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»Ode to Seekers 2012 was initially conceived during treatment at Rockland Psychiatric Center in Orangeburg New York, which contains the abandoned children’s ward that is navigated through from a mosquito’s point of view. The similarities between human behavior and that of the three computer generated seekers in the video – a mosquito, a syringe, and an oil derrick – suggest a sense of camaraderie, but also provoke a fear that, like those digital objects, we may just be a puppet of algorithms or economic networks or genetic coding.«
-Andrew Norman Wilson for Artforum
ODE TO SEEKERS 2012 is a looped video that celebrates mosquitoes, syringes, and oil derricks. Not only are they symbols of some of the most significant threats to human life—mosquito borne illnesses, drug addiction, and the petroleum industry—but they are also the causes of three of my most significant personal traumas.
In 2012 I received psychological testing at Rockland Psychiatric Center in Orangeburg, New York, which had been a pioneer of the “therapeutic suburb” model for mental institutions when it was built in 1927. I realized that a large portion of the campus had become abandoned, and not only hadn’t been cleaned out, but carried a history of sporadic reactivation by junkies, homeless people, teens, and artists. I began bringing friends there to explore and shoot video, and on my last trip I shot footage in which I misused a Steadicam to create what seems to me like a mosquito’s point of view.
Like Steadicam footage, which is meant to transport the viewer to the perspective of someone—or something—else, CGI is a technique based in seeking. It illustrates objects hidden from view or movements too small for the naked eye, with the potential for a cartoon physics beyond the laws of our physical universe. I worked with the Romanian animator Vlad Maftei on this video because of his range of experience—from hyperreal renderings of vital organs for the health care industry and architectural renderings of buildings-to-be to Spongebob Squarepants advertisements. Much of my thinking about the composition of Ode to Seekers 2012 is based on John Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” wherein the titular art object is treated as eternal, intensifying the speaker’s sense of mortality. In keeping with the structure of an ode, my work consists of three movements. In the first—to the sound of an exploratory house track by Marcellis—the broken camera roves through the abandoned children’s ward corridors of Rockland. Second, highly saturated computer-generated 3-D models of the mosquito, syringe, and oil derrick appear under magic-hour lighting, slipping in and out of an ecstatic trance of liquid extraction—or injection—from a surface that looks at once like desert salt flats, skin under a microscope, and potato casserole. In sequences that are edited like a music video, these objects joyously thrust, pierce, and pump to my remix of Icona Pop’s 2012 banger “I Love It.” Third, each model and its pumping functions are co-opted by an assembly line apparatus, at once medical and industrial, that sucks the color out of everything that comes down a pipe.
»Much of my thinking about the composition of Ode to Seekers 2012 is based on John Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” wherein the titular art object is treated as eternal, intensifying the speaker’s sense of mortality.«
Making this piece has been a process of grasping for a fantasy that I see when I’m jogging in a new city or under some kinds of influences. I can’t describe what the fantasy is, and I will probably never reach it. The similarities between my behavior and that of these three forces suggest a sense of camaraderie, but they also provoke a fear that, like those objects, I may just be a puppet of algorithms or economic networks or genetic coding. Still, I work my way through a neural reward system in pursuit of something fleeting, or perhaps even unattainable.
— As told to Paige K. Bradley
This text was first published on ArtForum in 2016. Please find a link to the initial text here.
Please also find an interview for Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt with the artist and curator Viktoria Draganova here.
Ode to Seekers 2012
8m 30s, HD Video, Colour, Sound, 2016
Directed and Edited by Andrew Norman Wilson
Modeling and 3D animation by Vlad Maftei
Motion Graphics by Andrew Norman Wilson
Camera by Ben Clotten and Andrew Norman Wilson
Sound Editing by Andrew Norman Wilson and Evian Christ
Voice by Michael Hudson
Sheryl Crow’s “If It Makes You Happy” covered by After Eight, the official a cappella subset of the Cornell University Chorus
“I Love It” by Icona Pop Feat. Charli XCX (Wilson remix)
“Because” by Marcellis (Wilson edit)
Pyrotechnics by Alexander Kellogg
Produced by The Gwangju Biennial Foundation and Akademie Schloss Solitude