Friday, November 27, 2009

Wayne Levin

"Floating Ziplock Bag"

"Fish Net Pyramid"

this is ridiculously cool and I want one.

The link above takes you to a blog post about "earthship" houses made out of recycled materials... tires, bottles, cans, etc. The houses are amazing :)

I think this image is also relevant to my project:

It reminds me of the aesthetic I have been using and the color of the light is beautiful.

Did: This week I don't think I have completed 6 full hours of work due to Thanksgiving... YUM. I participated in critique with the group from John & Elona's section and I also probably spent about 3 hours cutting and stringing plastic pieces.

Discovered: I have been planning on photographing the plastic bottles (from Sadashi) and the strands of plastic pieces in the pool on December 9th... I think I am going to need an insane amount of strands completed if I want it to look like any kind of environment at all...

Do: I need to start actively collecting materials... more plastic bottles, in more colors than just white or clear. I think I need to start raiding the container recycling bins in the school. I also think I am going to try and purchase the clear "bag-like" housing to test out using my Nikon underwater.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Did: Collecting, cutting and stringing plastic pieces (4 hrs)
Gathered bottles from Sadashi (1/2 hr)
Attended scuba club meeting (1.5 hrs)
Research - read Dive magazine (1 hr)
Meeting with Rec Sports to reserve pool (1.5 hrs)

Discovered: After talking with Stephanie, I decided that I needed to designate some space in my studio to hang up my current work from this project. That way I can evaluate it and really study it on the wall... I started to hang up a bunch of strands of plastic milk jug pieces. I am going to need a LOT more strands in order for me to fill up a part of the pool... I need to get into MAKING mode :)

My meetings this week were very productive... I had intended to do some more photography experiments in the pool on Wednesday, but then the Michigan Scuba Club had a meeting... Another student was speaking about his own underwater photography (he had a beautiful ikelite housing, suuuuper jealous). I'm hoping to talk with him further about my project and the equipment required. I think meeting other divers at Michigan could be very beneficial for me if I need others to help out with installations in the future.

I also met with my Rec Sports boss to talk about pool reservation times. We are setting up dates for me to use the pool from now until April. It looks like my first date will be December 9th. By that point I will need to have an installation ready to set up and shoot underwater... Just in time to edit some photos and show them at my December review.

List of potential dates:
Wednesday, December 9, 6:30pm-10:30pm - IMSB
Wednesday, January 13, 6:30pm-10:30pm - IMSB
Thursday, February 4, 8:00pm-10:00pm - NCRB
Friday, February 5, 8:00pm-10:00pm - NCRB
Thursday, February 18, 8:00pm-10:00pm - NCRB
Friday, February 19, 8:00pm-10:00pm - NCRB
Thursday, March 11, 8:00pm-10:00pm - NCRB
Friday, March 12, 8:00pm-10:00pm - NCRB
Thursday, March 25, 8:00pm-10:00pm - NCRB
Friday, March 26, 8:00pm-10:00pm - NCRB

I also found an article
called "Life in the Hidden Depths" in Dive Magazine that was relevant to my project. The author wrote, "In the final days of the expedition, we made a distressing discovery. One late afternoon while viewing hypnotic scenes from the ROV of a vast desert-like wilderness, we saw a landscape of trash scattered across the seafloor more than 2,000m down off the Philippine island of Simunul. The ROV's powerful lights lit up drink cans, foam cartons, plastic bags, biscuit wrappers, soap packages, and food tins. This inner space environment, where no human can survive nor has been before, bears the destructive evidence of our species."

Do: I need to keep stringing plastic pieces in order to complete a large-scale installation by December 9th. I am also going to start working on how to address the sides and bottom of the pool... I think I am going to buy fabric sheets to create a backdrop of some kind.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

grant writing week.

Did: collected and cut plastic (1.5 hrs)
networking, researching & setting up meetings (3 hrs)
prep for grant writing and drafting grant proposal (3 hrs)

printed photos & dropped off two images from my recent work at the Chelsea Center for the Arts for the show Hydrology (2 hrs)

Discovered/Accomplished: This week I spent much more time networking, talking to others, researching & grant writing instead of actually creating sculptures or images. I think all the things I did were useful so I don't feel by any means like it was an unproductive week. My Rec Sports boss has been helping me figure out how to reserve a pool. It looks like it is definitely possible and I am currently talking with her about the details. I am also meeting with a professor today who does research on corals for pharmaceutical properties. I would like to find out through him which other departments do work directly related to the ocean and whether there are any departments which currently utilize underwater photography equipment.

A few weeks ago I entered two of the images I have made into a call for art at the Chelsea Center for the Arts. The show is titled "Hydrology" so I thought my work would fit pretty well. This week I printed the images, framed them, and dropped them off. Although I don't think I want my final showing of images to be framed pieces, I think it will be interesting to see how they look in a gallery.
I have also found a few artists who are making very surreal work underwater... I don't know which I like more: Elena Kalis' images, or the fact that she has lived for the past ten years on a small island in the Bahamas with her husband and two children.

Kate also sent me a link to images of Philippe Ramette's work. Here are two of my favorites:I also felt that the group critiques this week were extremely beneficial. Two interesting concepts were brought to my attention...

Erica said that my images have a sense of tragedy, which I think is a great compliment. I like the idea that my work can be somewhat abstract, surreal, slightly unsettling, and tragic.

There was also a lot of discussion about the use of figures in the work, which I had been wanting feedback about. Some liked seeing humans and some didn't. The idea of incorporating text is an important part of this discussion because I think there are 2 different routes that I could follow with this work:

* The first would be creating a series of abstracted images without people (similar to the images of the plastic milk jug pieces). These images would be beautiful, but they would not be disturbing in any way... They might be strange, but not unsettling. The twist would be incorporating text. Throwing in facts about the plastic pollution, or descriptions about how it is affecting the environment, would change the context completely. John Marshall gave the example of Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ":
Without knowing the title, the image is actually beautiful... it glows. But once you read the text, you know that the crucifix is sitting in a container of the artist's urine, and your feelings towards the image completely changes.

*The second route I could take would be to incorporate humans and use them to create a series of images which gradually gets more unsettling over time. Not all of the images would have to include people. In this line of thinking about the project, text might take a backseat to the images... The images would drive the viewer's feelings about the work & the text would be supplemental rather than being the key element that changes the viewer's perception about the work.

Do: I need to get back into the process of making this week. I like going into the pool on Wednesday nights do do "mini experiments" for my larger installations. This week I wasn't able to do so because I was busy working on my grant writing and I didn't have time to make anything new to play with. I am also going to follow up with my plans to reserve the pool. Hopefully I can come up with a few solid dates where I know that I get the pool all to myself :D

Monday, November 9, 2009

Friday, November 6, 2009


Did: -collected & cut up plastic pieces (2-3hrs)
-contacted Rec Sports directors & looked up how much it costs to rent scuba tanks (1/2 hr)
-searched for more underwater photographers and potential grant opportunites (1.5 hrs)
-scanned important pages of Good Magazine's the Water Issue (1/2 hr)
-organized research into two main categories and listed quotes/research under those categories (1.5 hrs)
-photographed at the pool again (2 hrs)
-edited photos (1 hr)
-fell asleep in my studio (1 hr)

Discovered/accomplished: I think organizing my research was a really good step for me this week (look at the last 2 blog posts). It helped me rearrange all of my crazy thoughts surrounding what I am actually doing. I like the idea of viewing the plastic particles as "organisms". It actually makes sense the more you read about plastic in the environment... plus there has been more than one occasion where people have commented saying that the sculptures I am making look alive, they move like they are alive, some of them look like kelp/seaweed, they remind people of microscopic cells or bacteria...etc. I think the photographs this week were also really interesting. I am not sure yet whether people should be a part of my photographs, but I think the images I made this week are interesting. I would be interested to hear how people respond to them...

Do: After talking with Hannah, she suggested I try and contact professors/administrators here at U of M who may be working in areas relating to oceanography. They may have more information to give me about the problem, but they also may have underwater photography equipment that I could tap into... that would be amazing... I also need to see if I hear back about the possibility of reserving a pool to use for a larger scale installation. I want to keep adding to my list of quotes (2 posts ago) so that I have a wider variety of sources. I need to keep making. If I want to relate the scale of this problem I need a LOT of plastic.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

just keep swimming...

"large pieces of plastic can kill by entrapment, suffocation and drowning" - Algalita Marine Research Foundation

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

image inspiring words, words, words.

This is an attempt at organizing my research into the most critical elements and inspiring descriptions.

I need to relate the SHEER MASS (i.e. the amount of shit in our oceans):
Facts: 500 billion to a trillion plastic bags are used worldwide per year (National Geographic News).

"The detritus of human life is collecting in a swirling current so large that it defies precise measurement." - Lindsey Hoshaw (NY Times, 11.9.09)

"The scale of the phenomenon is astounding" - Charles Moore, founder of Algalita

"Sprawling mass" - Michelle Rindels AP Writer (

I need to explore the possible BEHAVIOR of this introduced, synthetic element into the ecosystem ( i.e.
it is eaten. it attracts chemicals in the water. it photodegrades/leaches into the water. it has a long life: 1,000 years to biodegrade. in what ways is it becoming its own organism within the environment? is it essentially an invasive species? what does it look like? how does it move?):

"Ironically, the debris is re-entering the oceans whence it came; the ancient plankton that once floated on Earth's primordial sea gave rise to the petroleum now being transformed into plastic polymers. That exhumed life, our
"civilized plankton," is, in effect, competing with its natural counterparts, as well as with those life forms that directly or indirectly feed on them" - Charles Moore, founder of Algalita.

"tangled in the green net of some nameless fisherman" - Michelle Rindels AP Writer

"plastic debris was floating everywhere: bottles, bottle caps, wrappers, fragments." - Charles Moore

"We were looking at a rich broth of minute sea creatures mixed with hundreds of colored plastic fragments." - Charles Moore

"transparent... organisms with colored plastic fragments in their bellies" - Charles Moore.

"most of the plastic looks like snowy confetti against the deep blue" - Michelle Rindels.

"the fragments look like confetti in the water" - Lindsey Hoshaw

"large pieces of plastic can kill by entrapment, suffocation and drowning" - Algalita Marine Research Foundation

"some floats, some swirls below the surface at various depths, and some has already sunk to the sea floor" - Algalita Marine Research Foundation

Sunday, November 1, 2009

revised timeline

I'm not sure if I needed to post this revised timeline or not, but here goes.

10.28: I want to take anything that I have made so far from the plastic milk jugs and/or the plastic bags and take them to the pool to photograph. Wednesday nights may be a good time to photograph at the NCRB. If that is true, I may use Wednesday nights as photography nights.

11.03-5: Consolidate research to the point where I have at least a tentative understanding of what I will be illustrating through my photographs… i.e. I would like a specific list of phrases that I am the most interested in using for inspiration. I also need to be continually making and adding to my plastic installations.

11.12: Grant proposals due.

11.17-19: Continue to MAKE things!! Complete an underwater photo shoot after making adjustments from what I learn during the Wednesday pool experiments. This photo shoot will involve more planning, including contacting pool directors and using Scuba equipment.

11.24-12.03: Begin thinking about and working on presentation.

12.15-16 December Review: Ultimately I would like to have one or two “completed” installations by December review. I want to have images from a larger scale underwater installation using my plastic sculptures. My research should be incorporated into the presentation and I need to clearly define which information is the most influential to the work I am making.