= WRITING, excerpts =

Article 1. FIGMENTS
memories of Earth c.1

Constructing alternatives to this world, on other worlds, and in space is as much the domain of photographers and artists as it is of scientists and technologists. Those without access to machine learning or the resources of space agencies still have public access to NASA/JPL photographs. Privatization efforts may mean that U.S. space program assets in the future are no longer within reach in public archives. But the advance of off-the-shelf components used in actual spacecraft means that the ordinary citizen can build their own entrants into the space race.

As the 21st C. advances in what echoes the dystopian future so often imagined by science fiction, the .1% are already benefiting from the thrust of early space colonization to the moon — and now Mars. No longer will they need to escape from teeming cities; permanent orbit beckons. The mining of rare minerals and industrial energy sources are tantalizingly closer to exploitation and profit, especially as the ravages of Earth reach their proletarian inevitabilities. Using public domain images and devices of my own manufacture, I have imagined my own moon orbiter and eventually, lander. It is a mere product of mental invention, a fantastic notion, and a feigned and improbable series titled Figments: Memories of Earth.

Figments explores questions about the role of the hand and the eye in a context where photographic algorithmic strategies grow ever more convincing, ever more real. Automated technologies construct alternate realities without direct human intervention, what artist-futurist and activist Stephanie Dinkins calls the “invisible arbiters of human interaction”. As Trevor Paglen, imagemaker-sculptor-journalist-writer-engineer, demonstrates in Territory, computational photographic techniques “enhance” images for surveillance or facial recognition. In Paglen’s words, “images are no longer spectacle but they are in fact looking back at us, being actors in a process of massive value extract ...”

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Article 2. SWEET
art of the domestic
Slater Barron, Watching the 6 o’clock News
The script began with a shot-through-the-glass-dryer-door of tumbling clothes, a kind of mesmeric kaleidoscope that faded into a voiceover. My interview with Slater was to be the narration, the more serious themes emerging gradually from the texture of moving images of her daily drudgery. She talked mostly about the art work, about her playful sculptures of food, like the plates of lint-made sushi and other food in the style of the ubiquitous plastic sculptures seen in Japanese food courts.

My proposed documentary was about the pop artist Slater Barron who had been a friend of my family. She was an unknown whose unconventional work had not yet made her name. It was a risky move, I knew that, but just how risky I hadn’t imagined. Afterwards snark and sneering about my being a “lint lady” were the final slights in the years-long hostility experienced by the few women accepted into an guard Hollywood filmmaking establishment.

Not much different from the fate of the real lint lady (slaterbarron.com). At first her lint works were brushed aside as a laughingstock or worse. She faced humiliation at every turn and not only as an artist. She was quirky, inventive, stubbornly persistent, and trusted her unique insight. My script was intentionally plotless, a carchase-less and impressionistic portrait of a woman who had made an art out of her ordinary domestic life as a single mother and caregiver of dementia-ridden aging parents. Light years later when Chloé Zhao won the best picture and directing Oscars (2020), Nomadland could have been my benchmark.

The interview began with my visit to an unexceptional stucco house in Long Beach with a converted garage that was both the laundry room and her studio. Outside on the small green patch of lawn stretched laundry lines for when the burden of extra laundry exceeded her home laundromat’s capacity. I had known her briefly because my mother was her confidante. Tears flowed out of that room and deep sobs - whose? - but I couldn’t hear what was said. I assumed it had something to do with mistreatment at the hands of her military husband, something I saw at home that no one talked about. What I did find out was that she was leaving her husband and getting a divorce. Divorce was not spoken of in our circles, and my own mother could not have voiced it. Slater had four young children - so did my mother - and it can’t have been an easy decision to choose to be a single mother.