While walking through a park after filming a dry riverbed in Tucson, Arizona I happened upon a single tumbleweed stranded on grass. This ubiquitous desert icon, shifting in the wind, seemed desperate to move from the idyllic environment of manicured lawn and return to the wilds of cottonwood, ocotillo, cactus and chaparral. The footage I captured documents the short journey of this tumbleweed back to the desert. My movement through the park is tempered by the movement of the tumbleweed, the wind and scrub – phenomena of nature – guide my footsteps.
In much of my work I liken my creative habits to that of an early cartographer – looking, measuring, collecting, calculating and displaying the intersections of quotidian life and the natural world. As much as I am inspired by phenomena of the natural world and find great value in being outside, I focus on the observation that our everyday relationship with nature is predominantly one of mediation, physical distance and cognizant remove. In my work, which begins with photography and expands into performance, drawing, sculpture, video and installation, I am interested in qualifying my varied experiences in the natural environment as a set of relations between disparate cognitive and sensory events – where perception eclipses the ground underfoot.
In my work I make a habit of literally setting my camera aside and reaching into the world to physically interact with my subject matter. It is at that point beyond the mediation of the camera, when I place my body between the image and its referent that the photograph is porous and reveals its subjectivity. By working within that symbolic space I am able to better investigate a unique quality of the photographic image; that it can present fiction while representing truth. It is this synchronized mutation drifting between a descriptive reality and a constructed reality that resonates within my work.
Peter HappelChristian – Youngstown Ohio