Jon Lutz: Your current show, Inglenook, is based on the research and experimentations of psychologist Wilhelm Reich. What was your attraction to Reich?
Ariel Dill and Christian Sampson: Wilhelm Reich attracted us as a "material" based artist and thinker. Reich's ideas for orgone accumulators and cloud busters are some of the most fascinating sculptures of the 20th century- involving fantastic looking machines that could potentially harness orgone energy and control weather patterns. Reich believed he discovered orgone energy, a blue-light energy that radiates through the body and atmosphere. He invented the orgone accumulator box and blanket to harness this energy for healing purposes of all humankind. We thought orgone energy would be an interesting material to incorporate into our work.... to construct, in the constructivist sense, an artwork as "comrade". We also found it interesting that this was in a sense an "invisible" material"…one you can't see, you can only feel, a material that not only questions the faith of the viewer in experiencing it physically but also us in the construction of it.
Christian Sampson, Untitled, 2009, acrylic, dye, wood and plexiglass, 48" x 36"
JL: How do you incorporate this energy into your art practice?
AD/CS: We didn't know what we'd end up by experimenting with it and if our studio might explode from too much concentrated orgone. I wonder what the neighbors upstairs felt, maybe they had the greatest three months of sex and all their ailments are cured. We were interested in how orgone energy related to the physicality of the body and abstraction with paintings infinity with tactile textiles and blankets. The six orgone accumulator blankets we constructed together for the show are from Reich's F.B.I confiscated instructions. Once the initial construction of the blanket was finished we would wear the blanket and then paint them to ornamentalize the experience, seeing if colors, pattern and shapes involved would change the orgone experience in any way. For the answer one must go try one on and "see" for themselves.
JL: How did Inglenook come together as a collaboration?
AD: Christian and I have had studios next to each other since leaving graduate school and we have a back and forth communication between looking at each others work and seeing connections or just discussing the work. We had never actually collaborated on work before this show. After we visited Reich's Museum, Orgonon, the Orgone Blankets were something that we wanted to make together and have in the studio, not necessarily for a show. When we were asked to do the show together we realized this was a good time to try making the blankets. It was a wacky enough way to connect our work to each other and then to physically connect to the viewer. It is really important for each of us to have our individual work (there is a wall and a door between our studios!), the collaborative pieces are made by this other part , almost a third artist...less ego is involved and that was pleasurable and unexpected.
JL: You are each working with abstraction and focusing on color and form…is there a concern here for the psychological effect of color on the viewer? Are there art historical precedents here?
CS: I think I was starting from a more 19th century phantasmagorical use of color and the psychology of the shadow. Looking at hand painted magic lantern slides and the use of the projected form and its double or other. Something that I think was much later picked up by Robert Smithson when he was writing about the use of translucency in Donald Judd and it's relation to science fiction of the 1960's. Also the early 20th century writings of Paul Scheerbart on translucent colored glass in 'The Gray Cloth (1914)' and "Glass Architecture (1914)' had an influence on me. I think my form is created by combining the amorphous as a catalyst against the elemental frame. I'm interested in painting as a hyperbolic gesture, one that interweaves wave-lengths of light color, and structure into a form both frozen and animated...
AD: My work deals more with 20th century uses of color. I was thinking about Johannes Ittten and his ideas about subjective color as well as the mystical implications of his work. Earlier this year I made one of his color experiments to find my "subjective timbre" and played with that idea and used that palette in a lot of the paintings for the show. I was also looking at this postcard of a Lucio Fontana, Concette spaziale, The Sky of Venice, 1961, everyday as I was painting. I found it amazing the way the painting maintained its directness and unfussy quality even on such a small disposable scale.
Ariel Dill, Bright Walk, 2006, acrylic on canvas, 20" x 20"
JL: Apart from the collaborations, Ariel’s work in the show paintings while Christian has contributed photos and wall “constructions”. Together there is a composed, harmonious environment. Have you found this way of exhibiting beneficial?
AD/CS: The show was beneficial in getting our work out of the studio and into the Southfirst space and to see it in a new setting. I guess the composed, harmonious environment carried on from our studio over to the Southfirst space. It was also wonderful to work with Maika and Florian from Southfirst gallery, we had such a good time putting this show together with them. The title for the show Inglenook came about while showing Maika the work and thinking it in the context of the Southfirst space. Inglenook is an old English word for the area directly in and around a fireplace. We all thought it made perfect sense.
Christian Sampson, Solar Paintings, 2009, c-print, 8" x 10" each
JL: What role do the photographs have in the whole?
AD/CS: The photographs were a documentation of an experiment to play with solar light as a source to illuminate painting and color. We used a beach on the gulf coast of Florida with receives fantastic afternoon light and sunsets. I was thinking about what illuminates painting and what electrifies it. Opaque and transparent colors, medieval stained glass and Atsuko Tanaka. The wall paintings in the Southfirst show we're all created inside with electric light and are built to be electrified.The photos were documentations of luminous solar powered paintings.
Ariel Dill and Christian Sampson, Red and Grey Orgone Accumulator Blanket, 2009, Materials: see WR Orgon Accumulator Blanket Instructions plus canvas acrylic and cedar wood stand, 40" x 60" x 40"
AD/CS: Our film screening's were of W.R. Mysteries of the Organism by Dusan Makavejev (1971) and Sleeper by Woody Allen (1973). Both films we felt related to Reich on different levels-One being at the time a banned underground film from Yugoslavia exploring the relationship between communist politics, sexuality and Wilhelm Reich. The film interviews Reich's widow, son, local barber, and trained doctors of his teachings. Also showing orgone accumulator boxes, blankets and therapy in action...The following week we screened the film Sleeper by Woody Allen that involves the "underground" trying to destroy the "nose" of the enemy leader while passing around the "orb" and continually entering the "Orgasmatron". We felt Woody Allen had to have been influenced by Reich on some level during the writing and filming of Sleeper. The "Orgasmatron" had to be Woody's version of an Orgone Accumulator box! When we first drove up the winding driveway to 'Orgonon', Reich's home in Maine, we looked at each other and laughed that we felt like we were in a scene from Sleeper, this was also probably heightened by the fact we were driving a rental Nissan Cube.
For more info see their websites: Ariel Dill, Christian Sampson.