veryday I walk (or run) with my dogs in the park. I have done this for six years and it has become a habit. (It was once only a flood plain of the North Saskatchewan River and now it is a city park too.) This is a habit of seeing as much as of walking through a place and both actions increase my knowledge of this place. I am not claiming to be an artist by these acts, but this habit - this hexis in Greek which becomes part of my character and helps to form my personal stance - also forms my gaze as much as my employment as a cultural worker in the visual arts. I borrowed the Greek word from Ivan Illich, and I take another: Askesis - "...the way seeing and looking is shaped by personal training, and not just by contemporary culture." My daily walk through the park will remain a topos (a commonplace; stock theme) throughout this essay about the artistic practice of Clint Wilson.
Remembering other sites; sifting and reading through documents; asking and thinking about; and finally, seeing - these are the actions of a participant before a prototype of Clint Wilson's latest multi-media, imaging system. Eyes rove over and through skeletal grids supporting single species ambassadors from the natural world; they study photographic representations of a paradox; and, ears hear the hum of an electrical current. Each simulacrum (image/object) carries within, its own myth-making potential and when built into an installation provides points of entry for the observer who might sense a particular collision: with clarity and attention, I believe Wilson prepares what David Tomas in his essay Art, Psychasthenic Assimilation, and the Cybernetic Automaton, states is "...a transparent representational interface and threshold between an organic world and the world of [technology]. (Illich cautions against the word interface - in the essay Guarding the Eye in the Age of the Show, he feels that "interface" reduces the players in complex relationships to equal and measurable components of a system regardless of those players' inherent qualities.) I believe that this staging of collision - this interface - is the tensile heart of Clint Wilson's installations and certain ambivalent effects Illich saw at these points of friction between natura and scientia are the same effects manifested by Wilson's art practice- effects that include the question of contingency; the levelling power of systems; the pacification of the gaze; and, the search for gratuity in the interface between nature (which we do not know) and technology (which we cannot predict).
So, walking - a radical act because of the sacrifice of time and energy for what at worst can be considered a gratuity, a bit leftover for nothing or at best can be considered a gratuity, a gift. The idea of the gratuity is fundamentally and continuously present in Wilson's installations. From Generelle Morphologie to Chromoplay, from Logos to Your Outside In, the unadorned structures of tripods, tv antennae, music stands and heavy wire mesh support and coax into movement (with the aid of small motors) ambassadors from the natural world re-harvested for a third life from university departments and collection storehouses for science. The park is the intersection/collision/interface of technology and nature. In other words, men's desire to shape, through first science (study, measure, naming) than technology (application of the laws of the universe) and finally instrumentality (machine to move the earth) nature to fit that desire are ironically mimicked by Wilson's installations. To what end the miming? I believe it may be to recall to the mind of the spectator that all is not what it seems to be - nature is not where I thought she was (in the park).
These natural artefacts are brought back to life by the in(ter)vention of an artist, but he can only mimic a single kinetic gesture of that once living thing and this is not lost upon the artist. I cannot but recognize the kinetic gesture as an index that can be loaded up with cultural meaning. The carcasses of canary warblers used in Generelle Morphologie are inscribed with symbolic meaning as part of a living system, yet they also come with classification labels and location identification. They are compromised as natural ambassadors. The habits of birds are not easily deciphered in nature, it requires a practiced eye and must be seen in context of everything else around.
Chromoplay and Logos (the word) follow each other in time and in the elaboration of the ideas of metamorphosis and adaptation (though Clint is clear that each installation represents on new project). The photographic components of both projects index the process of both printing and colour and, in Logos, the packaging and storing bag for each butterfly (its cocoon) pre-emergence.
I scrambled to find a paradigm, a matrix over which to cast my imagination. Hermeneutics. The imaginary servile notion - imaginary of the body, of society, on culture - everything has its imaginary component. There is more than one way of thinking (currently science thinks it's the only way of thinking (scientific rationalism). Divine is where we dance, while not forgetting the gap - the suffering - the wound.
To use both tools and other technological devices to extend and explore the meaning of nature and the human condition as it attempts to define our place within a system is to probably, accept the fluidity of the definitions and the contexts. What nature is and what technology is beyond the scope of this small essay, but it seems to me to be one of the vital paradigms explored by Wilson's installations with no clear political stance expect perhaps a stance of resistance - a mindfulness of declared assumptions about science, technology, art and nature. Yes, these are large maps, or matrixes or thought bodies or whatever. What else should artists do?
When I move through the landscape of my daily walks, I am acting within a system that is an intersection of the natural world and a technological web of roads, bridges, ground rock, signs, etc. Wilson's installations appear to be exactly such a construction of that collision of two or more systems to explore the meanings generated by such collisions.
C.I.T.I.E.S. Bounce - a latex glove with text relating to the endangered species act printed on the palm side is inflated with air and set to bounce around a small plexi-glass case the size of a large shoebox. The motion is created by sound waves channelled through a woofer (speaker) protruding from the base of the box. There is accompanying ephemera that I cannot decipher. The ambassador in this work is present through absence - and we are only made aware of their existence within the piece through text about the problem of their threatened existence the world outside of this artwork. Doubly absence presence - doubly ironic.
During Euclid's time, opsis was not about optics (how images come to be formed on out retina, but about the act of looking - the gaze. How a proboscis reaches out from our lumina (stars) in our head to touch the other with our eyes. And how the gaze could be virtue or evil. (The evil eye) and how the responsibility lay with the gazer and what she brought back with her after sending out her gaze into the world. It strikes me as a person who looks at art and other visual cultural phenomena that I must act to know and not the other way around - not spectacle - not the show. And if I bring back something I do not know then maybe this is wonderment - the last eyes to have seen Christ have died on this day - that knowledge dies with me. Is wonder the threshold of knowing? Can wonder defer the deadening of facts and quantities and measurement? In wonder resides the deferral of the anxiety of bewilderment and the numbness of propaganda. I will not say the evil of science or even of technology (though arguments can be made of their deadening effects on our lives) prevent us from seeing our living.