Does it matter that we are arriving at the summit of nothing?
In every work of genius we recognize our own reflected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Works of art have no more affecting lessons for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored inflexibility then most when the whole cry of voice is on the other side.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
Video art cracked open the flat plane obsession of the first half of the 20th century with an explosive and pent-up force of imagination theretofore unable to find expression and yet for that had thus been allowed to grow rich and fertile like a fallow, untrammeled field for dreaming not realities. We can only imagine what might have transpired had the simple handheld video camera been accessible to Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Emmy Hemmings, Pablo Picasso…. Replacing the brush and pigment, freeing the creator from the studio and causing the work of art to leap off the easel and out onto the stage of an un-expecting art world.
It was into just such opportune circumstances that media artist and media inspired artist Aysha Quinn began an inquiry that was to not only to open her imagination, but to alter its very nature with the notion of incidents and things never seen before in the moving context, with the intimacy of small studio space, everyday places and the immediate translation of the moving ideas always streaming through her specific and individual mind into the moving work of art as not the product of the idea but its manifestation.
It was in the future of the 1970s and appropriately enough in the Venice Beach district of Los Angeles that, along with her partner John Sturgeon, this epic of present tense creating originated. Los Angeles because of its symbiotic relation to both Hollywood moviemaking and new art activity yet removed from each and seeking fresh means with which to engage the more rampant aspects of an empire at war, a society in turmoil and the primacy of the artistic incident under siege from every quarter of the academic and museum consciousness. And epic in the sense that it is an era considered in today’s terms to be one of magnificence for the creative spirit producing such visionaries as Chris Burden, Bruce Nauman, James Turrell and Robert Irwin to name just a smattering of creators emerging from that time and place.
But Quinn and Sturgeon were not going about the business of epic making even though the world around them was ripe for such exploitation. That would have been another story and more succinctly, a dialectic with beginning and end, point and purpose paid out and this was far from the realms of possibility these two new thinkers envisioned as their own path. Rather, they took a more personal viewpoint, something in the nature of the idea that the way to the big was through an exploration—and some times direct manifestation—of the small. By that I mean by incidents that might pass between two people, a man and a woman and remain unnoticed even though they were profoundly in many aspects of their acts and depictions. This required partnering in an abstract field of existence in order to test life’s circumstances in an existential environment away from all the previous notions of a divine plan. Was it the case that we are thrown down on an abstract and left to our own devices to find our way and bring others to a point of view which will both engage us in the world-around and likewise foster the engagement of others in meaningful patterns? If so, the studio sets and activities of two people coupling their movements before a video camera might tell the story of it all. That is each recorded moment is a mapping of actual procedures without postulating any resolution or stated term of process but in terms of compositional arrangements wherein any beginning and any ending is possible and even interchangeable without marring affect; like taking a loaf of bread and rearranging the slices to end up with an uneven shaped loaf but altering no other aspect of it. The bread is still bread and the life is still life—and on-going.
Media was never the primary interest for Aysha Quinn even after the creative partnership of those early beginnings broke up. Primary to her artistic intentions was always this subject matter of divinity and profanity at odds with getting through a life on earth. And what her performances do in that regard is alter the entire sense of what it takes in order to make one’s way not step by step but in truer circumstances of hyper leaps from one point to another both inside and outside of one’s own mis en place, one’s own little universe of place and self. To wit, the way it really is rather than a series of still canvases locking things down to stop-motion two dimensionality as merely depictions of incidents in life rather than real life; symbolic so much more than actually. In this regard Quinn’s artistic life has evolved after 20 years in the New York City arena of new art activity in what have always been segments, often in seemingly disconnected sequences, some documented but just as often not, as the case may be resulting in nothing because it is the process, the continuum, the entire spectrum of momentum that comprise the Aleph point, the moving point where the vitality lies. Still her goals are to examine her\our place in the scheme of things and to connect meaning through patterns as though they are being recorded somewhere from above or within as if to state that whatever the plan of mankind it has to be a plan divined if not Divine by laws of attraction and attachment.
At this time in her life’s inquiry she still sets herself down to the task of profane artistic inspection toward a profound revealing, if not specifically revelation, of consequential impressions that add up to her life. Her aim is simple enough: The time and space to go about the errands of her trade generating fresh manifestations in order to arrive at nothing as the wholeness of being since the only separate-able parts from the fabric of her existence are those she captures on video taken from all the rest; and which meaning comes from their extrication so much more so than by the qualities they convey as single objects of her concern. This important art does well for us all only when it finds opportunity for expression and capture for our appreciation and hopefully the support for it will continue and grow.
—Peter Barton, 2009