Polyurethane Foam, Plaster, Epoxy Resin, Paraffin Wax, and Steel Saw Horse



“Reality itself founders in hyperrealism, the meticulous reduplication of the real, preferably through another, reproductive medium, such as photography. From medium to medium, the real is volatilized, becoming an allegory of death. But it is also, in a sense, reinforced through its own destruction. It becomes reality for its own sake, the fetishism of the lost object: no longer the object of representation, but the ecstasy of denial and of its own ritual extermination: the hyperreal.”

- Jean Baudrillard ‘The Hyper-realism of Simulation’, 1988


            To better translate an experience to a peer, one may often utilize the photograph as a means to get their explanation across; to improve the other’s ability to visualize and understand. But how far can that photograph take a viewer into the experience? Can one truly be immersed in the originality of reality? Is it possible to fully comprehend another person’s experience without being there with them? A photograph contains a vast amount of information, but at the same time it only holds enough to represent the subjective perspective of the photographer. There is no possible way to objectively experience that moment exactly as it had revealed itself in time and space, for there will always be a small bit lost in translation. DSC_9756 provides an alternative method for photographing reality, a photographic process which takes into account the loss of information through translated mediums. Will you be able to gather the necessary elements from this piece to build your own perspective into a moment that has long since been overwritten and forgotten?

            DSC_9756 began while I was visiting the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at NASA for Chapman’s ‘Intersection of Art and Science’ course. The employees at JPL invited us into their virtual reality headquarters and allowed us to experience the surface of Mars through VR headsets. The individuals working there at the time had stitched together photographs taken by the Mars rover and created a three dimensional environment that one could experience through virtual reality goggles. As soon as I put the head piece on, I knew that I wanted to manufacture a similar experience; a way for others to interpret and indulge in a time/moment/place without actually having to physically be there.

            I started my photographic process by capturing bird’s eye view images of the surface of the ocean surface and converting them to grayscale information. I then took the grayscale photographs into three dimensional modeling software and manufactured displacement maps that could be read and understood by a CNC milling machine. I then took my displacement mapped files to a local machinist and had my images machined from two 2’x4’ blocks of polyurethane foam that could then be set side by side to recreate the square photograph taken with my camera. The next step was to pour two plaster molds from each individual machined foam piece. These molds could then be utilized for casting a multitude of different materials in order to recreate the machined foam cuts. Once my plaster molds had cured, I poured melted paraffin wax and casted wax versions of the foam blocks from the plaster, translating a CNC machine’s representation of reality into yet another medium. Through these three iterations of a moment captured by camera, information is both lost and gained by means of the mediums used to represent each iteration. By allowing the raw materials to remain as they are in each individual translation, I am keeping the ‘photograph’ as close to its original form as possible as not to imply my own artistic perspective. By doing so, I am allowing the audience to read the piece exactly as it has been translated in order to provide a truly objective viewing experience of a moment and place in time.   

            Although a photograph may traditionally be displayed flat on a wall, I wanted the foam and wax pieces to further provide a look into the exact moment they are representing. Considering the fact that they came from a photograph taken looking straight down at the ocean, I chose to display the works parallel to the ground in order to maintain the experience that I once felt. The plaster molds hold more of an importance in the process, taking into account their functional use and physical mass. Thus the reason behind having them standing side by side, overlooking their origin and their result.

            DSC_9756 invites the audience to delve into a memory; to share the experience of observing a fragment of time that can no longer exist in this time and space.