Erik Sanner Home Visual Other About

a little dose of reality

my artimini piece went through several experimental stages today, here's a phase that didn't really fit what was in my imagination

bigger don't-pinch-me-i'm-not-dreaming feeling when i noticed some little plants growing in my sink

bit the bullet

got the friggin' tools. yes they made my work more accurate. but i felt like a monkey in class. i know that doesn't make any sense, i was just carrying out the assignments before, but the sensation was still drawing, not circus animal training. the knowledge, i'll get the knowledge, it will all be worth it...


well, good one to have. basically, big projects (one unique thing, or few big unique things) or mass-distribution (limited or unlimited editions) - yeah, this keeps coming up, sometimes there's a way to make it both, is that always the case?

anyway, chess feels on the big side, more location hunting this evening, found two strong candidates, both at pier 84.


plus. occured to me late this morning, hey i can use the t-square with the straight edge - and also just do freehand drawing - either/both in class or outside of class. there are a lot more than three and a half hours in a week, a month, a year, a decade - this is ten classes, seven to go, probably best to do things teacher's way then, my way outside.

the other, was thinking "hey if you want straight lines, why wouldn't you do it on a computer?"

you would.


my perspective drawing class teacher thinks we should use tools and do things as precisely as possible. personally i just want to understand the concepts. if you want a straight line, wouldn't you use a computer? but i might bite the bullet and buy a t-square and a straight-edge and a triangle before next class. there are things i'm probably not quite getting. but it got me excited, to challenge myself, to stay man pre-machine. there is a reasonably large emotional distance between us, that would be reduced (if i weren't resentful of course). and my work won't look like the dog did it compared to the rest of the class. so those gulfs would be lessened. but what about the distance between your potential and what you're achieving right now? only two classes in, really, he didn't want us drawing the first one, my lines feel straighter, no practice, so that's maybe five or six hours of work, and i'm getting it. if i resort to pushpins and stainless steel rulers, i'll feel like - i'm not drawing. it would feel like making a model, i think.

maybe the question in this case (education not artmaking) is "how will i learn more?" by doing what teacher says and teacher wants and following teacher's methods? or saying "no, i didn't sign up for this class to become a tool-wielder, i want to understand the theory and just make my freehand drawing better, if i'm using a paper napkin at the airport and want to sketch something quickly, what good will that tool-mastery do me?"


mysterious indeed are the ways of john. and mysterious indeed are the outputs of flash.

oh, maybe if you understand what you're doing - no, i think for everyone, it's a surprise, any programming at all, just a few lines of code and you miss something completely obvious. a way of life for a lot of people i guess.

back in the day, i never would have asked for help. today, i believe that there are people who love doing this. and i'm doing what i can, right? to contribute? am i? to the world and the borg and society and friends and neighbors and the history of art? i don't know what else i can do, than keep pushing on, trying to envision and birth ever-more-ambitious works. take that as your starting point, and it becomes obvious, better get used to asking more and more people for help.

is there shame in it? am i lazy for not wanting to be mr. super-duper actionscript master? i don't think so. it really surprised me when i learned about studios back in the day, about painters delegating large swaths of their paintings to apprentices. now i look at any enterprise and that's how the big, successful ones seem to function. you have a movie director or producer, whoever you want to say calls the shots, let's stick to director because those are the people i care about, and then it's all figuring out how to persuade other people to get that movie out of your head and into the world, where it is sucked in by a potentially infinite number of heads (until we become the borg).

so, some mysteries, it's nice to know a pro you can say "i don't get it" and they might help you. some mysteries you want to face alone maybe. frankly i can't think of any right now. exploring mysteries is huge right? what we all can do, what our species has done, basically - look at it, not comprehend it, figure it out, uh oh, all of a sudden yeah we're into pandora's box? frankly this is simple, compared to what i'm talking about. a joke.

let's see if i still feel like this in a couple days. right now i'm saying "this is simple" and "i made a few beginner errors" and "with minimal guidance or web-tutorial hunting by friday this should be doing everything i want it to, programming phase of chess project will be complete." at the moment, the mystery seems more like "where exactly is this door
sticking?" and it's just a matter of raising the hinges or sanding down the bottom or the floor or whatever - still work, but not profound, right? just work.

the view from here

when is a cone not a cone? let's say you look at it from above. those traffic cones would look like squares, basically, with circles in the middle.

when do you feel like a pawn? probably if it's your first time ever on a giant chessboard, human-scale, you'd feel like that.

either way, you'd encounter something which is never directly beneath you in everyday walking-around life.

those are two of the artmini ideas which i want to try, and hopefully it will become obvious that i should pursue one of them and not the other.

right now, i'm leaning towards the cone.


current state of my artmini piece (keep changing mind about what i want to do, but at least now i have the capability to start trying things out and see what they look like instead of just imagining):

and saw this drive which has a display, speculated that the existence of such a device might help the kisokaido piece be light and portable and achievable, if use small digital camera with stills or short video clips and then upload say five gigs worth of memory cards each night:

not that i'm committing to using a tiny camera, but certainly a feasible approach. and glad the possibility exists.

speaking of small, light cameras, also got a waterproof case for it.


what's good is that i was given a brief, informative, inspiring tour of the hudson hotel today. i would love to do something there, chess or something else.

aside from that, however, it was a day when i felt imprisoned by my own mind and my all-too-habitual thought patterns. between artmini options, moving-paintingness, collaborating with christine, finding places to show chess, a not-yet-public project eating at me, spring planting, summer whatever, and of course the looming massive kisokaido, i felt more confused than exhilerated.

penned-in rather than freethinking, the sort of day you hope you can put behind you by the next one.

location hunting

sometimes people ask me how i come up with projects, or how they evolve. it's always different, and i say that, and then they say yeah, but do i find the space first, or have an idea and then decide to make a piece, and then it gets a little awkward when i give an example of something i'm working on, because then it's a thing of "but i don't understand how you came up with that." so, one of the purposes of this blog, probably the main purpose, is if you're curious about how my work gets made, this should be tracking it.

where ideas come from and how thoughts make themselves known to our consciousness is one of the more basic everyday things i believe most of us have no clue about. and i pay a lot of attention to a sort of "inner voice" - any hint of a desire, if it seems to repeat itself, i'll follow instinct or intuition, and just believe that some part of me knows what it wants to do, what i'm going to want to do really, and that has really made my life feel more authentic. the more i try to figure out what i really want to do (and again part of this goes back to friendship, a long long time ago i had just a few conversations with michael, and he said, repeatedly, in a very memorable tone of voice, bluntly, "what do you want to do?") the more capable i seem to become at doing things, and the more passionate i am about my work, and the more other people seem to want to step up and help me. and sometimes i really need a hand, and it's an amazing feeling to have a friend say "yes, i'd love to help you tape and stack boxes" or "is there anything i can do?" but what triggers the impulse, it's very mysterious and i don't know. sometimes you can come up with airtight rationale in hindsight, but it's hard to believe that was the reason.

one of the triggers for chess was wandering around at night and seeing this handball court.

similar feeling to genesis of unfulfilled, this big blank canvas that so clearly wants video art on it.
and during this project, incidentally, i met the wife of a man who organized a film festival to be shown on that wall, but it was cancelled - anyway, i'm not the first to feel the call of the handball court on 10th avenue at 48th street, that's for sure. this surface wants to support art. given that there are chess tables nearby, the chess project seemed to fit, this actually goes way way back, i can't quite piece the timing together clearly, but it has to do with my earliest thoughts about collaboration. if you wanted to make a painting with another person, what are some of the ways you could regulate it? brush size, sure. same amount of paint, whatever. the chess timeclock came to mind. i always enjoyed the precise fairness of chess. same number of pieces, same amount of time, who goes first is subject to chance - level playing field right?

anyway now i'm deep into chess and there has been a development or a stall depending on your point of view. my goal is to always get the work more distilled, to really make it the thing that seems to make it the most it it can be, if that makes any sense at all. thats a goal, anyway, an aspiration. make things that have integrity and somehow express the core of what they are. now, the recent body of work i've been engaged in making, as a whole, for a few years, i began to thin
k of as moving paintings. whether they are or not is an argument in progress, between myself, olun, maybe other people, i can't tell, certainly internally, i have it every day, in this pre-nanotech crude undeveloped world of ours, without paint that actually moves, are these video-projections-on-pigment really moving paintings? can they really be thought of like that? ok so one thing that was driven home to me recently was the harder definition of painting as opposed to say drawing or photography or collage. i tend to very inclusive definitions sometimes, so a painting has been color arranged on a two-dimensional plane. what about photography? what about drawing? then you get into pigment and brush, right? and so, i want to make more painterly paintings. all of a sudden this call-of-the-handball-court and the commitment to doing chess in the park, and the painting is all there, it's this projection i need to make, is not something i can just do, just like that. a projection on a handball court would feel like video art. it wouldn't feel like a painting. and it wouldn't feel very much like chess or rules either, which are important. but what i really want to do, i want to project onto a black-and-white grid, with grey on either side of the square section. yes, that will look very chessy and very interesting and very beautiful, i hope, i believe. and anyway, that's what i want to do, even if it's boring or ugly to someone.

does the handball court still make sense? unlikely i can get permission to paint on it. hang panels? drape with fabric? hours of nervous thinking. the big one lately has been "what if it rains?" i have this fear of my laptop and projector getting wet, and that's it, no more art for the evening, folks. nightmare. so, re-evaluating, yes, there's probably a way to do this thing at that site. but is that site so important? i'm starting to think no, that's not the most important thing. the way the paintings were made, and the actual construction of the actual piece, that's what important. actually i believe that once complete it can be shown pretty much anywhere in the world. electricity and lack of water pouring onto the equipment would be prerequisites, but otherwise i can conceive of a limited edition of sixty-four new media installations.

so starting with the first one, back to hell's kitchen, to the birth of these paintings, and now i'm looking for somewhere to show. so yes this piece started off in a way because of a location which was calling for art, not just to me. but now the piece just wants to get out of my head and studio and computer and do it's i'm-art-look-at-me thing. i think. i believe.

here's hell's kitchen:

hell's kitchen park isn't on that map, but it's pretty much dead-center. some other parks are listed

but does it even need to be a park? somewhere it can be up for longer than a night, maybe a month, wouldn't that be better? and somewhere the rain doesn't fall on the laptop, that would be nice, too. maybe project through a window onto a big painting, or maybe do something translucent hanging in a window and the projector is deeper in the building - so, yeah, looking for that place.

some initial thoughts today:

this hospital might be great. not on
ly do they host the community board meetings:
but one of my nieces was born there. could project from inside through that center window. already chess-grid pattern.

one drawback, view from across the street not so great during leafy seasons.

hudson hotel is nice and dark inside, with lots of beautiful spaces, but it's not super-public. would be a great space for something.

time warner center - well, there are a lot of great windows, that's for sure. and it's nearby. but it doesn't feel like hell's kitchen. and i bet they really just want advertisers. but i can approach them.

anyway this isn't list-narrowing time, it's consider-some-options time, and if i still feel that
roosevelt hospital makes more sense than the handball court at hell's kitchen park on sunday, might be time to change the plan and figure out who to talk to.

one advantage of wandering around looking for a good place to show chess is the opportunity to view traffic cones i wouldn't otherwise encounter. (with these, it's all about the surroudings, the colors and textures and materials that are distinctly not orange and plastic.)

to close, here's a self portrait, with cone. goodnight.

time is a finite resource

even when we live forever, every moment will be emailing-not-painting or eating-not-walking or...

can't do everything.

progress report


second perspective drawing class (of ten):

bonus = walked around the block on break and happened upon this faded albino cone (looks a little bit like it was manufactured in a deep subterranean pit where cones are slowly grown from a combination of accretive mineral deposits and patient funghi):


technology has spawned reproduction. and vice-versa. right? never easy to come to grips with "limited editions." (me anyway.)

chess was going to be a site-specific one-time thing. now i'm thinking there will be a limited edition of sixty-four different new-media installations and an unlimited edition of something or other. (the first is very clear in my head, how they'll differ, how they'll be made, what they'll look like.)

all day i've been thinking about limitations - this "limited edition" thing has bugged me for a long time. hard to see the value in limiting dvds or vhs tapes (back in the day) - what, is each one lovingly hand-pressed by the artist? but other limitations you want them, you need them - if nothing else, so that a project gets defined, and you can move on, after it comes to a sort of conclusion or completion.

i think i'll have an open studio, and show an example of the chess limited edition, and maybe by then, have some further development on what an unlimited edition chess piece will consist of or be.

matthew and i wanted to skype for longer than thirty minutes last night, but there wasn't time - i couldn't invite as many people to paint on chessboards in the park as i wanted to, you need permits for groups larger than twenty, and i didn't want to do more than sixty-four boards (yes, the wetwork is now done, it's on to editing and programming, plus the other physical bits still being worked out).

there is a choice you have to make, a big one, as an artist. prolificity. maybe it's not conscious, maybe you don't do the authentic thing coming from you, but it's there, you have to face it. when i first got to know greg a bit, he was saying that if he had to start his career all over again, he would rather be like vermeer and have a small body of work which is all fully realized than explore different ideas and produce so many large canvasses. but i wonder if his personal breakthroughs could have been achieved without all that other painting, leading to it.

you can say that anyone's entire life's work is a limited edition of one, a single body of work. there will only be as much as you do. why would you want to do less than what you are capable of? no need for artificial limitations, there are plenty of external constraints. what can you do, within the limits of this universe?

kisokaido = moving?

so the argument for video earlier was basically "hey you could record a lot of what you see." and this was reinforced last night when i saw a woman, a well-dressed together-looking middle-aged professional-looking woman walking swiftly in high heels turn her head and emit a powerful stream of vomit into the street, in midtown. wow. ok so then another one does the same thing, maybe five seconds later. both barely pause, just keep on going. would you want to see that?

but the tension between the still and the moving. if i say "hey this one cone near tastes like chicken looks like it's bleeding"

if that's video, what's the advantage, camera movement from unsteady hand?

these cones in a garden by the boat basin, do you want to see the flowers moving in the breeze?

this looks like - well, it's a water balloon.

but you don't get the weirdness of how frequently, having met him, i keep running into david, or the largeness of the splash, that this is all happening at jack the pelican...

matthew and i just skyped, we were talking about lessening our loads, no computer, no video camera, i never used to take a camera travelling ever, just wanted to experience things directly and maybe remember them in the future...

so is writing the answer? this water balloon image, i actually have a nice video clip of it, but it's the sort of thing where all of a sudden you're influencing events, would it have been as theatrical without being documented?

isn't writing, umm, sort of, ummm... ok so i've been doing a lot of visual art. right? and visual art, anyone can more-or-less immediately experience it, right? different time periods, different geographies, different cultural backgrounds, we can still, most of us, most places on the planet, see the same thing, pretty quickly. writing, not so much.

accept video and that's what it's going to be, video? equipment, and time-consuming nature of production? maybe matthew is writing something and i'm doing a video something and the only collaboration is that we're walking? no, that sounds very wrong.

ok, so thinking, many more days to solve dilemmas or find what it is that we want to do. but moving pictures, moving prints, moving paintings, straight video - seems like i won't be able to avoid it? (traffic cones of the kisokaido?)

still conveys fine that "huh?" when you stumble across bread and milk on an industrial building shuttered windowsill.

but not the blinking of the lizard on the man's head, next to you on the subway bench.

combinations? focus more on movement or stillness?

what do you really want to do?

what did hiroshige really want to do?

all this was just maybe two hours of walking today, we're going to be doing more like eight...

there are no rules for this sort of thing, are there. our lives, we pretty much make them up as we go along. our art, it's arbitrary. you can take from tradition, you can give to tradition, but you're going to be confronted, over and over, with very fundamental decisions, about what you want to do.

and before they're decisions, they're vague unsettling notions...

eva and wes

sibling rivalry/cooperation

that moment

camera set up in a room with a lot of color.

yet the working-space was very black-and-white friendly.

later on was surprised to find a painting trying to escape the board, but still remaining true to its two-dimensionality.

nothing, though, will stick in my memory like that one moment. no picture, but the feeling you get, when you're making tea, and you look over at your desk, and someone is painting on your chair - that's a really unique and interesting and unusual moment. i don't know what prepares you for that in your life. it's the sort of thing that makes you think "hey, it's not even noon, and this project isn't completed by a month or two, but what else do you want to experience?"

every project is packed full of those moments, where something happens that maybe no one will ever know about, but it impacts everything, i think. the rest of my life will now occur with that memory, of that moment. i think it will make a difference.

au revoir

one thing that came up this morning is this idea that one of the things people think might be hard about being an artist is saying bye-bye to your work when it leaves your studio and goes out into the world. i have met people who claim to want to be artists but say they can't bear to sell their paintings.

there are several crucial benefits to having other people or institutions collect your work. one of those is the idea that this will cement your relationship with another person. some very good friends of mine also share the dual role as patron. if they burnt my paintings on a whim it wouldn't affect our friendship - we are friends. other collectors, maybe i don't know them that well.
i can't call them and say "hey, you're remodelling? can i come and do a new-media installation in your living room, and destroy your wall, and spend a week wandering around your home in a daze trying to figure out what art piece i want to create in this ephemeral space?" but since my work is with them, in a way you can say that we have a relationship. it's not necessarily "friend." it's not "well, we're all going to become the borg, so we might as well start trying to meet everyone on the planet (even if that's not our natural inclination) and all get to know each other really well because we're going to be increasingly intimate with everybody all the time." what is it? it's a relationship. and that specific relationship can't exist if you're not willing to let go of what you create.

another one has to do with what art is. vineel and i used to argue about making some perfect imaginary thing in a cave somewhere. this is college i think, old old conversation. but art doesn't exist if it's not shared between maker and viewer. i'm not saying the audience can't participate in the creation of work, but i don't believe that art which exists in solitude is art. i'm sure somebody out there can make a compelling argument for art forms which you pursue by yourself for yourself, but i'm sure i could come back with an argument that whatever hypothetical act that would be, it wouldn't be art. it might be related to the artistic impulse, it might be creative, or allow the imagination to play an active role, but it wouldn't be art.

so, as i bid adieu to these pieces, i'm thinking hard about what it is we all wan
t, what it is i want, who we are, who i am, what is going to happen.

we're going to stay in touch. forever. i'm going to keep making art, there's nothing i want to do more than that in this universe. and i'm going to hang up my laundry and take a shower. just keeping things real.

untitled, 24" x 24", egg tempera, pvc glue, acrylic gesso, canvas, and oil paint on canvas, 2001

untitled, 12" x 16", oil on untreated canvas, 2002


david hockney isn't one of those people i think about every day. maybe once a month. i'm a fan, but he's not on my mind in the same way that dekoonig or rothko are.

some years ago, there was a [grand] [massive] [killer] [stellar] [awesome] [enlightening] [inspiring] retrospective of his work in tokyo (probably travelled from somewhere else, don't remember). this is in the late nineties. anyway, i picked up his autobiography, and opened it to some random page, and a sentence jumped out at me. (please do not let me know this was on the back cover, let's keep my memory pure and unpolluted even if it's wrong.) he said something about having completed (or undertaken) his education in public. and this got me very excited - it wasn't about what i knew or didn't know or could or couldn't do, it was about going ahead and trying to expand the things that i can in fact do. john ronsheim taught me that you sing to learn, not to show off. this was a pointed reminder that engaging in artmaking need not be confused with virtuosity, skill, craft, talent, but is a pursuit. you can only chase and search and hunt.

so that thought, educating myself in public, became sort of an inner mantra. it's ok that my pieces aren't as skillfully executed as they might be. are they getting better? is the work getting stronger? as long as i'm comfortable that progress is being made, then i want to keep pushing on.

ray says that one trend we can start to accept is that ever-increasing amounts of time in our professional activities will be spent learning.

privacy is over. we're all getting increasingly public educations.


i adore this postcard.

thank you. found it
particularly auspicious that this confusing thing met me a few minutes prior to the first session of the as-yet-unnamed inquiry into the purpose or function of art.

and very much enjoyed that as a few of us gathered at cafe forant to face a big question, a tree branch fell. read this as an encouraging omen, nature offering a bit of herself as both raw material and inspirational art fodder. so, here we have a contemporary "flower arrangement" - back in the day you wouldn't have seen two plastic cups, with a tree branch, and a plastic straw, and ice, right? very ephemeral, and the wind made sure of that, art is not eternal and nothing is static in this universe.

a few points touched on this evening, without much detail or connection. progress was made, no summation seems appropriate. context is important; extracting the general from the particular (or expressing the particular through the general); exercising the imaginative faculty; evolutionary necessity; the phillistine nature of brute representation as a motivating force; concentrative zenness state; interhuman empathetic rubic device.


in so many ways, it's much nicer to imagine how things might be, then to drag them down into the muck of reality. of course, the reverse is possible too - you worry about how painful it will be to go shoe shopping, and all of a sudden, you're wearing sandals that feel like magic wind-funneling hiking slippers. ok a bit of a disconnect maybe between "i imagine making something but think when it becomes an actuality it might feel sullied" and "i dread this task which is actually quite pleasant" - but similar case of fear, procrastination, joyful acceptance of resulting reality once impetus has been acted upon and the universe has hopefully been improved. yes, we're all in the let's-make-things-better business, i think, at one level or another.

right, relevance to anything? chess. date. rain. permission. surface. rain dates? rain-or-shine and prepare for the worst?

so i had a very clear idea when i started the chess piece. about how tough it would be to actually do the paintings, to find people who were interested, how ugly they would all look, and then how easy it would be to actually show it. the paintings themselves are just components in the making of the piece, like movie props. the new-media installation is the result, a computer-processed video projection which always looks different, a moving painting, something you could stand in front of for five years without seeing the same combination of fluid images. piece of cake to sh
ow - since it was to be made near this massive handball court at a park around the corner from my place, just plug in the machines and let them do their thing - two hours later off, unplug, carry home, boom, done.

ah, those were the days. whenever that was. end of october.

so of course my imaginings = way off. yes it was easy to find willing painters. what they have done is by and large beautiful. yes it was fun to set up and take down that part. projecting onto that wall? that wall is white. clearer and clearer in my head is this image: the surface projected on must be painted. it must be an eight-by-eight black-and-white grid (like a chessboard) with rectangles on either side.

so now, how to do that, in public? hang panels from handball court? when it rains, just let my laptop and projector die? and so the easy part gets hard, after the hard part was easy. find an indoor space? painting was public, in the park, for the public, in the public park. public space in hell's kitchen? build a little canopy-structure and keep it up for a week?

in order for that "tentative" date to become solid, i need to figure out the real plan. in order to apply for a permit and make this happen, i need to commit to a real plan.

what is it good for?

still getting there. ("good" for?)

incidental / age of plastic

at first didn't really think these things were connected. and maybe they're not, chance of contrived-for-blog right? anyway i take a lot of pictures. downoad to desk machine frequently, often daily. habit.

one of the ways i think people can enjoy viewing traffic cones is by entering a heightened state of observation - if you're walking around looking at something, or for something, other things will jump out at you, things you wouldn't likely otherwise notice. i imagine birdwatchers experience this with trees and clouds and things. certainly in museums i've had the experience of noticing a particularly striking circuit box or other structural co
mponent not intended to be viewed aesthetically as part of the exhibit.

plastic? went to buy glacine, so i can stack the dry chess boards and they won't stick to each other and the paintings will be safe from dust. have been trying to figure out how to show chess, keeps changing a little bit. all of a sudden have been thinking that plastic might be a good solution.

this is a big change. i used to use the word plastic as an insult. plastic was bad, wood was good. now, very near the plastic seller and the glacine merchant was this traffic cone.

hey, traffic cones are plastic, i'm really into traffic cones, i've actually been pro-plastic for over a decade without realizing it. internalized but never aware.

so, if traffic cones are almost art, what about this?

and i think, i was born into the age of plastic? because this is a glass bottle and a metal can. i do remember those things. plastic already feels old, but when my mom and dad were little, did they have legos? tinkertoys would have been more likely.

so on the way to accomplish some of the more mundane tasks necessitated by artmaking (materials selection and purchasing in order to create and maintain work) i incidentally became aware that i am a plastic child born into a plastic time, through incidental traffic cone observation, and wanting to share that.

all of this somehow seems related to inquiries into the purpose of art, which has been on my mind, but goodnight.