Artist Interventions: An Experiment in Science, Space, and Photography

By Julia Einstein
Assistant Director of Family and Studio Learning

This week’s Artist Interventions was designed by 2013 Portland Museum of Art Biennial: Piece Work artist Caleb Charland. On Friday, August 23, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., he’ll bring his science experiments in photography to the PMA.

The artist tests photographic materials—both traditional and unusual—and photographs his light and science demonstrations. This Intervention will be a preview of what visitors will see from Caleb’s work in the Biennial.

Caleb uses the computer screen as a telescope and his photographs of deep space are sourced from the Internet then printed, manipulated, and reproduced in large scale.

We met in the Maine College of Art (MECA) photography lab where Caleb is the current Media Technican & Artist-In-Residence to talk and to plan his upcoming Artist Intervention.

Tell us about your event on Friday.
I am interested in sharing a discovery. I was having a problem with a printer; it was not printing correctly. I tested out a DIY solution and placed the print head over a piece of paper towel soaked in an ammonia-based cleaner (Windex) and it worked to dissolve and clear the clogged ink. I was curious to see if this could have an influence on my printed images and I began a series of work where I dissolved images of deep space acquired from the Internet. The photograph I have in the Biennial is the result of months of these experiments.

In solving an everyday problem, you discovered something exciting.
Yes, and for the purpose of this Artist Intervention I wanted to invite visitors to the museum to assist in a live version of this process. Visitors will help create a unique work by applying my experimental solution to the surface of prints of various colors. And, there will be a video camera recording it all with a live feed to a high definition display monitor. As the colors dissolve and change and mix they will be displayed as a separate experience in the museum.

You choose a very specific location. Where? Why?
The event will take place in the Great Hall of the museum, in a place everyone passes by. Setting up within this high traffic area will attract participants. And, I’m hoping it will set us up for a possibly element of surprise as someone could watch the video and be surprised to discover it is being created right there, in the same space, and participate if they so desired.

I like that the audience participation is part of it. What are your expectations?
There is always an element of surprise in my practice, and I’ve learned that it is often the uncontrollable factors that really make a piece work.

Artist Interventions are made possible by the Peggy L. Osher Education Endowment at the Portland Museum of Art.

Media Sponsor: 94.9 WHOM

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