via notes to self and to you
Notes to self in the service of stabilizing ideas, aka: when things go wrong is when creativity needs to kick into higher gear.
Example 1: I sent John Powell of JP Aerospace a half dozen emails to try to get information on when the balloon launch scheduled for April might happen. As you know I juggle too many things and wanted to put something, even tentative, on the calendar.
JP responded with information I kind of knew but had not wanted to believe.
Because JP lives outside Sacramento and he and his team of amateur balloon-launchers aspiring to outer space usually meet up at JP’s suburban house and then drive over the mountains to Area 42, his acreage in the Nevada desert near Reno where they launch from, I knew the current weather situation in California with the 12 atmospheric rivers dumping up to 30 feet of snow in some areas meant that this launch was a faint prospect. And that drive is short in comparison to the above sentence.
I thought maybe if they could get to the desert some other way than driving over the impossible mountains, it would be dry and fine to launch. So, like a little helium orb tugging on the string attached to a child’s wrist, I kept asking.
Needless to say, JP told me it’s not going to happen in April because there are over 20 feet of snow in the mountains and sometimes the balloons come down over in that area and they would be impossible to retrieve.
So now I’m anxious because I pinned a lot of hopes on this balloon—and obviously if you pin anything on a balloon it’s gonna pop. Sorry, I just had to.
I am not good at waiting, and when something doesn’t happen it’s kind of all I can think about and I find it hard to refocus on the other studio projects that I have going on, including in no particular order, logging all the footage from the Esrange Space Center balloon launch, finishing rotoscoping the balloon burst at the edge of space (only 2900 frames to go!), organizing and categorizing the scans of the rayograph photos and designing a small book of them, finishing ten more “ballast drawings,” and more.
And I try to think about how I can do the JP Aerospace part of this project without going to JP Aerospace. And I know a lot of other artists would find a clever way involving the millions of hours of material JP has already posted on his YouTube channel, remixing, appropriating, and so on. And yet. It doesn’t feel right.
I want to go, I want to do the trip, I want to be on that land with those unique characters, I want to feel the wind and the excitement of the launch, I want to bump over the desert in a pickup trying to locate the crashed balloon with all its little sponsorship stickers and pingpong balls stuffed with kids’ science experiments, I want to unpack it all.
JP also promised I could launch 16mm film and photo negative into the stratosphere so that’s feeling pressing too. I want to try, to know, to see.
I have to wait.
Example 2: The other frustration is with the glass pieces that Kai at Precision Glass in Colorado is supposed to be making for me. I so rarely work with other people and I hate to say it but maybe this is why.
Don’t get me wrong, Kai is great and it’s been incredible talking with him and coming up with ideas how to do this in a good way. But I had really wanted these pieces by mid-February, which was at least 6 months from when we first talked about them, so I thought that was plenty of time.
But Kai cannot be reached. I mean I am persistent, people, you know that already. I’ve emailed, I’ve texted, yesterday I called the office and left a message that the admin assistant said she’d put on a sticky note and hand him as soon as she saw him. Nothing.
So I’m stressed because this is the only place I want to make these pieces. I mean plenty of glassblowers might create my objects, but it wouldn’t be a scientific glass company with contracts with JPL and NASA, and I definitely wouldn’t have had over a year’s worth of conversations like I have written about so often here.
Now what. I guess I have to set a deadline. I have the drafts of the CAD drawings we worked on so if I don’t hear from Kai by mid-April I guess I’m going to take this glass project somewhere else.
But that doesn’t seem like a very creative solution to either of those problems, it’s more in the realm of documentary and business. How boring.
The thing to do is to write about it, to make the failures part of the work, to animate the CAD drawings in my crooked hand, to imagine 20 feet of snow in the Sierras, to put an inflated party balloon in our freezer at home and film it. To play and to be ridiculous without fear or impatience.
I’ve gotten permission—almost—to send up 16mm and photo material to the stratosphere at Esrange this fall, so even if the stuff doesn’t go up from Nevada I’ll still be able to see what—if anything—happens.
Meanwhile, I adapt. Otherwise known as facing the work I’ve been procrastinating on doing.
Thanks for reading.
P.S. Don’t forget! If you’re in Columbus Ohio or Chicago Illinois next week you can go see BUNKER at the movies, and me at the movies too, where I’ll be doing Q&As following the shows. Hope to see you.
March 28, 7pm, Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus Ohio <link>
March 29 6pm, March 31, 8:15pm and April 1, 3:15pm at the Gene Siskel Film Center, Chicago, Illinois. <link>