made in LA. Accessed by visitors through QR codes printed multiple times on the wall of the gallery in the same gray vinyl as the institution’s other informational texts, this site consists of randomly accessed titles drawn from a search for the term “how to” in the library catalog of UCLA, the institution of which the Hammer Museum is a part.
The full title of this work is:
Openings to the water I stopped searched for cracks
and the wanting parts I fixed A boat
sold by the daughter of its builder, a fisherman,
to a shipwright who left it there
In the summer of 2012, I used a dilapidated 1960s fishing boat found near Istanbul’s Yenikapi district as a mold to produce a concrete boat. The outside shows a generalized form, while the internal surface reveals a detailed impression of the original boat’s exterior (lower left) both of which are the result of generations of local boat-builders adaptations to specific challenges— meteorological, economic, and aesthetic.
From: Brian O’Connell [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Tuesday, July 19, 2011 7:43 AM
Subject: Bodrum Tirhandil Project
Dear Professor Bass,
My name is Brian O’Connell. I am an artist based in New York. I am currently in Turkey planning a project meant to take place in the next year. I’m interested in the way that forms, ancient and contemporary, carry known and sometimes unknown records of their cultural and structural antecedents. In the spring of 2009 I made a 13 foot functional cement hull in Los Angeles (see: http://boconnell.org/ART/BOAT/Boat1.html). The form of this hull was based on that of an earlier boat used by Dutch artist Bas Jan Ader in 1975.
My current project involves a much more complicated history that I am hoping you may be able to lend some insight into. I’m currently looking for a disused and or no-longer seaworthy 9-10 meter boat in or around Bodrum. This boat will be used as a mold for a “new” concrete vessel which will bare the impression of the old structure on its inside surface.
I am hoping to find a tirhandil which according to some internet sources (I’ve been unable to find reliable literature on this subject) dates back some 2500 years. Apparently Tirhandil are the oldest form (and shape) of boat still used in the region. Furthermore, the name is said to derive from Greek for 3 to 1. Based on the working boats I’ve seen while here this seems plausible but I’m wondering if you have any ideas about whether or not this is true and where I might look to better source such claims. I also found it interesting and encouraging to note that many of the wrecks – e.g. that at Bozburun (15 x 5 m) – have similar proportions.
This form and its history (if true) is of particular interest to me because like ancient Greek sculpture, proportion directs all the boat’s dimensions. If one could start with a single dimension and go from there just as ancient mathematicians did (after all Pythagoras couldn’t and didn’t need to calculate Pi as long as he could define and use it) the implications for how form is transmitted over time and across cultures and disciplines are fascinating to me as an artist.
Thanks you very much for your consideration and I look forward to hearing any suggestions you may have.
All the best,
Brian O’Connell / www.boconnell.org / 436 Willoughby Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11205 / tel. +1.917-553-4227
I left for Istanbul via Paris in mid-July. When I took this picture I had no idea of the closeness of the machine I was about to board to the ancient technologies for which I was setting out in search.
Home experiments in NYC with dryed indigo sold as “black henna” proved successful.
Catalog Contribution for A is for Alibi , Uqbar Foundation, De Appel July 2007:
The mounds of oyster shells left by the Dutch who once lived where I now live in Manhattan have become the focus of archeological and musicological study. What was once a garbage heap is now the site of historical preservation. At the same time not far from the disused manufacturing sites now used by artists as studios in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood (once Breukelen and Boswijck), you can buy auto parts taken from smashed up cars, by referring to them by shelf and object number, like getting a book from the library. Distinguishing between an archive, a collection, a storeroom for obsolete equipment, a recycling bin and a trash heap is increasingly difficult especially as we become more globally aware of the materials we use and disuse.
When we first visited the depot of the University Museum collection of scientific instruments I was struck by the differences among the objects held by the collection. Perhaps most puzzling was the way that recent objects looked no different than those mechanical and electronic things we see around us everyday. Aside from the odd oscilloscope, the most ‘scientific’ looking of these recent acquisitions could easily be mistaken for outmoded fax machines and espresso makers or combinations of the two.
It was explained that this is because science has changed its use of instruments; testing for results rather than building machines to produce (or not) a result. In some ways, this is true of art as well; less concerned by the particular effect than by the process by which an effect is achieved and revealed; often less preoccupied by objects than with documentation. In cases, the importance, necessity and usefulness of maintaining collections of objects is a matter of serious concern. If an experiment can be repeated and its results confirmed that is much more scientifically significant than reenacting the experiment using the same equipment. Nonetheless, the instruments are preserved in places like the Utrecht University Museum’s Collection.
By becoming part of such collections these tools move from being the instruments of, to the objects of study, and as such they become subject to whole new ways of being looked at, cataloged and used. They move from scientific observation, to historical and in many ways aesthetic observation, admired for their ingenuity and the craft of their construction as much as their sometimes unknown contribution to science. They become mysterious and fetishized objects that hold hidden meanings, rather than tools built to reveal hidden truths.
The clues to these meanings are held primarily by those who collect them and through the records they maintain. In the case of the Utrecht Collection, one such person is Tiemen Cocquyt who described the development of the inventory in an email exchange as follows:
About 1928, an older professor in Physics discovered a group of about 2000 instruments in one of the attics of the university. This led to the foundation of the University Museum one year later . [This] professor (P.H. van Cittert), together with his wife, started working on an inventory . Some inventories of these instruments were found (one from 1816 and one from 1830) What we now have is a large box containing thousands of cards, one for each instrument. We call these the ‘Van Cittert cards’, would they not still be in use, they would be a museum object on their own .
However, another catalogue (also card system) was found, this was an inventory of (modern) instruments in use in the Physical laboratory . These we call the ‘Ornstein cards’ (after professor Orstein who made them).
So… these inventories were available when the computer came into use in
the 1980’s. Up till now, the curator (Jan Deiman) has been working on
converting the cards etc. to database records.
Clearly, this inventory is anything but a simple list of objects divorced from the specific histories of those who compiled it. It is the repository for all the surplus meanings and investments (social, cultural and institutional) that the objects within the collection represent. For A is for Alibi I have reconstructed one case of the depository of the museum (Case 111.1-111.8) using the only information available from the catalog in list form: a list of dimensions for each object along with case, shelf and object numbers. I used this list as a kind of instruction manual for producing the piece. A glass box, the dimensions of which are exactly that of a corresponding catalog entry, represents each object. The catalog reduces each object to three dimensions that describe the maximum volume of each object. This results in a ‘cataloged volume’ that exists only within the descriptive gap between inventory and collection. This volume necessarily exceeds the material volume of the collection itself and so the boxes that contain it unavoidably interpenetrate one another. So, in the end this is a project that is about surplus, about that which is not reducible to or containable in, a box.
A for Alibi, De Apppel, Amsterdam, July 2007
Homes for German Sculpture is a group of photographs and sculptures done for and in response to the show “Ideal City—Invisible Cities” (Curated by Sabrina van der Ley and Markus Richter) which took place in Zamosc, Poland, and Potsdam, Germany in the summer of 2006. A principal concern of this show, evident in its title, was the tension between preservation (i.e. the maintnance of an illusive ‘ideal’) and visibility. The photographs (Park Map: Schlosspark Sanssouci) were taken during a walk through the Schlosspark Sanssouci in early spring. The neo-classical sculptures of the former summer palace of Frederick the Great had just been uncovered after a winter literally housed in their own structures; wooden gable roofed houses. The panels used for these houses were stacked in front of the sculptures on which they had been placed. Each image foregrounds these stacks as if they were themselves placed as some sort of sculptural intervention. The photographs are hung in a grid temporally and spatially replicating the walk from top to bottom and left to right. The sculptural components of Homes for German Sculpture reproduce two primary types of these winter “houses” in a scale familiar to portrait sculptures on pedestals, one tall and thin, the other made up of three low long modules. They take their names (Cape Cod and Ranch Three Times) from Dan Graham’s seminal “Homes for America” in which he writes of American housing developments:
Each house in a development is a lightly constructed “shell,” although this fact is often concealed by fake (half-stone) brick walls. Shells can be added or subtracted easily. The standard unit is a box or series of boxes,.. When the box has a sharply oblique roof it is called a “Cape Cod.” When it is longer than wide, it is a “ranch.”
Homes for German Sculpture:
These are the first digital photographs I ever took. I think the camera was made by Epson, or maybe Sony. In 1998, I set off on a fin de siècle reconstruction of Walter Benjamin’s Childhood in Berlin around 1900 in the new language of pixels. I didn’t make it very far. I would again photograph near Berlin (Potsdam) in 2006 shooting 35mm slide film on an inherited Olympus with a broken light-meter for photographs that became Homes for German Sculpture.