Michael Garfield – How To Live in the Future: Branching Systems, Measuring Instruments, Astonishment

02 April 2009

Branching Systems, Measuring Instruments, Astonishment

> Imagery

Just Another Desert Party - available (but currently on display) - 2009 03 21 & 22 Just Another Desert Party (feat. DJs Spyder, Chromatest, Psytek, and many more), Queen Valley AZ - 16"x24"

By now, many of you know that I've worked as a scientific illustrator for the Department of Herpetology at the University of Kansas Natural History Museum since 2005 (a few years on-site, and since then by occasional correspondence). Recently, KUNHM has taken to displaying natural-history-themed artwork in their main stairwell, and when I was back in Lawrence last fall I saw an call to artists for their latest exhibition, "Branching Systems." I couldn't pass up the opportunity to display psychedelic live art at my old haunts, especially since my old professors and co-workers have little or no idea of how I've been applying my education. Plus, I have had little experience applying my training in anatomy and realism to my newer profession...so this piece, painted from 7 pm to 5 am at the burner-produced Just Another Desert Party in Queen Valley (a gorgeous desert camping area about an hour east of Phoenix), was a really satisfying cross-pollination between two epochs of my life. Here's the statement I prepared for them to use:

Branching systems are all symptoms of the universe's own tree-like structure. Ancient societies believed that the whole world was a tree - the Axis Mundi - and hundreds of years before science formalized this understanding with chaos math, alchemists had summarized it in their dictum, "As above, so below." The same rules that govern the efficient dissipation of energy play themselves out at all magnitudes: from the branching flows of river systems and electrical discharge, to the arrangement of organic molecules, to the dispersal of nutrients by our cardiovascular system, to the groping splay of the vertebrate limb, to the radiating development of new languages and cultures. A symbolic overview of evolutionary history, this painting was "grown" semi-algorithmically from a visual "genome" – but organized as a collage, to honor the non-linearity of our world's self-organizing principles.

Of course, that was a bit too much of a mouthful for them to use. We ended up with this:

Using symbolism and vibrant color, this work illustrates the ubiquitous and non-linear branching systems of the natural world. Items in this painting - wings, organs, and rivers - have unique structures and processes, yet are also creators or products of tree-like structures. This painting was composed live at the multimedia arts event "Just Another Desert Party," in Queen Valley, Arizona.

A fair compromise. If you're in Lawrence KS at all over the next couple of months, go check out the Natural History Museum and its Branching Systems Exhibit, which features plenty of other awesome art by local artists including my very inspring buddy Yuri Zupancic.

Vacuum Trellis - available - 2009 03 25 Pussycat Lounge (Joe DiPadova, World Famous rani "g," dk.strickler) - 16"x24"

Another in a series of attempts to evoke vacuum/field interactions and how pattern arises out of emptiness by the self-organizing overlay of vibrational patterns. Of course, as unified field theory physicist and total badass Nassim Haramein constantly reiterates to those of us less insightful, the vacuum isn't empty, but infinitely full! This isn't the greatest picture but I started with "wafers" of black on black and built it up from there. My favorite part about this piece - as in much of my work - is how minor imperfections in the symmetries of the first layer feed forward into increasingly significant and obvious asymmetries when I start adding other colors - how those first triangles, not totally equilateral, ended up warping all of the straight lines and windows later in the painting. It's a very organic feeling and a constant challenge to the process, which makes painting without measuring instruments an ongoing experiment, as well as an artistic language for the physics story of how our universe emerged from "broken symmetries in the vacuum."

This club was awesome, by the way - lasers all over the place, and a live trumpet and saxophone playing along to the DJs all night (what a great idea!).

Compass Mandala 01 - available - 2009 03 27 & 28 Mondrian Hotel & The Grizzly Room (DJ Maji & Cameron Martin) - 20" across

So I finally gave in and used a compass for the first time, starting with a symmetrical grid like my friends Kris D and Krystle Smith. While it was on the one hand kind of a pride-swallowing moment and also somewhat dissatisfying in light of my above statements about loving to explore asymmetries, on the other hand I feel like this piece has a psychoactive effect that really obviously and instantly puts it in a class of its own next to the rest of my work. It was a frustrating painting for most of the process, totally uninspiring and mundane. But I'm very pleased with the way it came out, once I started overlaying straight lines and crystalline structures over all of the interlocking circles and shot some warmth and whiteness through the blue to give it a sense of self-illumination. In the name of including and transcending additional techniques, refusing nothing in the name of creative development, I indent to do more circular canvases, more compass work, and to continue to investigate new ways of expressing these subtle orders. Stay posted...

> Writing

Lastly, I'd like to take a moment to thank everyone who's been so damn patient with me, waiting for the author-read audio version of Giving In To Astonishment, my essay on sacred geography, mythology, and shadow work at Burning Man 2008. You can finally listen to and download the "audio book" here:

In the spirit of Burning Man's gift economy, I highly encourage you to share this with your friends, mix it into DJ sets, whatever.

As usual, thanks for your time. If you have any questions about this work - or about commissions, custom apparel designs, music, evolutionary dynamics, or anything, email me. And have a beautiful day!