My So-Called Topological Life

“A bleached and fractured world surrounds the artist. To organize this mess of corrosion into patterns, grids, and subdivisions is an esthetic process that has scarcely been touched.” -Robert Smithson, 1968 (1.)

This is a vignette about art and mapping with an emphasis on a particular kind of mapping—topological—and how it informs various artists’ practices, including my own. I have always been interested in how artists conceive and represent the infinitely complex world beyond their own skins. To this end, I will make the claim that topological mapping offers an especially apt mental schema to represent the profound discontinuity and fragmentation of contemporary spatial and temporal experience.

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Chris Arabadjis: Notations from the Underground

Like so many of us today, Chris Arabadjis (pronounced: Air-uh-bad-jiss) experiences a very long commute to work. And like so many New Yorkers, he spends a lot of that time on the subway. But rather than endure all those hours staring blankly into space (or almost as blankly into an electronic device), Arabadjis has managed to convert those clattering cars into his movable studio. Equipped with mere paper and ball point pens, he has produced an extraordinary number of drawings, many of which were recently on view at the Nancy Ross Project Space at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. I was lucky enough to walk through this exhibition with the artist himself.

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Rosaire Appel: Diagrammatic Play

Long before I ever thought a lot about diagrams and art, I’ve greatly admired the work of New York artist, Rosaire Appel. In the years that I have been observing her work—mostly through social media—I have followed her explorations in a wide range of media, including video, collage, drawing, photography and especially her extraordinary artist books. I remember when I first met Rosaire in person at an art opening in New York; I believe I told her straight away that she was the most inventive artist alive (or something like that). To this day, I continue to be impressed by the quantity, scope and originality of her output. But even more, I am amazed by her overriding sense of playfulness. There seems to be nothing in her visual and sonic surround that has not or won’t soon be grist for some unexpected combination of words, notations, images, maps, marks, charts, musical scores and any number of diverse materials.

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