The project At Least there's an Avant Garde, You and I, (2009-10) was shot on the Galápagos islands and in the Galápagos landscape, itself a site permeated by romanticized 'natural' space, the constant flux of eco-tourism, the unlikely birthplace of post-Enlightenment science, and a topography that stubbornly resists such idealizations. In this multifaceted work I take on the persona of the isolated artist, working as an 'island,' creating a fragmented picture reminiscent of modernist accounts of the artist and his practice. Using video, text, and photography, I write "letters" back to a "home" that seems to exist in an indeterminate state of pre- or post- revolution. I see these "letters" as machinic devices use to ironize both the aesthetics and politics of the island encounter.
One digital video produced from this research has taken the form of a travel diary, echoing Melville's essay form. In this digital video, Perverse Surface (2009/2011, 8:40 min), shown in the University of Florida Harn Museum, and screened in Chicago at Nightingale Gallery, I trace the route of another travel writer - Herman Melville - through the Galápagos. In voice-over, a man reads a series of letters to his daughters, lovers, and friends; anachronistic shifts within the letters and the film-imagery suggest alternately the story of an exiled political essayist, a naturalist, a travel writer in the midst of a trip, or an early 20th century polemical artist.
Much like language, landscapes insist that they are continuous, seamless, and whole; my work has attempted to inscribe landscape, or place, as an interval, extending the seemingly singular "encounter" in multiple directions and temporalities. Throughout my work, I am interested in extending this specific geographic/historical moment into an exploration of modernist aesthetics and strategies, specifically through the use of the fragmented narrative of the lone artist ‒ the individual “writing from an island.” This singular figure is often contrasted in my work with current mythologies about collectivity and participation.
Perverse Surface from Wes Kline on Vimeo.