The Installation of my Opus

This semester has been a whirlwind so it makes sense that my final installation would be one too.  I was given the Canzani staircase to do with what I will and boy did I will.  I fell down the DSB stairs on Easter the day before I was to start install.  The doctor said I probably wouldn’t be able to hang a 4 story installation.  Well I did.

Ok enough bragging.

The opportunity to hang this installation is at this moment, the best thing I have done as an artist. Every photograph that I have hung, from the first one on the bottom right corner to the last one, 4 stories and 60 ft up, connect.  As I was hanging I inserted little moments, small areas where scenes happen, where my subject and her family members communicate in ways that are indicative of the audio that accompanies them.  During my critique I learned more about liminal and transitional spaces.  Since then I have been really thinking about ways to use photographs as an installation tool and how to insert them within architecture in a way that works with the existing structure.  Through this installation I feel I found a style. By presenting my photographs en masse with audio I have created an aesthetic environment that immerses my viewer in the chaos of family life while they literally climb through the story.  It is my hope that these images can serve both as individual photographs and as a singular aesthetic object in installation form.  I plan to explore different ways of hanging in architecture, while I believe that this process was perfect for this installation I think I have a future in creating photographic spaces that immerse you through audio and photography.

This year has gone by so fast and I am actually amazed at the work I have accomplished.  I have never been so proud of myself in my life and because of this curriculum I have been both nurtured and challenged as an artist.

Without further ado, the installation!

 

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Recording Adventures

This is a story all about how my mom got raped and now I’m brown…

As a rape baby and the only black family member on both sides of my family, I know what it’s like to feel different on the inside than the outside.  My exploration with Jacqui on our recording adventures was much of this.  We went from her mother to her grandmother and many people in between in order to hear what it was like raising Jacqui as a child and in reality my place in the scheme of things.

My project has progressed since my pre interviews and it has become much more than an exploration of racial identity.  The interviews are sad, poignant, and offer a glimpse into the lives of myself and my subject and our journey together and apart.  Jacqui and I are part of a group of LARGE Irish Catholic families that came together in the mid 60’s.  The Irvin’s, Lowry’s, and Quinn’s raised their total of 24 kids together, on Detroit’s west side, taking camping trips and running through the neighborhood.  Flash forward 30 years and the second generation, the children of those 24 kids, grew up together, camping every summer in a group of over 100 people.

Fayette was and is a gathering space for my family. It is where my brother learned how to ride a bike. It was where the generations of kids from these 3 families ran like wild children through the woods and ghost town of Fayette Historic State Park in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  It was here that Jacqui and I spent our summers, she 7 years my junior, and it solidified our bond as Irish Cousins.

As we began to interview I realized that Jacqui had grown up in a family that loved her fiercely, on the white side but all but rejected her on the black side.  I was told stories about child abuse, police child exchanges, divorce, racism, mental illness, love, laughter, church, camping, and so many other things that didn’t fit with my original plan to “explore mixed identities”.  I realized that Jacqui’s identity, like my own, was influenced by way more than just our race but at the end of the day most things are informed by it.

Evan

The Equipment Episode

This semester started out with an idea of creating a more focused radio documentary that was based of 2 families.  One family with 2 adult girls and one with 2 young boys.  I planned to document the differences in their lives both with age and gender and what it means to have a positive black and white parent vs. just having one parent. Well let’s just say it didn’t happen like that.  After a huge debacle with my student loan refund check I was finally able to buy my equipment at the beginning of March.

In the meantime, I explored different ways to combine audio and photographs in a meaningful manner. Like last semester I started off with a concrete idea and immediately bought supplies.  Although this time instead of gelatin fresco materials I bought everything I needed to become a bookmaker.  After a series of failed samples that I was told look entirely too much like a scrap book, I abandoned the idea.

Around this time, I began to do pre interviews and settled on a single subject, my Irish cousin Jacqui.  Jacqui and I grew up together and despite how much younger she is than me we began to discuss her life in relation to my own.  I received my equipment and we began on a whirlwind journey together, recording every weekend for nearly a month.  The things I learned about myself and my subject are uncountable but I can say that the story I plan to create will be as exciting as it was to live it.

Evan

The Sunset on Digital Culture

sunset

The process behind making the work.

To create my 3D lithophane lamp I first found a complete build on thingiverse to use for my files.  I 3D printed the lamp pieces and then sanded them smooth before priming them and painting them black.  For the photographs I chose 4 pictures of a sun going down and http://3dp.rocks/lithophane/ to create the lithophanes.  Despite their efforts, the fablab was unable to get white filament for the lithophanes but thankfully Eric stepped in and is printing them for me. The LED lights I chose use dreamcolor and are adjustable with both an app and a switch.  The app allows for the user to choose from a variety of scenes, including a sunset along with other pre-recorded scenes, music settings, and the ability to create your own lighting scheme. To put the lamp together I used super glue gel and a variety of M3 screws that I got at the hardware store thanks to the most helpful girl ever. I ended up using a failed print for the diffuser at the top and the texture turned out to be much more interesting than a plain white one.

sunset2

The concept of the work.

I have really wanted to do lithophanes for a long time so when I saw this project I was very excited to try it out. I wanted to create a lithophane lamp for my mom for Christmas but I also wanted to incorporate good design, meaningful photography, interactivity, and a real meaning.  My family is coming up on the 5-year anniversary of my Dad’s death and I wanted to give my mom something that represents both the setting of an old life and the rise of a new one.  The photographs I chose are from our family’s favorite place in the whole world, Fayette Historic State Park in Garden, Michigan (the U.P.). My mother’s father and my grandfather was a writer for The Detroit News and Numerous car magazines and was given cars and RV’s to test out and write about.  So naturally he picked up his 9 kids, wife, and elderly mother and took the long drive to the upper peninsula on the shores of lake Michigan to camp at Fayette State Park.  My mother’s family of 9 kids were joined by 2 other families from their very Irish Catholic church that both had 9 kids of their own.  Needless to say every one of those kids had at least 2, and many times more, kids who carry on the Fayette tradition to this day.  Fayette sunsets are an integral part of every evening at the campground where everyone stops and goes to the rock beach to watch the day come to an end in spectacular fashion.  This family tradition is very swiftly approaching 50 years and the best example of love, tradition, and family I can include in this lamp. Also, the lights do sunsets and sunrises so there’s that ;).

 

Describe each component of the project including the interactive elements and thoughts behind them.

The lamp pieces are 3D printed and took around 7 hours to sand and 3 days to paint and were assembled to look as professional as possible. The screws were acquired with the help of a very awesome woman at the Ace Hardware near my house who helped me pick out every screw and even write directions for how to assemble the lamp. The photographs are from Fayette Historic State Park and are of a sunset to symbolize the setting of 5 years without my dad. The lights are designed to be interactive and the sunset and sunrise settings correlate directly with the theme of my pictures. The 3D pictures are colorized by using photo transparencies converted to CMYK and removing the black and putting them behind the 3D photograph.

 

Please discuss an element that you feel is successful and one element that you would like to change if you had the time.

I think the entire thing is super successful but especially the photographs.  Lithophanes have such an interesting feel and look to them and are unlike most photographs out there.  This new media is an excellent tool for my artist tool box and I plan to make more lamps and lithophanes as soon as the fablab gets in my filament. I do think that I would like to have something covering the hole where the cord comes out of but I also think it’s probably a good idea for ventilation. I also am excited for the fablab to get the material I need in so I can try different thicknesses of the lithophanes and truly experiment with the photography aspect of this project.

 

And finally what skill/process/technique worked best for you on this project.

My photography definitely assisted with this project, but what surprised me was my ability to sand and paint the box as well as I did.  I’d like to go back and thank my 3D design fundamentals teacher from undergrad to tell him that all of that ridiculous stuff I had to do in his class really paid off. For the photographs using a picture with as much detail as possible is the best idea.  The rocks at the bottom of my image were pretty dark originally so I lightened them in Photoshop so you can see the detail.

 

The Building of Community

The Final exhibition is up, the critique is done, and now it’s time for my semester and project reflections.  From the beginning of the semester till now, this project has transformed from a great idea to a great execution.  Not even in my wildest dreams when thinking about this project over the last year and a half did I know what it could be. “Mixed Privilege” has been a life changing and art making revolution with in my own life.  I taught myself how to record sound, I failed at recording sound, then I figured it out.  I taught myself how to edit sound, it took a long time, it was difficult, but so rewarding.  I went through many different people and 2 completely different portrait styles in order to create the most impactful project possible.  What I didn’t realize would happen is the amount of shock from my fellow mixed people about how no one had ever asked them how it felt to be mixed.  That’s really who this project is for.  Yes, it has helped me understand myself and that my experiences are shared by this silent community, but what this project really does is provide a voice for a demographic that has been forced into silence for generations.

When 12 year old Winston told me that this was amazing and encouraged his little brother that talking about his life and experiences was fun I realized the impact I was making.  When 29 year old Marysia talked to me for a full hour about her life and what it meant to her to be mixed she impressed upon me that no one had ever asked her how it felt to be mixed before.  These people, my people, my community, have so many stories, so many experiences, so many struggles and triumphs that are shared amongst us all. At the outset of this project I didn’t realize how much I was not alone, that my birth, although dissimilar to theirs, was only a small factor in our shared experiences and that my struggles are not as unique as I thought and even hoped.

Growing up I was made fun of incessantly, I was made to feel like my curly hair and tan skin were inherently wrong and it destroyed me.  I was a shell of a person for more than a decade and it took an immense amount of work to become functional again.  I feel like if someone approached me at 12 years old after a kid wrote on my math paper “go back to Africa you oreo nigger” and asked me to tell them how it felt to be mixed, I wouldn’t have struggled for so long.  If nothing else, my project’s aim is to help people like me understand that their experiences, their heartaches, their triumphs, and their tragedies are valid and that they are not alone.

My final critique went amazingly.  I got excellent feedback on the impact of my work as well as the shortcomings of my label design abilities.  I think the most impactful thing that happened however is when Quinten came to me yesterday, held my hands, looked right into my eyes, and told me how powerful and beautiful my photographs, especially of Winston, are. The amount of acceptance by my fellow grad students and by faculty has been a great encouragement as well as the mentorship I have received by Helen and many other faculty members while creating this project.

Finally I leave you with this. “Mixed Privilege” will not end here, I will continue this project until there is no one else who wants their story heard.  I will be here, ready and willing to hear my people’s lived histories and tell them in the most meaningful way possible.  I never thought I’d be able to say “my people” in regards to my race, but if this project has taught me anything it has taught me that I have a community that understands me and all I need to do is bring us together.  So here’s to the future of community building, story telling, love, and laughter that I am sure will come.

Evin

Mid Semester Mixed Privilege

Over the last few weeks I have been very hard at work trying to obtain interviews and photographs here in Columbus.  I was not able to do that so I had to go home to Detroit to do the majority of these interviews.  I am very excited to say that the shoots went very well and I have come out with 51 images and 7 interviews that I am very happy with. Since my last critique I have gotten down to what I really want these photographs and interviews to look and feel like and I have also decided to extend this project to a full year.  This semester I will be focusing on photographing and interviewing in order to compile enough work for next semester where I will create a radio documentary (think This American Life) and an art book using Platinum prints as well as a printed book for purchase.  Next semester the school is offering a Podcasting & Storytelling class that is thrillingly relevant to my current audio endeavor and I am very excited.

The way I have arranged my prints is indicative of sound waves and is accompanied by a QR code to provide a connection between the audio and the printed media.  I thought a lot about how to present my sound for this project and I took into consideration the things said in my last critique and I have settled on this.  For the exhibition people can either look at the photographs alone or use their phones to scan the QR code to hear the audio available for each set of photographs. This eliminates the need for sound equipment and headphones that I know some were wary about wearing. The QR code site I am using is absolutely amazing and it allows me to not only design the QR code but it also comes with a sound interface so the QR code links directly to a media player and has a link on the bottom to direct the user to each subjects interview page. If you are an Iphone user there is a QR code reader in the camera of your phone and all you have to do is point and click the link.  For android users it is a bit more complicated because for most phones you have to download an app but it’s relatively easy to do so. As of right now each audio link is just a sample of what will be the final cut and I am working hard to edit the audio perfectly.

For the photographs I decided to focus on the person and the things in their bedrooms/houses.  I believe that the things we acquire and keep in our homes are very emblematic who we are as people and what we hold most dear.  For the portraits I had each subject hold what is most important to them and each object is refreshingly unique and very telling of the lived histories of the people I interviewed.  Additionally I have photographed other details of their rooms including many bookshelves and personal shrines.  I find that looking at the books on ones shelf and the things we enshrine on top of those shelves can truly show the persons lived experiences.

On my WordPress site I have created pages for each interview that include the photographs and audio.

Jackie

Alexis

Alexis and Jackie

Wilson

Juno

Marysia

Lauren

Questions to think about for my Crit:

Do you think the number of photographs for each subject is appropriate or should I do a diptych of each?

Is the sound easily accessible? Should I put instructions on how to use a QR code?

How long do you think the interviews should be?

Do you think it would be a good idea to use a QR code for multiple subjects under each person so the viewer can choose what aspect of mixed life they want to examine?

Do you enjoy the interactivity of my approach?

How many more interviews would you like to see?

Does the presentation format work for you and does it remind you of sound waves?

 

Thanks so much! I really look forward to hearing what you all have to say.

Evin

Talkin bout My Iterations

“Mixed Privilege” is a project examining the cultural identity and dynamics of African American (or ethnic) and Caucasian mixed individuals.  As a child of rape, I did not have the average mixed race upbringing as I was raised by two white parents. This has fueled my desire to understand the dynamics and life histories of mixed raced individuals of all ages. I intend to and have interviewed individuals about their lived histories including their childhoods, feelings about being mixed, the racial identity they identify most with, and anything else they would like to say about being a mixed race individual in America. Initially I was going to focus solely on black and white mixed raced individuals but I am currently contemplating whether or not to include experiences of other mixed race people because I believe that their lives and stories are valid and deserve to be told. While doing test shoots for this project I have decided on also including what I like to call documentary still life’s.  I have found that many people, including myself, tend to create shrines in our houses, bedrooms, and even within the objects we hold dearest.  I believe the way we arrange these shrines to our individuality can be very telling of a person’s past and present.

While working on iterations for this project I have gone through many media types.  Initially I wanted to shoot film on my Mamiya 645 pro and have gelatin fresco prints as my medium.  Film was not sensitive enough to get the quality of images I want with the lighting available and gelatin frescos did not provide a clean enough image to be applicable to my documentary style.  I have decided on a 20×20” square format print on metallic luster paper which has a wide tonal range and provides rich, deep blacks for my black and white images. I have chosen to shoot each person in this series as a documentary style portrait, a documentary still life of their own creation, and a story corps style recording about their experiences. I have chosen not to include my voice in these interviews as I believe that will detract from their stories. While editing and mixing these interviews I have struggled with the length as I want to tell as much of their stories as possible but I want to make sure that the viewer is engaged fully for the time the person is talking.  Because of this I have decided that I am going to limit the length of the audio to under 1 minute and 30 seconds. This has been a difficult but exciting challenge and I can say that I truly enjoy mixing audio and seeing sound in a whole new level.

For the presentation of my sound I am still looking into many options. The cheapest of those options would be to use a cheap mp3 player and head phones at diptych so the viewer can have a private listening experience.  Conversely, I could have the sound played through speakers from the MP3 player to allow for a combined listening experience. Ideally though I plan to create this sound system from scratch to fulfill all of my needs and to make it as aesthetically pleasing and appropriate as possible.  If I do build my own sound system I have several options.  I can purchase all of the tech off a website that sells computer and robotics parts that run on Linux.  I have been spit balling with my roommate who is a computer programmer and has volunteered to go on this sound adventure with me.  We have looked at many options and the best ones I can think of are the following.

A pressure sensor in the floor connected to a 20w stereo amplifier with 20W 4 Ohm full range speaker.  Alternatively, I could use a IR receiver instead of a pressure sensor so the viewer can use a wireless remote to start the audio.  Another option is to use a button similar to those found in museums to that the viewer will press in order to have the sound play.  When it comes to headphones I can add a Bluetooth receiver for wireless headphones or the simpler option of using wired headphones for that real 90’s tv museum feel.

All of these options are things I would love opinions on so if you understand audio I would love to hear from you.

In addition I have several questions for tomorrows critique that I would love to get replies on.

Does my chosen medium fit the project?

What sound option do you think would best fit my project?

Are the interviews and photographs engaging enough to keep your attention for the full interview clip?

Should the interviews be longer or shorter?

Should I include other mixed race cultures or should I focus solely on the black and white mixed race individual.

How is my sound quality? What would you like to see improved?

How are my images? Do they fit with the stories the individuals are telling and do they say enough about that person?

What more would you like to see from these images and from my interviews?

Does this series show you the experiences of mixed race individuals?

These are the images for my first two diptychs.

June Yolcuepa

Julie Lythcott-Haims