It Cannot Be Trivial

Moment Study

June 10th, 2010 by Michael Branson Smith · 2 Comments

Moment Study – 'The Past'

Moment Study – "The Past" , 1997

In the summer of 1996 I was returning from Lake Lanier in Georgia where the Olympic Rowing Trials for the 1996 Olympics were hosted. I had competed in the single scull, finishing 7th,  after disappointingly not making a two person boat which had a real shot at making the US Team. It had been a year of training full-time and struggling to make ends meet.

It had also been a third straight year of drastic change since college. A year of studying for a Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Chicago, was followed by a year of pursuing an M.F.A. in fine art at Tufts University, and then the rowing. I was emotionally spent and did not know what to do next.

I decided to work full-time for a moving company that I’d worked for part-time while in art school. Moving furniture was about the only thing I was comfortable doing, there was no career choice involved, not a lot of thinking, just humping heavy objects around. Each day ended with a call to the office to find out if there was work the next day and what time you were to start. Days would start usually at 6AM and finish whenever you were done getting everything off the truck – 3PM, 5PM, even 8PM – exhausting.

Moment Study – Whenever I Sit Down My Knees Will Hurt

Moment Study – Whenever I Sit Down My Knees Will Hurt , 1997

In the year that I was a full-time mover, I made the choice to finish art school. And I would commit to art school completely, leaving behind chemistry and rowing. I sold my boat and bought my first Mac with the money. This way I could work on projects at home.

The two “Moment Study” pieces were an effort to reconcile these different paths chosen and to “measure” what happened.

Moment Study – Whenever I Sit Down My Knees Will Hurt, is a vectorization of a video still of two men trying to bend steel bars behind their heads for the “World’s Strongest Man” contest in the 1980s. This vectorized image has a lot visual similarity to the print outs from various spectroscopy used to identify the composition of chemical compounds. When working with spectra, identifiable peaks at specific moments are signatures of parts of compounds. I used this process to identify “peaks” as memories and moments.

Moment Study – “The Past”, uses similar techniques to look at a drawing of a spectra. Certain parts of the spectra were exploded to a higher resolution and different vectorization techniques used to attempt to find more information. Both prints were manually fed through a large format inkjet printer numerous times to layer the images on top of drawings and collage. As a process I’d liken it to feeding a chemical compound through some spectrometer at different points in a reaction.

Tags: Collage · Print

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