Erik Sanner Home Visual Other About

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:

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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

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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.