Loose Narratives is the culminating body of work produced over the last ten weeks by our 2019 Summer Artists-In-Residence.
On the first day of my residency at Goggleworks Center for the Arts, the director of the program gave us a tour of the building. During the tour I learned about the history of the building and that it was a safety product manufacturing factory called Wilson Goggle Factory in the 1870s. The factory has been through a lot all these years and has been remodeled, renovated, and changed its name multiple times. At the end under the name Dalloz Safety Plant the factory closes, ending the campus’ 130 year history of manufacturing safety products.
Being surrounded by old safety products at the center’s museum I found myself thinking about safety and how the meaning of this loaded word is all arbitrary, relative, and flexible. What is safe for me versus another person with different ethnicity, gender, race, age, etc? I thought about how I feel much safer back home in my hometown, Tehran, Iran and how the idea of traveling to Iran (or anywhere in the Middle East) for most of my American friends might feel unsafe. I thought about how much safer I feel when I know a place, regardless of where it is located at. During the tour, I also learned that the Wilson Goggle Factory used to manufacture safety goggles for the military and I could not help but think about the fact that the US military has been invading the Middle East for decades under the name of ‘safety’ for Americans. For the past 10 weeks, I’ve been making works about the complicated and multi-layered meaning of safety. The works in this show are the products of my experience at Goggleworks Center for the Arts, Reading, PA.
I reimagine historically Jewish objects through the use of digital fabrication techniques. By using techniques such as 3D printing and laser cutting to create vessels, a dialogue is developed between the historical sources and modern technology. Digital fabrication techniques are processes that transform immaterial forms into physical objects. In doing so, they leave what is generally considered unwanted artifacts into the form. By magnifying these artifacts that each processes uniquely provides, the resulting vessels’ forms showcase each technology used to create it. This imparts conceptual layers of understanding to tools that are seen as “cutting edge.”
The delicate nature of my vessels is intentional. The rituals for which I make vessels are commonplace in a Jewish lifestyle. Some rituals are done multiple times a day. As we repeatedly partake in these rituals, they become mundane. My vessels force the user and the viewers to renew their focus while adding meaning to the ritual.
My work focuses on showing that 21st century technology and ceramic art are not mutually exclusive. Methods of rapid prototyping are closely associated with cutting edge technology and are assumed to be the opposite of or have no relation to art. My digitally fabricated objects prove the opposite.
Michael Siporin Levine
Using a mixture of observation and process, I create images with open-ended narratives, blending autobiography, history and invention. Personal experiences and human relationships I encounter on a day-to-day basis, provide the departure point for my work. By using daily activities as a departure point for narrative, I find metaphor, symbolism, and absurdity in the mundane, using reality to inform imagination.
Through technique and process, I allow an initial idea to change, abstract, and evolve. Although I use drawing as the foundation of my studio practice, my interest in letting the process inform my decision-making, has led me to use various printmaking techniques, collage, as well as video, animation, installation and performance. Working with and against a technique encourages my experimentation with the medium, allowing a greater opportunity for chance and discovery to play a role. Whether it is manipulating a digital video, charcoal drawing, or printmaking technique, I embrace the honesty, rawness, and personal quality of my hand in the art-making process.
In my most recent work, created during my residency at Goggle Works Center for the Arts, I incorporate imagery inspired by my time spent in Reading, PA this summer. As I developed imagery, I thought about human interactions with old factory spaces and our relationship to outdated technologies. A worker lies beneath a printing press as the light from an empty parking light streams through the large factory window at night; a repairman untangles a broken cassette tape amid a wall of VHS tapes. In these large scale prints I attempt to balance abstraction with figuration as I focus on formal relationships (color, shape, space, light) as well as narrative.
A special thanks to all the staff at GoggleWorks for this opportunity. I am grateful for the time to focus on my work and learn a little bit about the community here in Reading, PA.