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01. Sisyphus Wears a Tie
Location: Pennypack Park
Material: 400 LBS Iced brackish water from the Delaware Bay, button-up collar shirt, tie, music by Patsy Kline
Pennypack Park— with Pennypack meaning deep or slow water in the Lenape language— is a patch of green nestled in an industrial hub of absurdity. Located within a half mile of this public park on the Delaware River in NE Philadelphia is a prison, a bird sanctuary, a firing range, and the Metal Bank Superfund site. Located on historic Lenapehoking (Lenape land), the converging history, industrial complexes, and beauty contained in this public place is confounding. What is the meaning of this?
Brackish water collected from the estuary of the Delaware River was frozen into a 400 pound block of ice and transported upstream to Pennypack Park. Complicit and passive, a “pencil pusher” dressed in a button up shirt and tie, pushes the block of ice to expedite its melting. Reaching his physical and emotional limit, he knows not why he works, but relentlessly continues through the torment anyways.
Rooted in the absurdity and meaninglessness of the labor involved, Sisyphus Wears a Tie is a durational exercise in drudgery, futility, and complicity. It questions the myth of progress and American pride in a total work culture. What results from this relentlessness?
Cast fiberglass, strontium aluminate
Casts of 1500 and 500 LBS boulders
Ayn is a site-specific work that responds to this historic forested area in Virginia. The work is cast from boulders found on-site (4 total) and speckled across the forest underbrush. During the day, they appear as quartz ghosts of their original form. As day turns to night and the sounds of forest shift, something peculiar happens. The boulder’s inner life is slowly revealed. This transition asks us to consider the question— what is alive?
03. Remnants (solo exhibition)
Installation views include: Blue Sunrise, Study of a Blue Sunrise, Hyperobject, the performance video of Sisyphus Wears a Tie, and a study from Eikos Mythos
Remnants assembles cracking mud from Vermont and Pennsylvania, 400 lbs of water from the Delaware Estuary, Icelandic winter light, a Pencil Pusher, and music by Patsy Kline into sculpture, video, projection, and framed artwork. These elements merge into larger themes relating to complicity, absurdity, the myth of progress, cycle, silence, spirituality, and climate change.
As a contribution to a larger, collective conversation, the work arrives through questions— how do we enter into greater reciprocity with the world, each other and non-human beings? How do we facilitate practices that un-sever and reimagine a future based on thrivability? These questions serve as a contemplative architecture that reacts to and builds from a re-imagined reciprocity with the Earth.
04. Blue Sunrise
Icelandic winter morning light, cast mulberry paper, time
Blue Sunrise is a fourth-dimensional painting that uses light captured from the sunrise sky in Iceland during the winter months. Over a two hour period, the sunrise moves from the deepest blue to white and immediately back again. There are only 4 hours of sunlight per day at this time of year.
In response to this light cycle, fourteen sections of time throughout the sunrise were layered on top of one another to form a visual corridor of changing light. Using projection mapping software, the Icelandic light is then mapped onto the slightly convex form made from cast mulberry. What results is a composition of sunrises compressed into one visual and temporal plane so the length of sunrise and its ephemeral quality can be experienced in a single place and time.
Glacially ground earth with high silt ratio from the Northeastern United States, bisque fired ceramic, time
7″ x 60″ x 60″
Poetry created to accompany the sculpture
Can You hear me? At the edge, I sit listening. To the Silence of winter getting louder.
Standing in a bowl formed by primordial forces. Round— and so large, we can’t see at all.
Only glimpsing traces. What comes before the utterance? A home in
The depth is grounding. It fills me with tension and terror.
And a remnant of a revelation too vast. That I Am a crater— defined by what I lack— a million years in a moment.
That I Am the Silence before words can You hear me?
Anacostia river stone, light, white room
72″ X 120″ X 96″
Stone is a silent conversation with a voiceless world, excavating social geological history and attending to the animacy of material. The rock emits a line of light that interacts with the surrounding architecture and activates a previously undefined space. The installation reveals a secret life- creating room for stillness and contemplative participation.
07. Metaphorical Honey
Icelandic clay, light, time, net factory
6″ X 60″ X 60″
Collected from the mountainside of Seydisfjordur, this patch of earth is embedded in The Net Factory’s floor. Through the duration of the work, the earth cracks to reveal a line of light that emanates from its center. For more information please watch.
08. Eikos Mythos
8″ X 36″ X 15″
Eikos Mythos is an ongoing body of work that explores geological time scales, becoming, erosion, and the intersections of scientific process and art-making. It investigates ways of knowing through intuition, sampling, erosion, and collecting. How do we create likely stories and mythologies?
09. Remember Being Stone?
Anacostia River stone, steel, “Cool Water,” by Marty Robbins
60” x 80” x 18”
Using sound, stone, and steel, Remember Being Stone? is an investigation in the animacy of a stone collected from the Anacostia River. As the viewer approaches, the Song “Cool Water” can be heard gently emanating from the stone referencing colonial history, environmental gifts, and consumption.
Work is displayed as a 2-channel projection on loop.
30 minute performance, “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire” by the Ink Spots
Poem below written to accompany the work
Listen to the plants sleep.
They don’t mind the cold.
Sink into Silence and the world comes alive, as honey in a tree.
I dream I am the size of a pebble or a seed.
To explore their infinity— in my house that is round as Ymir’s skull.
I am killer.
Warm and empty in my mother’s womb.
Cracking to pieces we are still.
Glued together by the space between them, the space that held them together,
the space between that broke inside them. That broke inside them.
The water broke inside them.
To pieces into dew.
Earthwomb is a response to living and working in Seydisfjordur, Iceland at the Lunga School— to the feeling of roundness in the fjord, the sense of cycle and our (forgotten) human relationship to and our interdependence with Earth. Referencing the human womb, Earthwomb was born from the creation of a contemplative ritual of collecting, walking, and is one of return to reciprocity with the land. A two-channel video installation was created from the performance and is exhibited when this work is shown.
Making of Earthwomb below.
Video is looped during exhibition
Dancer: Shawn Stone
Habitus is a performative sculpture that activates with movement and creates gentle sounds reminiscent of rain. The visual effects produced by the movement allude to prairie grass blowing in the wind, a chestnut seed, sea anemone, or a being existing in the inbetween.
More information— Video Review of Habitus
12. Conversations: Over Circles
2-channel video installation documentation of 4 hour performance
30- minute choral music created with my voice and recorded in an 75′ abandoned silo, no effects added
Conversations: Over Circles is the first in a series of performances by the Sobia Ahmad and Monroe Isenberg. Our collaborative body of work explores a shared interest in our Islamic and Jewish mystical traditions and ways of knowing. Through contemplative repetition, we reimagine rituals that approach a communion with the invisible. We believe these silent conversations are pathways towards (re)connection and intimacy with land and place. As we walk and enter into dream-like states that tune our consciousness and perception, we activate our relationship with each other and the ground.
We were recently awarded a grant for our future work titled Collective Conversations: Observing a Year, in which we are decentralizing our practice and facilitating the construction of a collectively created digital knowledge bank focused around the theme of a-more-than-human-world.
Making of Sefer Below
Cast Mulberry Paper, Ink
72″ x 72″ x 5″
The sculptural drawing is slightly concave and subtly warps perception.
Sefer is the Hebrew word for book with roots in the word sifriyah or library.
Through repetition and cyclic movement, I work and spiral outwards. An accidental shake of my hand compounds and creates waves that undulate throughout the paper. By embracing my mistakes the work unfolds and grows in unimagined ways. The ripples expand exponentially, slowly fade, or die quickly. They create a fluid-like landscape made of valleys, peaks, and plaines. The mark takes on its own will which I must balance with my own. Working with the medium of potential, I may passively let the mark guide itself or actively interfere with the cycle’s becoming. This act dissolves my sense of self.
I glimpse traces of wisdom in the space that was once my self. Our reality creates itself and forever expands outwards through time and space. Yet, we have a role in its formation. It becomes more clear how solidarity inspired by the movement for black lives and the pandemic are rattling self-perpetuating, oppressive systems. The change we feel is real and slow, but resisted by momentum of what has come before— 400 years of white supremacy.
But the new movement for humanity is building momentum of its own. This new reality emantes from collective and individual suffering, pain, and resistance as well as moments of communal joy and healing. Fueled by a pandemic, it’s rooted in practices and questions that inspire care, solidarity, and protection. Togetherness in this way expands outwards and inscribes in our futures new peaks, valleys, and plaines. These respectively resemble hopeful changes and progress, loss and set backs, and a whole lot of nothing. Although it appears invisible and at times hopeless, we are in the process of collectively writing a new chapter in a human book that resembles Sefer. Through active co-creation of this world, we maintain hope and the power to make ripples of our own. It just begins with one small shake.
Shenandoah river water, steel, time
40″ x 34″ x 72″
The word emet is a Hebrew word that comprises of three Hebrew letters: Aleph, Mem, and Tav. In Jewish teaching, Aleph symbolizes the past, Mem symbolizes the present and is associated with pregnancy and water, and Tav symbolizes the future. Together — Aleph, Mem, and Tav spell emet which means truth. As the water runs, it degrades and rusts the steel surface. A cyclic transformation occurs— each material changing the other through time.
Steel, water, light, white room
68″x 32″ x 32″
On top of the sculpture is a pool of water above eye level. Underneath is a hidden electronic assembly programmed to move the water every 35 seconds. The movement of the water is translated onto the four surrounding gallery walls via lights embedded in the top corners of the sculpture. The elemental form produces an immersive phenomenon much like an aurora borealis that surrounds the viewer entirely. The work was created to hold space for contemplation and to be a beacon for reflection.
16. Intersect Series
Reclaimed redwood tower, light
Variable dimensions (15 total)
Each Intersect sculpture takes on a strange yet familiar animal nature. The sculptures use light, shadow, and minimal tapered sculptural lines to activate space and invite investigation.
17. Actus Primus
Wood, rust water finish, aircraft cable
18′ x 30′ x 10′
During my walks through the grounds and forests at Salem Art Works Sculpture Park, I became enamored by the forms that trees create by growing and bending towards the light. Actus Primus is a reaction to my many encounters with the bending tree forms there.
18. Mach XXIII
Reclaimed pine, white oak, steel
20′ x 35′ x 6′ (variable)
In the mountain forests of the Pacific Northwest, large softwood trees are felled by powerful gusts of wind during storms. Their large cavernous roots and their network of life become visible. Seeing their interconnected root systems many times taller than myself and the long, teetering cantilevered trunks always remind me that my home is in those roots.
I created Mach XXIII in an effort to return home after I had left. The curve of Mach XXIII is created through repetitive stacking, individually cutting, and adhering isosceles triangles together. The exterior is carved and the interior is left raw.
Wood, light, iridescent medium, my dog’s ash
120″ x 30″ x 30″
The heavy, yet hovering form illuminates the grey ash underneath. Ante-chamber came into being through coinciding traumas: the death of my young dog and the funeral of my oldest living relative in my Jewish family, which took place one day after the mass shooting of the L’Simcha congregation in Pittsburg in October.
In Jewish practice, we place a stone on the graves of our dead loved ones. The material of stone reminds us that love is eternal. The weight of the stone reminds us of the weight they had in our lives. I fabricated this form to resemble a perfectly symmetrical rock I found in the Great Smokey Mountains.
From the mourners Kaddish prayer service—
“How difficult it is to walk in the valley of the shadow of death.”
“Our few years on earth are a prologue to the drama which continues beyond time.
For thus our Sages taught:
Life is an ante-chamber to the palace of eternity.”
20. Attend: The Space Between
120″ x 156″ x 48″
Referencing Martin Buber’s “I and Thou”, Attend: The Space Between is a work that examines the phenomenon of two separate objects dissolving into one another’s centers to form a non-material unity. As viewers progress towards the center, they encounter a mysterious happening only visible within their central location.