by Á.R. Vázquez-Concepción
Recently artist Tyler Eash opened an exhibition titled Full Moon in the Daytime at R/SF Projects in downtown San Francisco, a preternatural display of living and inert entities and forces, reflecting on life and death, and what they are made of.
After a brief New Year’s intermission, Full Moon in the Daytime will be on view at R/SF Projects from January 5 to the exhibition closing on January 15, 2017, when there will also be an artist talk and reception from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
We bring to you a brief Q&A we recently had with the artist, where he shares insights into this newest exhibition and about the grander arch of his practice:
Á.R.V.C.: In the making of your most recent exhibition, I would like to ask you about your personal thoughts on the relationship that exists, or can exist, between art, death, and memory —what can best be addressed as the aesthetics of commemoration. Beyond the memento mori, the vanitas, or the perfunctory rituals offered by the funeral industry, how did this emotive, elegant body of work come together in your mind and in your studio?
Tyler Eash: Death and memory have an inseparable relationship as one exists as the cause, and the other as a result. I regard death as the performance without artifacts. There are efforts the living take to make artifacts to preserve an image of life. These efforts are in defiance of the absolution of death, the absolution of absence. Memory is the only sincere documentation of loss. I presented Myself with a challenge of how to make tangible forms in an effort to depict intangible experiences, how to make sculpture about performance.
The aesthetic language of commemoration is rooted in our fear of death and our labor to maintain life. It’s an effort to canonize or gild the difficult realities of this uncertain action. It’s an odor of sanctity over the scent of death. The form of the memorial is informed by our beliefs in the ethereal world of heaven and the permanence of a soul. The imagery is that of a monument and not of ruin. When I had experienced the loss of my brother I realized how this aesthetic language divorced itself from death. I believed that this language was developed as more of a consolation for the living rather than as documentation of loss. I needed to make ruins, not monuments.
The aesthetic language of loss is that of a transition, of a transformation of the body into a corpse or into a spirit, and that resulting uncertainty. If there can be any clear image of death, it is a frame of the moment of passing. I wanted to use my family’s reality of loss as a basis for the exhibition with the presence of the uncanny, the spiritual sublime, and the existential inquiry of the presence of a soul as fictional elements that encroach into the periphery of our reality.
Á.R.V.C.: Artists like Doris Salcedo have proposed time and time again that the white cube, gallery space, or museum have a special quality and potential for, in certain contexts, acting as more than just a site of discreet market activity and/or idle displays but becoming sites where challenging, adverse, or painful events are collectively meditated upon and processed by the civil entities that gaze at their content. Can you share thoughts on this line of thinking, and how maybe in the context of your exhibition visitors can empathize with you and reflect on their past or present grief and/or loss?
T.E.: I’ve been deemed a romantic because I see all art as some sort of confession, so my viewing of art feels voyeuristic. It is rooted in vulnerability, empathy, and the human condition. Artists should be shamans, and we should share the findings of the hours of introspection we grant ourselves. It’s an absolute privilege to be an artist but with that privilege should come a service to others who are not granted permission to dream as generously.
Exposing my realities with death is a way of generating a deeper understanding of the human condition. My hope is that this can be a service to those who need it. The realization of the absolution of death allows for a greater appreciation of living. The exhibition created a dialogue for people to discuss their traumas of loss and unload the weight these traumas hold. Individually, I needed to make this work because I felt that any other work I created would be a distraction. I needed a moment with this.
I have a lot of reverence for the practice of art making, and I believe art is a tool. I am also of the belief that art should exist as a vessel for content and never as a beautiful vase alone. I was initially drawn into art because of its ability to develop a contextual reverence for the most ordinary of actions and objects, for me this transformation is spiritual. The white wall gallery is a church, a building that serves a higher power and focuses our gaze on items of “importance.” The energy of this space and the glamor of formalism is a facade that initiates interest and seduces viewers into receiving content. I think that content should be relevant to a human experience. The gallery is the church, the exhibition is the service, the message should be transcendent.
Á.R.V.C.: During the opening of your current exhibition you read poetic prose in a touching, heartfelt performance. Could I ask you to expand on the content and form of that writing and the way in which poetry, memory, and performance dove-tail in your most recent show and beyond?
T.E: I always start with writing. Every visual work I created was a physical manifestation of an excerpt from this text. My work oscillates between performance and assemblage, yet writing remains as the primary score that guides my work’s development. I rely on the definitions and connotations of found objects to assemble material as one would create prose. I find the insinuations within these common forms to be very useful in translating reality into something more confounding.
The text alluded to inquiries far beyond my knowledge and was presented in an unresolved and unadulterated form. It was my confession, my statement of an existential questioning I had when my brother died. I think sincerity is very important as it can elevate a work above representation and into reality. A higher degree of realness in art more aggressively permeates into our actual reality. I am comfortable with my physical self as the subject of my work because I can rely on innate human to human communication and engagement to allow my work to be felt and heard. Performance is immediate and innately urgent. Some subjects are important and must be stated clearly with words and action in real time in person.
Tyler Eash is a multi-media artist and architect living and working in San Francisco. Eash studied landscape architecture, choreography, and art at the University of California, Davis and his visual and performance works have exhibited throughout the Bay Area and New York. He was an artist in residence at the Shawl-Anderson Dance Center (Berkeley, CA) as well as Safehouse Arts (San Francisco, CA). He is the Founding Curator of the #* Collective and has shown work at Movement Research at Judson Church (New York, NY). Recently his work was selected by Gensler Architects and Philippe Starck for the SLS Hotel Collection in Las Vegas, and he has contributed work to private collections.
Here are some installation shots of Full Moon in the Daytime, courtesy of R/SF Projects: