Erik Sanner Home Visual Other About

cone time

idea for a piece:

traffic cones seem to embody the stillness of a buddha in an always-changing world.  of course the cones themselves are moved around, mangled, and decay, but for the most part our daily experience of traffic cones is witnessing swiftly-moving traffic and clouds and rain while the traffic cone is a constant presence in a fixed location.

cone time will be a new media installation.  i will record video (or time-lapse photograph) a single cone (or arrangement of cones) in a landscape (once or multiple times – there could be several different landscapes with traffic cones, or one landscape with [a] traffic cone[s]).  i will make a painting (or paintings) of the same scene, emphasizing the bright orange of the traffic cone, with the other elements (e.g., street, sky) less-emphasized, less-saturated color (maybe even black-and-white).  i will write software which projects two different moments of time of the video of the cone.  one moment will just show the traffic cone.  it will be frozen in time.  perhaps somebody is walking by and has cast a shadow on the cone – the shadow will be static.  every minute or so, another moment will appear, also frozen.  the rest of the scene will show real time passing.  if someone walks by, you will see them, or their feet, or their shadow.  if a car drives by, you will see it.  the clouds moving, the sunlight changing.  but none of those things will affect the traffic cone, frozen in its own moment in time.  utterly still and not experiencing (or exhibiting) the passage of time the same way other elements of the scene (the sky, the people, the traffic) do.  the cone will show the stillness of cone time.


have been spending many hours in the studio.  haven't been blogging.  these are related.

before i knew about (or cared about or loved) painting, i listened to music.  (i played music too, but i think i was usually to nervous to love it.  too many mistakes, no real interest in the practicing necessary to achieve good technique, too much criticism following predictable underwhelming results...)  when i did begin to love painting, it was abstract art (kandinsky, rothko) that made the deepest impressions - the unfathomable mystery, not being able to comprehend what i was looking at, plus the simple encounter with "beauty" and "color" and "imagination."  i began to equate abstract art with music - not trying to represent anything, both exist as purely aesthetic phenomena.  (regardless of whether or not the artists were trying to communicate something, this is how i thought of the work, as little artificial universes constructed to confuse, baffle, overwhelm and excite people.)

the more i learned about painting, the more i wanted to paint.  however, the more i learned about painting, the less original my own work seemed.  and original or not, it seemed that only a very few people would ever care about my abstract paintings, no matter what.  i tried (and have been trying, for quite some time) to somehow integrate my desire to make abstract paintings into conceptual projects, with mixed results, both in terms of my own satisfaction with this-is-something-i-want-to-
be-doing, i can feel my art growing, and viewer response (this is interesting, this is beautiful, i like this, i understand this, i don't understand this, i'm glad i saw this, etc.).  however, even when i have an open studio, and somebody loves an old abstract painting i did, i don't feel great about that.  one of my goals is to utilize contemporary technology and techniques in my work.  it is certainly more challenging to make a "new" painting with oil paint and a brush on canvas.  regardless of whether or not i could meet that challenge, i want to find out what we can do with new ways of arranging colors.  for several years, i have wanted to make some abstract paintings using new techniques.  that is what i have finally begun to do.  and that is why i haven't been blogging.

i used to have a computer which lived only in my studio.  it died in september, and i haven't replaced it yet - my laptop now serves as my only machine, for video rendering, programming, blogging, email, etc.  one defect of my laptop is that it doesn't like to run an internet browser if adobe photoshop is open - the browser will crash.  since i've had a photoshop window open for over a week, i haven't blogged.  (i can do some things on my phone or on other computers, but it takes longer, and other things i just can't do.)  i think it could be a week or more before i want to close that photoshop window - hence this extra-long blog post, explaining what i'm up to these days.  why am i keeping a photoshop window open?  why don't i quit photoshop, do my internet stuff, then restart photoshop, as usual?

decided to do a series of improvisations.  each one will integrate additive and subtractive color during the making, and result in a new media installation projecting "painting" onto a painting.  began the first one (improvisation in yellow, blue and orange) on sunday, 21 march 2010.  realizing there are so many ways to approach this, decided on a few methodological constraints, which makes me want to try other procedures in future pieces after this one is complete.  for this initial piece, i decided:
- it would be a solo work (in the future, hope to do some collaborations);
- it would utilize one projector (as opposed to multiple projectors);
- the projection would be onto a flat surface (no building out into space);
- i would use only photoshop on the computer (not illustrator, no video);
- i would "paint" all of the projected imagery using only the paintbrush tool in photoshop (no photographs, no insertion of existing visuals, no copy/paste, no undo, no filters, etc.; basically getting as close as i can to "painting" in the digital world);
- i would paint all of the physical imagery (no collage);
- i would try to match the size of the physical paintbrush with the photoshop paintbrush (originally intended to use only a #6 boar-bristle brush and a 3-pixel photoshop brush, but began wanting to do smaller detail work, necessitating a much smaller sable brush and a 1-pixel photoshop brush);
- i would work on the physical painting or the projected "painting" whenever i felt inclined to = i'm not keeping track of time, i'm not working for strictly thirty minutes on the digital element and then painting for the next thirty minutes, i might spend two hours painting followed by forty-five minutes of "painting" in photoshop).

the first real hiccup i noticed is that the position of the video camera and the position of the projector means that significant glare from the projection onto wet paint is being recorded.  in one future improvision, that won't be a problem - i'll do the physical painting first, then the projection, which will let me wait until the painting is dry.  however, it might also be possible to project from a higher angle, that might eliminate all (or much) of the glare.

however, at present, i don't want to touch the setup.  right now, everything is lined up - the projector isn't moving, the tripod for the video camera is taped down, and the photoshop window is open on the monitor so that the edges of the canvas line up exactly with the digital image.  so that's what i'm working on and that's whay i haven't been blogging.  i want to keep that photoshop window lined up with the canvas, while i'm painting and "painting," until the piece is done.  i anticipated spending only maybe eight hours or so painting and "painting," but i realized not too long after starting that what i want to do will take a lot longer - so i'm going to keep working on it until i get it to where i want to be.  i've been taking some documentation pictures, which i'll be able to post whenever it's done.  the picture above was taken with my mobile phone, aimed at my pocket camera, which was time-lapse recording as i begin the piece a week ago.  i wouldn't want to show the piece now even if i had another computer - i think i like where it's going to go eventually, but it just changed from getting worse and worse to getting better and better - i think...


liz and i have been talking and thinking a bit about our collaboration. yesterday i spent some time on it, here's the result.

project tracking

after creating and subsequently revising that what-i'm-working-on document (, originally intended to help me figure out what my priorities are and what i want to be working on, i realized that it should be easier to use and update than it was. hadn't thought it through at all initially, but after making and using understood ftping new pdfs was a step i don't need to take if i just make the thing web-based. also began to want to share it with collaborators, curators, people potentially interested in commissioning work, and who knows who else - makes sense to have a link to a thing which keeps changing instead of a link to a static historical document. so, spent a little time yesterday and today converting an on-my-machine thing to an on-the-web thing. believe it will make my practice more transparent, i want to keep trying to do that.

ultimately, though, i view it as a project tracking tool, just giving me an overview of some of the things i want to be working on.

erik sanner works in process

editing (with sound!)

most of my work is visual, no audio. most of the video clips i edit and either include in work or post online are silent. but life mapping involved story telling - so i find myself in the unusual position editing sound along with the video. actually i'm starting with the sound - i have a pretty clear idea in my head of how i want the video to flow, i'm fairly confident i can synchronize it to match the audio if i can get the audio to do what i want. just want a few snippets, maybe three minutes out of eight hours of footage, but to get those bits, you have to sift through the entire thing - you can't zoom through the audio the way you can fast forward through visuals (or i can't anyway) - so i've been spending a lot of time recently editing. more time than i'd usually spend on a short documentation clip like this. but enjoying it - different is good, sharing work is what it's for, being able to show somebody what we did and how we did it is a necessary step in the completion of a project even though the art has been made and shown.

how we enjoyed traffic cones

not so many weeks ago was the absolute deadline to turn in the final report for my 2009 manhattan community arts fund grant. while filling out the form (, i started getting frustrated with writing about what we did instead of being able to show a bit of it, so i made this visual appendix, wanted to share.


have just begun curating bitstream new media. i'll be blogging there as well. here, i'm going to keep blogging about artmaking. i won't post curatorial stuff here, and i won't post stuff about my own work over there, i don't think. there may end up more crossover than i'm envisioning today - we'll see.

anyway, here's a link to my first post over there:

hope you enjoy it. please feel free to comment!

- erik

lives, mapped

won't have time to edit documentation video for some days, but last night was a lot of fun. we invited members of the audience to map their lives, we mapped our lives, and then we all told stories and got to know each other a bit better. people seemed very engaged, and i'm very happy with how it worked out. here's a still of last mapper ruthie crisscrossing the world.


life mapping and summer shade will be included in the synthetic zero group show of live performance, experimental film, and visual art curated by mitsu hadeishi at bronxartspace in march 2010.

justin, david and i will be live mapping only on wednesday, march 3rd, on and off from 6pm-9pm. ruthie, star of the video component, may make a cameo appearance sometime after 8:30pm. i hope you can join us!

if not, i‘ll also be there on saturday, march 6th, from 7pm to 8:30pm, hanging out and witnessing the performances and taking in the other projects in the show.

bronxartspace is located at 305 e. 140th st., #1a, bronx ny10454, right around the corner from the 3rd ave / 138th street stop on the #6 train.

i hope that you can come by and see life mapping, summer shade and the other work – and i hope that you enjoy it when you do.

how did you come to this place in your
life? what brought me to art, to painting, to collaboration, to new media, to living in new york city, to showing in the bronx? life mapping is a conversational, collaborative method of action painting in which overlapping webs illustrate turning points in the lives of the participants, culminating in the present moment and location.

the life maps began with footprints in freshly-fallen snow. participants imagined the snow as the earth and walked from place to place, city to city, country to country, sharing memories from each spot on the map, trying to find out what led us forward each time. when the initial life maps were complete, new animated life maps were drawn on a computer and projected onto the life maps we made in the snow.

on wednesday, digitally-combined footage of the experience of creating all of the previous life maps will be projected onto the wall. the area within the projection will represent the world, and the collaborators will then create new life maps by affixing colored tape to the wall. life mapping gives a relatively succinct, painterly answer to some questions asked over and over by generations upon generations of artmakers – where did we come from, and how did we get here?

summer shade is the final of four seasonal landscape “moving paintings.” each of these pieces seeks to convey my impression and experience of a time of year. although they rely on video and computer programming in order to change through time, each of these pieces is meant to be “looked at” like a painting rather than “watched” like a movie.

summer is all about relaxing, lying in a hammock... i wanted both the process of artmaking and the final piece to provide that feeling. my plan was to go to a park and film tree shadows on a portable movie screen. projecting the captured sunlight and shade back onto the screen in a different context would bring an outdoor summer sensation inside, in any season. above you can see sketches from that original plan.

after relocating to a new apartment with a patio in the back, i was able to sip homemade limeade while my video camera recorded peaceful moments passing, just as i had hoped to do in the park. every few minutes i moved the screen and the tripod, capturing different compositions. a breeze flowed through the tree leaves and the sunlight dappled on the screen, forming patterns of light and shadow.

after recording the shade, i wrote software which composites different moments of the footage, intensifying both the deepness of the shade and the brightness of the sunlight. due to the length of the video which can be composited and the variations of the shade patterns and the location of the screen, you’ll see a slightly different composition every time you look at summer shade.

life mapping

spent most of yesterday installing "summer shade" at bronxartspace.

had been unsure whether i'd be showing more work than that - we had discussed maybe including "walking the nakasendo" or "life mapping." mitsu was wondering if i had anything performative or interactive in mind, and i said that "life mapping" was evolving towards a live mapping - not a traditional performance, something closer to action painting combined with storytelling. we decided that i'd present "life mapping" on wednesday - which meant that i spent all day today working on the piece. but to talk about the past several hours i need to go back a couple of weeks, and actually months (or years at this point) before that.

my "uncle" has a "farmhouse" in rural connecticut. my family ends up there about once a year. there's a beautiful, huge lawn behind the house, and every time i go, i think about projecting something onto it - but i never have, and i've taken my projector up a few times. anyway, all the heavy
snow this year got me thinking about projecting onto snow. i don't like the cold so i'm not too keen on building snow sculptures and projecting through them - that would probably be really beautiful but i don't want to be out there messing around that much right now. but snow feels a lot to me like blank canvas. so when ruthie and i decided to go up to the "farmhouse" a couple of weeks ago, i took my projector (again), thinking i'd scratch two itches - project onto that inviting lawn, and project onto snow. on the way up, ruthie and i were talking about what all we'd like to do, and i was thinking about making tracks in the snow (which would be like drawing or painting) and what all we'd want to talk about, and that making tracks in the snow is a little bit like walking through life, you make some kind of mark but honestly it disappears, human life is not very long in the scheme of things - things like that. i asked her how she'd like to take turns telling each other our life stories, and she said she would like that. so, "life mapping" - we'd make a map of our lives, while telling each other about your lives. also had vague thoughts of staying cozy indoors and projecting drawings out onto the snow - wasn't sure we needed to be out there walking around leaving tracks. anyway, that was the beginning of the project - wanting to project onto that lawn for so long, experiencing this winter of beckoning snow, and wanting to do something together with ruthie that would be meaningful for both of us - not just asking her "hey will you please do x for me because i want to do this art project and i think it will be fun" but trying to come up with a project in which we really share something and get to know each other even better.

in this image, we have already completed our life maps (the horizontal tracks going from the tree at left across the image are the top of the world). right in the middle of the picture you can see the balcony i put the video camera (and later the projector) on.

here's a view from the balcony taken earlier, looking down onto the pristine world (only a few animal tracks, no human footprints). the two
red straps mark the edges of the video camera's field of view.

after setting that up, we went out into the world to make our maps and tell our stories. here's a view from that video camera above:

our completed life maps:

later on, i drew animations of our life maps, and projected those out onto the life maps we had made in the snow:

this is an image of the same animation, but with a black background instead of white:

then we came home and i did some work on the video and kept thinking about what the next step would be. we talked about making a painting together and projecting the other stuff onto that. i started thinking about inviting other people to make life maps, about how to make it maybe an interactive piece, about how to somehow expand the project and the collaboration. i thought about using different color tape instead of paint, or getting people to draw (using a projection?) while other people make tracks in the snow, simultaneously - but just vague thoughts. and then yesterday i had some blue tape and some black tape i was using (while installing "summer shade") and i saw that mitsu had some red tape out, and i thought jeez, why keep thinking about this thing, why not experiment and improvise? recently i've been trying to do things i don't usually do. instead of saying "i make installations = moving paintings = non-linear non-narrative," and instead of tying everything back to art history,
i'm trying to feel a little freer - not think so hard, not think so much - don't treat every project like a crucially important undertaking - just explore an idea, see where it takes me (or us), accept that it might not be the best thing i've ever done and that's ok, better to keep things light and keep things moving - do something for the moment, even if it doesn't fit into my dogma, it will probably have a contemporary aspect - but ultimately not to worry about that - most ideas are old ideas and most art is rooted in previous art - monet didn't need to be the first person ever to paint a tree on a canvas (lucky for us) - don't want to think about "has someone done something like this before?" = just want to follow my instincts, if it's well-trodden territory, i'll worry about that a year from now. at the moment, that's just not going to be a big worry of mine - i'd rather just think about what it is about a project which makes me want to work on it. in this case, it's learning about others' lives, trying to find new ways to "make paintings," and sharing bits of my life and methods with others.

anyway back specifically to where "life mapping" is going - so yesterday i saw the different colors of tape at bronxartspace and talked with mitsu about the piece again and about how i felt that there was a performative aspect which i wanted to explore (combination of action painting and storytelling) and i decided that putting tape on the wall while a projection was running on the same wall would be something i'd like to do with somebody. i knew ruthie had commitments wednesday so it would be somebody else. posted to facebook:

looked out back and saw another blank canvas (for justin and i):

wrote some emails (including some inviting david to join us wednesday). excerpts from the most relevant:

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

sun, feb 28, 2010 at 12:17pm
re: brunch today

justin and i will figure out what performing would mean, but i think it would be:

you and justin (i'll be doing something projected on top of you both, probably just lines, but maybe talking too, i'm not sure) saying, chronologically, where you've been (we'll take turns, like playing monopoly) and putting tape on the wall to mark where you've been. then, a strip of tape goes to the next place. then it goes to the next place. it's not a real globe, it's a map of the places significant to us.

maybe i'd be up there mapping with you and justin, or maybe my map would be projection not tape. justin and i will talk about it today. i'm thinking this goes on for maybe 20-25 minutes. also we videotape it and that can be used somehow if the piece keeps growing.

it will be interesting if justin and i do it, but i think more interesting with you, your map would overlap with both of ours, i think that would be so cool

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

did some editing:

after a very late brunch with justin, we worked on our life maps, here's a view from the video camera:

here's a snapshot from a pocket camera which gives you a better idea of how i experienced the life mapping (you can see the video camera hanging above the door to my studio, above the ladder):

we made an animation of justin's life map and projected that (layered with the animation i'd made of my map in connecticut) out onto our life maps:

and that's where the project is now. i need to do some editing and get some sleep, and email with justin and david tomorrow. i'm thinking more and more that what's significant is facing "painting" and figuring out how we all came to art (david and justin are both writers). david co-founded the ape (aesthetic purposes exploration) group with me, and i first met justin at an ape meeting not so many months ago, so focusing on the significant things-that-drew-us-towards-art might work well wednesday.