[-empyre-] Christina McPhee: Resolution for Digital Futures

Renate Ferro rtf9 at cornell.edu
Sun Feb 1 11:08:28 EST 2009

My new project in 2009 is Tesserae of Venus --  a science-fiction 
like study moving between fantasy and documentation,  in 
ink/watercolor drawings, photomontage and especially series of 
abstract experimental documentary films shot as single channel 
videos, like a concept album,  This project interprets 
energy-producing technological
landscapes in California as if they were saturated by the carbon 
atmosphere of Venus.  The videos will take place in remote central 
and southern California, at the edges of the urban environment, at 
oil fields, geothermal seismic system plants, and solar energy 
fields. the complex ecosystem/tech environment at the edges of urban 

I film a single person, myself or another, in a solo remote 
performance in spontaneous performance making a drawing like gesture 
inside a remote landscape environment. The shoots involve a poignant 
gesture or kairotic moment, which in urban slang now means, not only 
the 'perfect time or apt moment of luck,' but in a strange reversal 
also  "is used to express gayness or queerness or just to make fun of 
people who you don't  like as in "You are very kairotic" or  "go away 
you kairotic bastard" " (urbandictionary.com).

So somehow in these stressed, out of the way, even underimaged, 
presumably ugly topographies  -- bastard spaces i dream of salamander 
moves , tracking the slimey traces of petroleum, following the fire 
lizard into the fires. Fires of another kind- pulling up energy from 
heat near the mantle deep, heating water to steam pitch for
turbine drives-.    I  have been shooting since late 2006 at Ballona 
Wetlands in Los Angeles, the Salton Sea in Imperial County, 
California; the Sunset Midway oil fields near Taft, California in 
Kern County; and, in the near future, at new solar energy fields at 
the Carrizo Plain northwest of LA. In December I shot at San Ardo
oil fields in the upper Salinas Valley.  I am also now shooting in
the Salinas Valley, the "east of Eden" of Steinbeck's vision.
Yesterday I shot Pacific Gas and Electric substations in Soledad.
All of these sites are under intense pressure from the scramble to 
survive in a desperate economy, and the collapse of outlier  urban 
development. The desperate search for work  by migrants and the 
native poor-- the carlots loaded with cars no one can afford-- the 
spectacular panoramas of the mountains above the plains unchanged 
since preColumbian times-- these layers intersect and weave into a 
narrative of strange beauty and restless tensions, something wild at 
heart; the landscape takes
on an aspect of tracings or shimmerings at the edges as if the swoosh 
of the unpredictable goddess of beauty and desire sounds like the 
Doppler effect of passing frieght on the Union Pacific.

It's intriguing to push an extreme fantasy into this mix, by 
comparing them to Venus. In an allegorical-- or maybe, metanymic, 
sense , as a 'stand in' shorthand for the mysterious arrival of 
'Aphrodite-' love-- but also, carbon atmospheric saturation-- The 
slippage between our love of Earth and our desperate scramble to 
build new energy systems--
is there anything beautiful about carbon? Across multiple related 
sites, I want to say, these sites generate another kind of energy, an 
erotic or, better, kairotic energy.  Just to witness this as a 
process moving through every media, drawing to montage to print to 
video and back again--.


Bio: A moderator of -empyre-, Christina McPhee (US) was born in LA, 
studied at Kansas City Art Institute (BFA) and Boston University in 
painting (MFA), and later moved into cinematic media and photography 
as well. New exhibitions 2008/9 include Bucharest Biennial 3, twice 
upon a time at Galerie Andreas Huber, Vienna;
Bad Moon Rising at Boots Contemporary, Saint Louis, Pace Digital 
Gallery New York in April 2009 for 'Plazaville' with GH Hovagimyan 
and Artists Meeting;  Videoformes 2009 Clermont-Ferrand, France. 
"Tesserae of Venus" will debut at Silverman Gallery, San Francisco, 
in October 2009.  http://christinamcphee.net

Renate Ferro and Tim Murray
Co-Moderators, -empyre- a soft-skinned-space
Department of Art/ Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art
Cornell University

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