A few weeks ago, on a very snowy Monday night, I gave a short presentation at the 3rd iteration of the Canvas Artist Talks in Shimokitozawa. Despite the mounting pile of snow, I made my way to the venue and gave a presentation to a small crowd of devoted artists and art appreciators.
In the past, I had focused my presentations on my Memory Walks Project, but decided that I would talk primarily about my Daily Drawings Project, particularly the Daily Drawings Network installation, which I created for the Nakanojo Biennale 2017. My aim in the presentation was to give the audience a sense of my methodical and experimental nature in the studio.
At the end of the presentation, I was asked several thought-provoking questions about my work and the aims of the work. Since then, I have been thinking on and off about these questions and it has led to a bit of an artistic existential crisis. However, like all previous artistic existential crises, I believe that it will help pave the way for the next steps in my studio practice.
The Daily Drawings Network represents the first phase of what I have considered to be a three part project. In the Daily Drawings Network, I began to organize my Daily Drawings based on colors, motifs, and location among other variables. During my residency, I also included months and days as additional variables to add a third dimension to the installation. I also began to keep track of any audio/video that I listened/watched while making these drawings, although this information did not make it into the installation.
I view all of these organizational strategies as a way to organize my Daily Drawings into packets of data. Truth be told, the organizational strategies that I have taken up to this point have not gone far enough. I have 391 drawings from 2017 and I have moved forward with any of the above organizational strategies for the drawings beyond those installed for the Daily Drawings Network which means I still have over 150 drawings to add to the database.
Once all the data has been archived, my plan is to look for commonalities, causalities, correlations, and other unifying variables. These 3 C's all look at different aspects of unification. In discovering these 3 C's, I envision generating hypotheses about how I make these drawings.
During the presentation, I was asked about my methods for data analysis. Since I began this kind of work back in graduate school, I have always eschewed the use of any computational software even though the technology has evolved exponentially in the last 15 years. Rather, my data analysis remains in the analogue / Excel spreadsheet period. I perform simple sorts, quantify the data, and then organize it in ways which I think will lead to discovery. This hands on approach is tied to my desire to experiencing the moment of discovery as I pore over the data. Admittedly, it is extremely inefficient and tedious and has been a source of procrastination. I also realize that I probably need to improve my toolbox of statistical analysis so I can make more complex analysis that could lead to fruitful discoveries. Recently, I have stumbled upon a free online course for learning Python which is a general programming language that has been used for data science. If I look at my actual progress in data analysis in all my projects over the last fifteen years, it is possible that I may take the leap and see what powers I can harness without sacrificing the light bulb clicking on at the moment of insight.
Once the data analysis is complete, what is next? I have imagined that I would take all the hypotheses and insights and create an installation which depicts them in a visual manner. There is no basis for the installation since there are no insights to structure them on, but I imagine using the Drawing Cell structures in combination with the actual Daily Drawings. I also imagine the idea of using the different components to create larger layered/collaged works that would explicate those hypotheses and insights. Another question which I was asked at the presentation has become a head scratching one for me - what do you hope to learn from this process?
My answer at that time was I am not sure. It lead to the follow up question of where does it go after that i.e. the third part of my envisioned tripartite project. At this point, I am still not sure, but I have some strands of ideas that I could perhaps grab onto.
I started to think about the Daily Drawings Project in a conceptual framework when I exhibited my Daily Drawings and Memory Walks drawings for the first time at hasu no hana in December 2016. During the course of the exhibition, I had many discussions with visitors and gallery director Kazue Fukuma about the relationship of the two types of drawings which began to be framed as conscious memory (Memory Walks) and unconscious memory (Daily Drawings). Over the course of the exhibition as well as afterwards, I began to refine my conception of what kinds of memories the Daily Drawings access. I do not think either project is exclusively one or the other, but rather somewhere along the spectrum of unconscious and conscious memory.
The way the Daily Drawings are created speak more to the unconscious side of memory, although not completely. They are not automatic drawings in the absolute sense like Surrealist Andre Masson who "began automatic drawings with no preconceived subject or composition in mind. Like a medium channeling a spirit, he let his pen travel rapidly across the paper without conscious control." I do begin each drawing with no preconceived composition in mind, but I am consciously controlling the kind of mark I make, whether they be small circular forms or thin lines. Repetition is also an important part of my drawing process which allows me a sense of automaticity in my drawings. At some point, which is usually a physical exhaustion or change in environment (sudden stops, shaking, or someone sitting next to me), the spell is momentarily broken and then I make some conscious decision about whether to continue as I had been or make a change in my drawing process.
The forms that I use to create the Daily Drawings are purposefully abstract so that I am not consciously making reference to concrete things. In this way, I think it leads to drawings that result in imagery that is of worlds unseen whether they be macroscopic or microscopic. Given my background, the microscopic references my over two decades of work in molecular biology although none of the forms are created in direct reference to cells, neurons, or microorganisms.
In this way, I think I am working on creating a cosmology for my drawings. Each of these Daily Drawings usually represents one species in the cosmology, but sometimes they are multiple species interacting on a single sheet of paper. In that sense, these Daily Drawings can be seen as a developing taxonomy of my cosmology - at this point a completely unorganized taxonomy. However, the Daily Drawings which number almost 900 at this point can be seen as documentation of the unseen and records of discovery.
As I write that, this relationship between discovery and taxonomy is perhaps where the second part of this project is going. This is going to mean determining methods creating a taxonomy. I will have to start looking back at artists who create taxonomies. Misako Inaoka is the first person that comes to mind.