“Perhaps I should not hope to convey in mere words the unutterable hideousness that can dwell in absolute silence and barren immensity. There was nothing within hearing, and nothing in sight... yet the very completeness of the stillness and the homogeneity of the landscape oppressed me with a nauseating fear.”
HP Lovecraft, Dagon, 1917
For my entire childhood, my dad traversed the high seas aboard massive container ships. As a merchant mariner, he ventured out twice a year, four months at a time on journeys of commerce, bringing goods to and from ports around the world. As a child, stories written by Lovecraft, Melville, and Poe influenced my perception of what my dad did for a living. Imagining battles with island-sized beasts, mutineers, and the fantastical barrenness of the sea, I couldn’t help but want to go on a voyage of adventure as well.
The ocean has always been an anchor, existing as a space of mystery and possibility at the periphery of my consciousness. My work is largely informed by this early relationship to the sea and I frame the ocean as a site of fantasy and possibility. Using sculpture, installation, and model-making, my work suggests an archive from a grand voyage. This project conceptualizes a prototype for escape, speaking to a state of dreaming rather than an approach to planning. By looking to the sea as an infinite space of speculation, I reveal the universal tension with the unknown. This work gives form to daydreams about possibilities that exist within the ocean’s physical and emotional massiveness.
In 2010, scientists sunk a submersible into the ocean on a mission to capture the first ever video documentation of the giant squid in its natural habitat. With only a handful of observations of live specimen (mostly confused or trapped squid at the surface that quickly perished), they ventured down 1,000 feet. Imitating bioluminescent displays to draw a squid to them, they video-recorded a twenty-three minute video that is both mesmerizing and spectacular. As I read the news story and watched the footage, the squid became both a prize to attain and an elusive heroic subject. This confrontation with something that is so “other” causes me to gravitate towards a body of work that seeks to escape from a world that is explained, reasoned, and understood.
By combining the scientific process and the fantastical nature of mythology, my speculative process gathers daydreams about an encounter with the unknown. I often look to the narrative quality of myth as the impetus for my dreams of adventure. At the beginning of the scientific age, the mysteries of the world were understood and rationalized through story. The giant squid, sighted so rarely on the surface of the sea, has spawned lore about the monsters of the depths such as the Leviathan and the Kraken. The Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder’s texts from the first century AD relates the Kraken as scientific fact, solidifying its importance as part of the sea-faring civilization’s relationship with the ocean. Because the ocean is physically impenetrable, with the surface acting as a veil for the depths, it opens itself to an imaginative entry. Stories are generated because of this inaccessibility, as it only spurns desire for further access.
The philosophers Deleuze and Guattari undertake a more philosophical approach. In A Thousand Plateaus, they introduce the idea of “becoming-animal” — not as a means of understanding the animal, but as a means of understanding humanity:
“Becomings-animal are neither dreams nor phantasies. It is clear that the human being does not ‘really’ become an animal any more than the animal ‘really’ becomes something else. Becoming produces nothing other than itself. What is real is the becoming itself, the block of becoming, not the supposedly fixed terms through which that becoming passes. The becoming-animal of the human being is real, even if the animal the human being becomes is not.”
In becoming-animal, we learn what it means to be human as we examine what we lose of ourselves through the transformation. Through various doodles, notes, and lists, I appropriate Deleuze and Guattari’s methods in order to become both the heroic sailor and the elusive prey. By surrounding myself with pictorial depictions of seascapes, I mentally enter into this environment and confront its vastness.
This work emphasizes a lack of closure, avoiding that which makes an object whole or a drawing complete. Some of these cues are easy to read, such as unfinished paintings propped on their side. Other cues are given by leaving the process of making visible, a sculptural “doodle”. Edges of plywood panels are rough and glue is seeping out. This work is a journey not of the body but of the mind, fashioned from the position of the amateur adventurer. It soon becomes clear that this undertaking is not an actual maiden voyage, but one of a daydream.