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Creative Research Lab

Plots and Schemes - April 2005

sculpture by Thomas

Beatrice Thomas
title, 2005

The senses are our primary devices in deciphering the world in which we live. It also comes as no surprise that many of our ways for interpreting sensory information have become nearly pre-programmed. In many cases, this is because our environments have been divested of a sense of place. In the case of shopping malls, universities, numerous public offices and the ever-popular big block stores, these environments are self-referential. They become their own universes of meaning. They lack site-specific socio-cultural characteristics of place, which can ground human experiences in time and space. When spaces become about predictable patterns and devoid of enriching nuances we lose vital material for stimulating the production of meaningful referential information. This can be subverted by changing the conventions (codes) used to interpret the world we live in. The enhancement of the senses, the adaptation of an environment for creating conditions to be experienced within the environment are all methods exhibited in my work, attempting to develop new ways of stimulating the senses and, ultimately, stimulating people to make more meanigful connections to their environments.

I am interested in the sets of relationships and the contact between humans and their environments (man-made or natural) and subsequent human interpretation of environmental experiences through the senses. Within such an interaction between human and environment a relationship develops. This relationship is responsible for communicating data about our surroundings and our place and placement within those surroundings. When that relationship becomes stale or predictable, we stop taking in new information and pay less attention to our environment. Our level of engagement drops and henceour level of care and concern. This is a sign that communication between humans and their environments has stopped.

My work explores methods of opening new lines of communication between humans and their environments through manipulating, creating and enhancing the perception of surface. Surfaces hold great opportunities for sensual communication. They are one of the most pervasive points of contact between humans and the world. The core issues addressed in my work are time, material and process. each of these elements is equally important and shares an integral relationship to perception and the environment.

the element of time stems from culturally rich time-based practices such as rug-making in the Navajo and Persian cultures. These practices stem from a practical need to cover the naked ground to keep warm but have developed into rich art-making traditions. When time invested in the making process is evident it enriches the perceptual qualities of the product and our relationship to it and the environments in which it exists.

The role materials play in our perception of the environment is often undervalued. In my piece "Surface Matter" material played a vital role in deepening my relationship to the environment. As I worked collecting, sorting and positioning each limb, the boundaries of my site expanded. I gradually became more familiar with the surrounding territory through the process of collecting. The perceptual payoffs of such a piece were only evident upon its completion and only possible through the process of creating.

In the case of my surface reading device, the process of wearing the device links the body to the hand. Two long copper wires located at the ends of the PVC pipe drag along the ground and translate this sound to the hard hat, which dramatically changes the way in which the wearer moves through the environment. The device also forces you to renegotiate your body in space through defined boundaries and balance via the extent and weight of the pole atop your head.

Future work will include the pursuit of more traditional hand-weaving textile techniques and the application of weaving on an architectural scale. I am currently working on a 1:1 scale woven structure inspired by "Moon House," an ancient Anasazi cave dwelling which I visited during my semester in the "Land Arts of the American West" program. With this piece I will investigate the representation of environmental conditions and the perceptual effects material and process will have on its form.