Moving stillness

Waterbugs and drawing machines at SPACE and the ICA
By IAN PAIGE  |  September 5, 2007
FACTORY FLOOR: Brian DeRosia's

Brian DeRosia explores alternative modes of image production with a gallery presentation as unique as his process. A complex of plywood platforms stretch out over the large gallery in the Institute of Contemporary Art at the Maine College of Art, intimating the thoroughfares and passing billboards that, in part, created these works based on varying methods of travel. There’s also a resemblance to an assembly line, echoing the automation inherent in DeRosia’s practice of constructing drawing machines to perform a sort of causal cartography. Viewers are led through this mapped-out territory, becoming aware of their own movement as they peruse the work.

The drawing machines are simple wooden instruments that use movement to sketch one-of-a-kind images. Something about the light ink lines retains a fleeting mark of human activity. “Machine #6” features a weighted pendulum that skitters all over the box where the paper is placed. “Machine #4” utilizes a track system that creates pieces with tighter lines, often more parallel, like a seismograph.

The hand is freed from its role in the artmaking process, leaving both hands on the wheel so the artist can focus on other things, like driving. DeRosia loads a machine into the back of his car and undertakes a daily rigor of mapping out his commute. Each result is stamped with the itinerary (“Meredith, NH to Portland, ME”), the date, and duration — it’s more of a journal entry than a map. The machines create results that are representative without being representational.

“Anthromorph” | at the Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art, in Portland | through Oct 7 | Reception 5-8 pm September 7 | Artist talks at 12:30 pm September 9, 13, 20, and 27 | 207.879.5742
“New Installations + Projections” | at SPACE Gallery, in Portland | Through September 27 | Reception 5-8 pm September 7 | 207.828.5600
A feedback loop begins to emerge, as patterns of travel create more layers of exploration. Different machines are constructed and shipped through he mail or fit into the artist’s backpack as he traverses city streets. Multi-colored grids accompany directions for a car on Portland streets. As DeRosia moves around the peninsula over the course of a week, each day is represented by a new layer of color and compiled into a tight grid of right angles tempered with varying sizes of ink blots, presumably formed by the pen holding still at stop lights and signs. When the city grid or highway map dictates our movement, we can reclaim our experience through a conscious mapping of that energy, which in turn fuels our future movements and brings us into the present moment.

Ling-Wen Tsai and Nathan Kolosko’s collaborative video at SPACE Gallery coaxes the same level of mindfulness from standing still instead of moving. In this projection, the camera remains fixed on undulating waves of water and their pinprick reflections. The work evokes the rare but rapturous moment of looking at one spot and seeing the world, or closing your eyes and hearing an entire universe.

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