The Studio of Eric Valosin

Friday, November 14, 2014

Contemplating Without_Within

Ruminations on my recent solo exhibition at Andover Newton Theological School's Sarly Gallery. I invite you to enjoy it in person through Dec. 31, 2014! If you'd like to follow the development of this exhibition from its inception, you can do so at these links to prior posts:

Interiority is a longstanding mystical path to noetic Unity. Many spiritual disciplines help center us and point us to our "true selves." But what happens when the interior is located outside of the self? What happens when the center is decentered? Meister Eckhart taught that we must lose the self in order to find the self, and in finding the self, lose it to the selflessness of unity with the Other. Can the interior/exterior space of an environment become one with the interior/exterior space of our own bodies? Can we dissolve the thresholds between Self and Other? Can our modern technological interfaces facilitate an awareness of Within and Without on a new level?

The Sarly Gallery at Andover Newton Theological school is rife with liminality. There is very little interior or exterior space to speak of. Rather, the space almost entirely comprises thresholds - mediators between the outer and the inner. Only one of the four walls is actually much suitable for hanging art in the traditional sense. The second wall is almost entirely a doorway and a few windows, the third full of recessed, frosted-glass windows cut almost apologetically into the wall to hint at the veiled outdoors and cloak the interior space, while the floor-to-ceiling grid of square windows on the adjacent fourth wall bleed the gallery and exterior courtyard together.

These glass mediators became to me screens, reminders of our heavily mediated interior/exterior lives. My exhibition, Without_Within, occupies this liminal space between the outside and the inside, between the self and the other. The show comprises 5 pieces of work: two site specific installations, and three accompanying 2-D works.

The interactive window projection installation views the activity within the gallery space and projects viewers in real time into the imagery projected into the eight recessed, frosted windows on the left-hand wall. The imagery in each window arranges viewers as translucent, figurative color forms that repeat in near-infinite regress towards a vanishing point. The composition of each window is unique, and in many of them more than one viewer overlaps within the same space. The windows are viewable from both inside the gallery and outside.

The title takes the expected dialectical opposites and bridges them with the a-grammatical, techno-connotational underscore. We locate ourselves either Without or Within. Or perhaps we are possessive of both the Without and the Within. Or perhaps we must also be Without the Within, losing the self to find the self. Within and Without are found in - and in relationship to - each other, and yet abolish each other. They are and they are not. The dialectic becomes unstable and the viewer may grammatically reconstruct the title to fit their experience.

This installation transforms the back wall of windows into something between stained glass and a pixelated screen. It becomes a colorizing mediator between the inside and outside, a transporter of light between the two. The title is conceived to be reminiscent of both literal windows and their computer namesake, with the addressable location happening to be here at the Sarly gallery. If one really wanted to read into it, there is a further layer of wordplay in that the entire title is formatted as an extension, following a dot, drawing parallels to the windows' role as medium/mediator - i.e. McLuhan's famous declaration of a medium as an "extension of man."

The colors are selected for their ability to blend in surprising ways, especially the complementary colors that gray out the landscape or the light streaming through. They also happen to serendipitously coincide with the colors in the stained glass logo of the Rabbinical School that resides on the campus.

Cosmos On Gray 1/0 and 3/0
I chose these two out of the series of erasure drawings which are inverses of each other. Figure and ground become lost and the interior and exterior of each composition negates that of the other. For more info on these, see here

Meditation 1.1 (Thusness, Elseness; Omnipresent)
I selected this one of my series of QR code mandalas for it's ability to abolish the interior space of the centralized "truth" by shooting the viewer out into cyberspace upon scanning. Every time the viewer scans it it yields a different random destination. For more info on it, see here

Merging the Self and the Other

Can selfhood and interiority be a corporate experience? The exhibition constantly strives to bring people into relationship with and awareness of others. Gazes are met from passersby on either side of the stained glass wall, and people literally merge with each other in the projection windows. In the majority of these windows, there is not a 1-to-1 viewer-image relationship. If you stand in front of window A you may find yourself showing up somewhere across the room in window F. You and another person, even someone just outside the gallery, may end up occupying the same virtual space in the window, where your colors blend together. As viewers explore themselves in these windows, they inevitably encounter the other, and it becomes a corporate, active contemplation.

Delocalizing the primary viewing space

What if the gallery wasn't the primary place from which to view the exhibition? What if the show were, on occasion, meant to be viewed from outside the gallery? Given that the exhibition is on view through the winter, there will be viewing hours in both daylight and moonlight. The installations are configured in such a way that during the day .windows/Sarly is lit up brilliantly to the viewer inside the gallery as colored sunlight floods into the room, while Without_Within are mostly washed out and invisible. The viewer outside the gallery at that same time however, would see Without_Within quite clearly rear-projected onto the exterior frosted windows, but .windows/Sarly becomes dull and darkened.

At night however, the viewing situation inverts, with Without_Within becoming primarily viewable from inside the gallery and .windows/sarly lighting up beautifully when viewed from the courtyard outside, flooding colored gallery light out onto the grass and shrubbery. At no time can you see the entire exhibit without exiting and entering, crossing the threshold between outside and inside. There becomes a sort of apophasis of the unknowable whole.

Interior Exterior Space and Exterior Interior Space

The whole becomes the part, and the part becomes the whole. The viewer finds his interiority in the analogous interior gallery space, made manifest and complete only through experiencing both what's bodily and architecturally exterior. The Other becomes the Self, and Self expands to encompass the Other. The viewer is brought into renewed awareness of Self by way of renewed awareness of the space and the Other, and vice versa, encountering the latter out of a search for the former. The absolute is abolished and the relational takes hold.

We find ourselves, through this exhibition, in the liminal spaces. The windows become thresholds not only between inside and out, but between physical space and digital space, between the mind and the body, between our self and others' selves. Following McLuhan, I hope these mediators do indeed serve to "extend" us into territories previously unexplored and unconsidered.

I'll leave you with these pictures from the Opening Reception. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Installing Without_Within

This weekend I traveled back up to Andover Newton Theological School to begin installing my exhibition, Without_Within, in the Sarly Gallery, which opens this Wednesday. I was anxious to see just how well all my measurements and renderings would hold up against the real space since I was forced to conceive of the site specific projection mapping and installation pieces 190 miles away without access to the site they would inhabit.


I began by installing what I thought would be the easiest part: my installation piece .windows/Sarly, which consists of theater gels and plexiglass in the wall of windows, transforming it into a stained glass mosaic reminiscent of giant pixels. A few days prior I was able to pick up the special ordered gels from the 4Wall Entertainment warehouse in North Jersey (which I highly recommend if you're looking for theater equipment. Remarkable service and very helpful staff)

Squeegee, spray bottle, and electrical tape in hand, I began adhering them to the windows.

I used a solution of water and dish detergent to create a suction cling, then reinforced it with some very uncooperative electrical tape at the edges. It only took about 17 windows until I figured out a system that worked well!

Viewable from outside and from inside, depending on the time of day and lighting conditions

I wanted also to blend colors, playing with complementary colors that negate out to gray, or unexpected color combinations, so I used plexiglass panels and gels to create layers.

color blending

...Amounting to this!... except what's that on the floor?

Drat. The Velcro I used apparently does not hold up to temperature changes well, and the cold outside had caused it to come unstuck and my purple plexi to take a nosedive. (Interestingly, in keeping with the theme of interiority-exteriority, the plexiglass panels themselves respond to the temperature difference between the inside and outside, warping slightly in the direction of the colder region). I reinforced the inflexible velcro with electrical tape, which... also didn't work. I upped it to Gorilla tape and it seemed we were good to go at that point.

Next, on to what I expected to take majority of the time and have the most hurdles to overcome.

Hurdle 1: the Wall

Problem: I needed to mount my projectors high on a wall into which I could not make any holes. It only had only a picture rail and hooks for hanging 2D pieces. I got some of the appropriate picture rail hooks and modified them to attach to my projector mounts. The trick was that the hooks would cause the projector to tip downward and eventually fall off. So I braced against that torque withs oem shelf brackets that would hopefully help it stay level, and hoped that my measurements were accurate enough to fit snugly to the actual rail and wall.

The real test was to see if it would translate in reality. Thankfully it did!

And so I began mounting what would end up being a ridiculously complex layout of wall mounted paraphernalia...

Shelf for the Mac Mini, 2 projectors, and a box to hold a surge protector and the extra coils of various cables

Hurdle 2: Projecting

Now to make sure that the projectors would actually work in their new wall-mounted locations and allow me to project into the frosted windows...

As you may remember, this is what I was hoping would happen...

And much to my relief, this is what happened!
 My meticulous measurements and mockups paid off, and I was able to line up the projectors with very little difficulty! Phew, big sigh of relief there.

13 hours of install down, time to go to bed and continue in the morning.


On the second day my first task was the one I was most nervous about in my long distance planning. The interactive part of my project would map the space of the gallery into interactive zones, and translate what happens in those zones into imagery in the frosted windows recessed into the wall.

translating the measurements for the physical windows into pixels pixels so that the projection lines up with the physical windows it will be projected onto.

planning out the interactive zones in front of the windows and how they display in the projected window imagery.

translating all that into code for the Processing sketch that controls the project
 Hurdle 3: Dual Projection Mapping

The next challenge, once the imagery was set and the space was mapped out in the program, was to get it to project into the windows and get both projectors synchronized (one program on one computer controlling two projectors side by side to cover the winder space)

measuring out the parameters of the real space and adjusting my code accordingly 
lining up the projection and masking off the spaces between the windows
This was tricky only for very stupid reasons; Apple does not let you remove the menu bar unless an application is running full screen, but the Processing sketch would not stretch across two screens in fullscreen mode. So I found a program that would hack and dim the menu bar, coloring it black. However then the two screens were out of alignment because one of them ended up with 10 pixels or so of dead space on top and the other didn't. I also was installing this on a Mac Mini that did not have Illustrator, which I needed to use to create the mask for the windows. So I used my Macbook, which has Illustrator installed (and different multi-display resolutions and outputs) and then transferred over to the Mini via USB stick and recalibrated.

view from the outside

In each window there is a different composition of overlaid, semi-transparent colored renderings of the various interactive zones. Each image is then repeated as if in infinite regress toward a vanishing point, giving yet another layer of digitized, perspectival interiority to go with the theme of the show.

My ladder "interacting" 

Hurdle 4: Wiring

The last step was simply to figure out all the wiring issues, tidy up the place, and then hang some 2-D works.

Problem: There was only one outlet within reach just outside the room, and I needed the Kinect and projectors in very specific locations at the other ends of the room. I had to coordinate the lengths of power cords, VGA cables, USB extensions, Kinect cables, and extension cords to reach from the location of the Kinect in the back left corner of the room to the projectors on the wall, and then to the outlet. 

I was pleasantly surprised to discover another outlet that would at least save me going over and around the floor-to-ceiling doorway at the entrance. That shortened a 40 foot extension cord to a 20 footer.

The picture rail actually came in handy here, as I could hook rings to the rail to feed the wire through.

A walkthrough following my trail of wiring

With all that said and done, I hung the 2-D works and adjusted the lighting, and Voila!

Meditation 1.1 (Thusness, Elseness, Omnipresent) hung outside the entryway
Cosmos on Gray 1/0 and 3/0 hung on the wall opposite the projections

light projected out through the window into the courtyard at night

view from outside

Inside view of projection during daylight

inside view of projection during night

Video of me interacting with the projection a bit. Better footage to come soon, but this is a teaser

 With that, the installation is complete, and I eagerly await the opening this Wednesday night! I'll be sure to share photos of the opening with some of my more philosophical musings on the project now that it's all up.