Rowley Kennerk: What will be in your show at the gallery?
Shane Huffman: The exhibition will contain works from the series, “Preceding Lascaux: Levi’s Scribbles before Three years old,” and “I maintain that chaos is the future and beyond it is freedom. Confusion is next and next after that is the truth.”
The first “Levi” series are scribbles that I collected from my youngest son before he turned three. I wanted them to precede the cave paintings in Lascaux, in the sense that before bulls danced in the cave there were scribbles. This is the beginning of human development for want of organizing and interpreting the world around us and even creating new worlds in concept, pre-code and pre-sign.
The “I maintain…..” series contains magazine clippings with semen on them. They are taken from a 2009 issue of a Scientific American magazine with an article titled, “Origins: The Start of Everything.” The idea of the article was to shift the magazine’s usual discussion of origins of things like the universe and life to that of “everything else,” like Scotch tape and artificial hearts. I thought that by masturbating and releasing my sperm onto the proposed “known” it would be an act of placing humans at the center of the question of whether or not we can know anything at all. Alas, my swimmers dried and died on this infertile field of origins and the known.
RK: The caves at Lascaux?
SH: They may be considered by some viewers and thinkers as abstract, but do they remain abstract? What qualifies something as abstract if it is something specific? A lot of my work is concerned with this issue. Levi has no choice but to make marks in this fashion. He has not been trained in drawing or graphical perspective. Unlike most of abstraction in art history, it is not spiritual, nor the unconscious, nor jazz, nor the mind. It is a desperate act, a definitive act. He’s attempting to organize and understand his world around him at his fingertips and with his lips, like an early Paleolithic human.
RK: I remember seeing an image of Courbet’s L’Origine du monde in your studio.
SH: Yes, it’s hanging alongside an image of Hans Bellmer’s, I am God (a hand-colored photograph close-up of a vagina spread open) and a photograph of mine called, I am the origin of the world God, which is of a vaginal birth. All of these place the human, or specifically, being born, as the origin of the concepts of “world” and “God.” Existential concepts that we grapple with til death.
RK: Your work addresses the personal and the cosmic, from your children to the moon. At first glance, this is disparate subject matter…
SH: The connection is transformation. The Law of Conservation of Energy states that energy is neither created nor destroyed, only transferred and transformed into other states. This is how I approach my subject matter, my mediums, my conceptual odysseys. Simple acts of transformation: chanting to the photographic paper to record breath in another form; placing photographic paper in the microwave to have the invisible microwaves recorded onto the paper; photographic greyscales that are simply revealing light accumulation like compound interest; dryland recordings of swimming stretches that become gnarly torn photographs…
RK: What perspective does the artist offer? What does creation have to do with understanding?
SH: I question any claim to know anything at all. This would require knowledge of the totality in an infinite Universe. This is beyond our capability as human becomings. All we have are “ambiguities” of finite “things” that have many permutations, short lived, and transforming forever, in the totality.
I guess I wonder what is at the center of “everything else.” Our language, our systems of enumeration, physics, biology, engineering, are all grounded in the “fallacy of misplaced concreteness,” that our abstractions are taken as concrete values and things. Yet, it is this perspective that I embrace and question. It starts with us, as children of the Paleolithic draftsman, interested in our world, our surroundings through our eyes, emotions, feelings we develop our systems, our logic, our sciences, our language to define and know. For the only way we experience the world is through our own existential becoming. Yet, still, the claim to know is masturbation. When dependent upon fallible “misplaced concreteness,” our development of facts, laws and truth is selfish.