The Birds - George C. McGuigan Jr.

Friday, May 22, 2015 – Friday, May 29, 2015,
Venue: ATC 1.705

A multimedia exhibit by Arts and Technology graduate student George C. McGuigan Jr. Opening reception will be from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday May 22.


I am pleased to present The Birds, my final graduate work consisting of drawings, sculpture, and video.

Each of the four drawings in the exhibit are entitled Drill Chicken, and are individually numbered either one, two, three or four. The word Drill in the title of each drawing serves not only as label but also, and more importantly, to identify the mechanical device I used to create each drawing. Unlike traditional drawing where the artist holds a pencil and through hand and eye coordination places marks on a medium, in these four drawings, I affixed four pencils to a battery operated drill, and through control of the drill’s trigger switch, I lowered the rotating pencils onto the medium to begin the drawing process.

I describe this process of drawing as being “twice removed” from the medium in that in traditional drawing where only one element—a pencil—separates the artist from the medium, here two elements—pencil and drill—separated me from the medium.

Functionally, the pencil and drill each had a distinctive role to perform in the drawing process and in that process, each was as indispensable as the other. The pencil marked the medium but it was the drill that set the pencil in motion which allowed the mark to be made. Theoretically, the process used here could generate up to 4,800 pencil marks per minute assuming the drill was set to operate at maximum speed with the lowest torque setting, and all four rotating pencils made contact with the medium. While such a high number of pencil marks was theoretically possible, it was not realistically suitable to make such a high number of marks at any one time given the need to frequently review a drawing as it developed over time. Moreover, at various times during the drawing process, I had to replace and realign pencils, and in light of these considerations, the average maximum pencil marks effected in any given minute was less than 4,800.

The hanging sculpture of bird forms, which are either red, green, black or white, are a magnified example of the moving bird forms the viewer will see in the video. Approximately three years ago, I began making bird forms using standard copy paper which I folded using a traditional origami folding technique. At that time, the forms were hand painted and photographed in various environments. Later versions, of the type seen in this exhibit, still adhere to the earlier technique of formation but vary in size and color. For this exhibit, the bird forms were spray painted after being assembled. High contrast and vibrant colors were the motivating factors in choosing the colors for this exhibit.

The video represents an expression of movement and consists of many mirrored images modified through a temporal delay. Structurally, the video is composite of more than fifty video clips in which the various video clips of moving bird forms were all superimposed on top of a background video clip consisting of clouds and sky. As a bird form appears in one side of the frame, its mirror image will appear in the opposite frame; however, the mirror image in most instances is not a true reflection in that there is a time delay separating the original from the appearance of its opposite. Moreover, in most instances, the video clips were moved and adjusted along the center axis of the video frame to give the appearance that a bird form had not been previously seen when in fact it was a copy of the original whose flight path had been reversed.

In the final major scene, various video clips, most of which have been previously seen in the video, have been duplicated numerous times and re-positioned within the video frame to create a swirling bird formation designed in large part to mimic the type of actual bird patterns one might see in the natural world. Thus, the purpose in the final scene, but also throughout the entire video, was to animate an abstraction the form of which the viewer could easily recognize as a bird given its shape, movement, and its environment.

In an earlier video of similar theme, I animated the bird forms through a very manual process that involved attaching a single bird form — of the type seen hanging in the gallery—to the end of a long boom, and thereafter, I waved the boom, with attached bird, past a camera lens to capture the resulting image. In this video, movement of the bird forms was effected entirely through a basic kinetic sculpture, namely a mobile. Attached by a monofilament line to the metal rods of the mobile, the bird forms moved past a camera lens at a consistent rate of speed. The method I used here has several distinct advantages over my earlier process in that any number of birds can be suspended from the mobile, the distances between each can vary, and further, given the fact that the mobile is attached to a suspending rod via elastic bands, greater control can be effected over the speed at which the mobile turns. Given the options regarding the number of birds that can be used, the spacing arrangements, and the ability to vary the speed at which the bird forms move in time and space, the resulting number of bird patterns that can be created is significant.

I extend my sincere thanks to my faculty advisor, John Pomara, Professor of Aesthetic Studies in the School of Arts and Humanities, whose meaningful suggestions and comments throughout the semester were very much appreciated.


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