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Aaron Lish

2041 NW Lakeside Place, Bend, OR 97701


Statement of Intent Below are two examples of the type of project I would like to undertake at Crater Lake National Park if I was to receive an artist-in-residence. I would work with the Park Administration, and the Park Community at large, to determine a project that would be the best fit. In the contemporary art world it has been argued that what the artist makes no longer matters, but rather it is the discourse that the work creates that is actually the art. In some ways internationally renowned artists like Tino Sehgal and Rirkrit Tiravanija are very good examples of exactly this premise. Both artists are known for constructing experiences for their viewers through interactions with either themselves or with actors to engage the viewers in contemplation and/or direct dialogue on contemporary issues. In these works neither artist actually made a physical piece of art, but rather each created an experience that the viewer was actively engaged in. Example #1: My intent would be to build off of the work of Sehgal and Tiravanija, as well as artists like Janet Cardiff and Gina Siepel, both of whom create experiences for their viewers by leading them on tours. Cardiff creates audio tours, whereas one of Siepel’s most recent projects includes leading participants on sound gathering tours by canoe on the Bronx River, in New York City. For this project I would use nature and various “props” along the trail in place of the actor or artist to engage the viewer in contemplation, and rather than utilize technology during the experience, the viewer / visitor would be able to revisit a version of the experience later via the internet. The concept for this project is based in the fact that most National Park visitors are there for the grand vistas, thrilling encounters with wildlife, etc., or what could be referred to as the “high input, low output experience”. It has been argued that many people’s perception of nature is based on nature shows from television and from how nature is portrayed in the movies rather than through direct interactions with the natural world. As a result, unlike in times past, far fewer visitors come to National Parks to actually slow down and just experience nature at nature’s pace. My intent is for this installation to help illustrate this to the viewers / visitors. The installation would be a trail that does not lead to a view point, but rather just makes a loop through a wild section of the park where the visitor is going to feel like they have entered a remote wilderness, even though they are not very far from the road. Unlike most short trails in National parks that lead to waterfalls, panoramic view points, historical sites, etc., this trail would not lead anywhere. In fact, the original idea was to have the trail dead end after leading nowhere; however, I decided that this would result in two-way traffic, which I want to minimize, and also that some viewers may feel cheated and thus not engage in any contemplation over their experience. To help engage the viewer and frame the experience I would have a short quote about listening to nature, or the power of nature in inspiring contemplation, engraved on a wooden sign at the beginning of the trail (I will have to do some more research on this, and would like to work with the Park Service Historian to possibly find a quote that is specific to Crater Lake).

The trail itself would create a circular pattern. It would travel through a dense area of forest, giving a close, intimate feel that is very different from many other experiences at Crater Lake which are filled with wide open views and often crowds of people. The design of the trailhead would be to limit visitors (only two or three parking spaces in the pull-out). Ideally the trail would quickly cross over a slight rise or be at a lower elevation than the road so as to minimize noise contamination from traffic. A short way along the trail would be the poem “The Endless Road” by Girish Sampath (attached) to prompt contemplation about life. Then around half-way around the circle there would be a log book in a weather-resistant metal binder (that would be removed each winter). Visitors would be invited to sign in, but not with the typical information; in this log book it would ask for their first name, age, where they are from, and what unique things they saw, heard, felt, smelled or tasted on their walk. Cardiff’s audio walks utilize many cues to the senses to help immerse the listener into the experience. I want to do much the same thing by using the log-book as a way to prompt the viewer to engage more of their senses, which may lead them to a deeper connection with their surroundings. By causing the visitor to begin to reflect, the constructed experience would begin to circle back to the original quote at the trailhead, just the way the trail itself has been circling back. In thinking about what their senses picked up the visitor will be given the chance to both reflect on their experience and to share it with future visitors. And in reading what others experienced they may begin to question whether they could have engaged their senses more fully so as to more completely experience their surroundings. Further, by including the ages of the visitors it brings in the fun fact that younger children are often more observant of their natural surroundings, which then will hopefully illustrate to the adult visitors that they have lost some of their ability to slow down and engage with nature (yet adults are used to thinking that it is the kids who can’t slow down!). As the log book will be well before the end of the trail it will also give the visitor a chance to focus more on their surroundings, and allow for greater sensory exploration, as they continue their walk. At the end of the trail there would be a post with a small box (like those used for self-serve wilderness permits) that would have business card-sized cards with the name of the project and a website address. On the website would be a brief description of the project, as well as 24 hours of audio recordings from the area of the trail (recorded prior to the trail opening so there are no sounds of people). The recordings would be divided into 20 minute sections available to play or to download. The hope is that visitors would listen to a recording (or many) and hear sounds that were familiar, triggering memories of the walk and of other senses being engaged. And it is possible that hearing either the familiar sounds, or hearing unfamiliar sounds, will cause them to become more aware of their surroundings wherever they live (which was one of the principle reasons behind some of the Situationist’s participatory projects in the 1960s in France). This idea of an internet component of the project may be expanded to include a video tour of the walk that highlights sights, sounds, smells along the walk, as well as addressing the senses of touch and taste for particular things found along the trail. The end of the trail itself will be designed so that it is shielded by vegetation from the parking area and the beginning of the trail (see attached diagram). This will help ensure one-way traffic, as well as create some uncertainty about where the trail leads (I would prefer for visitors to start out not knowing that the trail is a loop because they would then have an expectation). Further, in future park publications and maps, the trail itself will not be shown; rather just the parking pull-out and the name (yet to be determined) would be shown. Descriptions of the project in publications should be limited to stating that the project includes a trail designed to construct individual experiences with nature; the details on the wording would be finalized in working with

park administration and staff responsible for creating the park’s publications. The intent is that from the time the visitor begins the walk until they reach the log-book, there should be some question in their mind about where the trail is going (since many visitors are “programmed” that a trail is there to lead to a specific, significant location). The log-book will hopefully cause them to realize that the purpose of the trail is not to reach a specific destination, but rather to engage more fully with their surroundings. And for those who continue to question the purpose of the trail after reaching the log-book, or after completing the whole trail, the uncertainty will hopefully cause them to continue to ponder, causing the viewer to engage in some form of discourse about the experience. Good art should be ambiguous and should leave room for individual interpretation. If a visitor leaves questioning the purpose of the trail then they are likely to continue to ponder their experience; and if they eventually reach a conclusion, the fact that they put extra effort into it will likely result in the impact of their conclusion being that much more powerful. This project would address the Climate Change focus for this year’s residency program through the idea of “the soundscape of the park” and through “listening to the voices of the park, both natural and human, and what are they telling us?” From recently having spent a few days in the Park, I can speak from experience that the sound of a loud motorcycle carries a long way through the open forest of the park, and the sound of aircraft overhead is not escaped even when miles from the nearest open road or trail. I anticipate that there will be a mix of man-made sounds and sounds of nature that people would experience on the walk; and this too is important for them to think about. The project also fits the Climate Change focus in another, less obvious way, in that the term “climate change” can also refer to the change in the cultural climate, or the change in how nature is perceived in today’s culture. National Park visitations have been on the decline, especially in the latter half of the last decade, and reports indicate that the reasons for the decline include 1) not having the time, and 2) that National Parks (and all nature-based recreation) are in competition with electronic forms of recreation (and nature-based recreation is losing). By providing a quiet, contemplative setting, and by effectively framing the experience I hope to allow visitors to re-recognize the benefits of slowing down and enjoying the simpler things in life, as well as to re-learn how powerful nature is in helping us to escape from the stresses of front-country life and put things into perspective. The spectacular views are memorable, but often times they do not impact us as deeply if we are still connected to our front-country existence via the cell phone or the automobile. One of the guiding tenets of experiential education is that there must be reflection for there to be learning. And both education experts and brain researchers alike suggest that learning is most effective when the experience has a cognitive, a physical, and a creative or emotional component to the experience. By helping the visitor to disengage with the front-country by immersing them into the forest (possibly even have a small sign saying “Please turn off cell phones” at the beginning of the trail), by encouraging them to focus intently on their surroundings, by having them engage in physical activity, and then by having them reflect on their experience in a much more personal way I hope to create a more meaningful and impactful experience for the visitor. The impact will be made even greater by the fact that for most, the initial intent behind the project will not be obvious. Again, ambiguity and room for individual interpretation are important in good art. Some would possibly call this project an interpretive trail and not art; but some would also say that Tiravanija just hosts dinner parties at galleries. Art critics and museum directors have recognized Tiravanija’s work as art. Nicolas Bourriaud, author of multiple books on contemporary art, has dubbed Tiravanija’s and other art of this genre as “relational art”,

sometimes referred to as relational aesthetics, and has argued that this may actually be the next major movement in art. For the viewer / visitor, I hope they do question whether my installation / trail project is art, because for them to have lingering questions will likely cause them to continue to think about the experience. Regarding the question of whether this is art, and what I would be making, I would be going beyond Sehgal or Tiravanija in that I would actually be creating something physical. In conjunction with the Park Service I would design and build a new trail, and there would also be the website for visitors to explore and listen to the audio recordings of the sounds of the park. In addition, the aesthetics of the beginning of the trail would be very important in helping to draw the visitor out of the car and down the trail. It would be designed to be aesthetically enticing – a perfect trail leading away from the road through towering hemlock and fir calling to the carbound visitor to get out and stretch their legs. However, after the beginning of the trail, there would be no concern for the beauty of the surroundings. The circular path would not meander to capture the perfect little areas of the forest, but rather would present nature as it is. As the path would be very continuous in its slight curving route, visitors would be able to fully engage in their surroundings rather than be absorbed in navigating the twists and turns. The idea behind this design borrows from the spiral labyrinths created for meditative walks where one is able to walk continuously without thinking or awareness of their surroundings; however, my intent is for the visitor to be able to be fully aware of their surroundings because there would be no distractions caused by an irregularly laid out path. At the same time, the unusual regularity of the route would also be very un-natural and serve to distinguish this trail from a normal hiking trail. This may hopefully cause the visitor to begin to ponder its purpose as they walk this un-natural route through the natural environment. The puzzlement, or even slight discomfort caused by the trail being “un-natural” would contribute to the ambiguity and complexity of the experience, which can help put the brain into a state that is more receptive to new ideas (Milton Erickson). The logbook would then hopefully help to enlighten the visitor, while also helping them to engage more fully in the experience. For every person who reads the quote, walks the circle, and shares in the log book, there will have been a constructed experience. How much they get out of their walk will be up to each visitor, but that is the case with any art whether it is a Picasso at the Museum of Modern Art or a Sehgal constructed experience at the Guggenheim, or this trail in the woods at Crater Lake. And for every person who contemplates about the trail, about the quote they read, or about whether they could have been more aware of their surroundings, or what the purpose of the trail was, a form of discourse will have been created; thus this trail and the experiences it will create can, by current definition, be considered art. Ironically enough, being an avid outdoors person all of my life, and an outdoor professional for the past 15 years working as a college outdoor leadership professor and climbing guide, I having hiked thousands of miles of trails, and I have always felt that a well designed trail was a work of art. Further, I have experience designing and building cross country ski trails so I have an “eye” for laying out trails. I also enjoy physical labor in the woods, and being able to share my knowledge, expertise and labor to benefit Crater Lake, the National Park in my back yard (I live in Bend) would be a real joy. If chosen, I would use the residency time to meet with administration, rangers and trail crew to determine the best location for the trail, what supplies would be needed, what resources would be available from the NPS, and what, if any, additional construction may be needed (parking pullout, signage, etc.). Working with rangers and / or trail crew if possible, otherwise working solo,

we would flag the proposed trail using GPS coordinates to give a circular paths and then begin roughing in the trail. Depending on the actual length (my hope would be for it to take visitors approximately 10-15 minutes to reach the log-book and another 10-15 minutes to complete the trail) and how much clearing was needed, as well as how much labor could be provided by park service staff, it is possible that the trail would be able to be finished in my two week stay. If not, as I live close enough I could come back and camp for 2-3 day periods after my residency to be able to continue work on the project myself. As this would be a permanent installation for the park, I would need all supplies (lumber for signs, log-book, logs for water bars [if needed], trail tread treatment, construction of a small parking pull-out, etc.) to be provided by the park. I would be happy to camp rather than stay in the provided housing if this could help offset any of the expense to the park for this project. Further, the only things that I would have rights to would be the audio recordings, the ability to use photographs of the project as documentation or in other art installations, and to have access to the log book to make copies from for documentation of the project or to use in other installations; the installation would be a permanent addition to the park.

Example #2: This project would loosely build off of the ideas of the Situationists from France in the 1960’s and their concept of “psychogeography”, as well as their “Algorithmic Walks”. It also borrows from past work by the Center for Land Use Interpretation, and incorporates ideas from Milton Erickson on how to prime the brain to make it more susceptible to suggestion or change. Through active engagement this project would be directly addressing the concept of soundscape, and how technology inhibits our ability to hear the keynotes in nature. For this project I would use two very basic technologies, a system of counting and a basic capsule-style compass, to illustrate how any technology creates its own experience and acts as a buffer between you and your environment (because you are interacting with your environment through the technology). This project would require a similar setting to that of the above project; however, it could include areas of less tree coverage. It would be optimal to have the road to the North of where the Compass Walk would take place, and it would be best to have as little noise contamination from traffic as possible. Either a small, unpaved, parking pull-out would need to be created, or hopefully an existing pull-out could be used. A simple wood sign would welcome visitors and define the term “soundscape” (as defined by R. Murray Schafer in his work on acoustic ecology), as well as “keynote” and “sound signal” as they are used relative to soundscapes. There would be a clear plastic dispenser box labeled “Take One ”and two separate compartments inside containing instruction cards, and basic capsule compasses with built in whistles. The instructions would lead Visitors through a short, simple “boxed L-shaped” orienteering course (see diagram) using cardinal directions (N,S,E,W) and pace counting. The card would also give them instructions on how to return to the road if they were to get confused or disoriented (and they would also have the whistle to blow in the event of an emergency). Near the half-way point of the course (the furthest from the car) would be a solar powered speaker that would be playing man-made sounds (possibly loud city traffic sounds with the occasional siren and blaring horns). This would serve as an antagonist in the experience to cause confusion, as well as hopefully concern about the future of the park. This idea borrows from the Center for Land Use Interpretation's project where a speaker playing a recording of chainsaws was placed in the woods. It also is working from Milton Erickson's theory on hypnosis and that creating a minor mental dis-equalibrium or confusion helps to subconsciously put the

brain into a more receptive mode for suggestion or processing on something new and challenging. There is even the possibility that when they hear the background traffic sounds back home they may actually think of nature, the compass course and Crater Lake. After finishing the last line of the instructions for the orienteering course, which will result in them reaching the road near the beginning of the course, there will be a line instructing them to turn the card over. On the back it will ask "What sounds of nature did you hear?" They likely will have heard very little of the background sounds of nature, or the keynote sounds, because they would have been absorbed in the technology they were using (things which are so simple as to not be thought of as technology, and yet completely engaging). The traffic sounds from the speaker placed in the forest, which for many Visitors would be keynote sounds back home, will likely be the sound signals, or consciously heard sounds during the walk. The compass and card will be souvenirs to keep as reminders of the experience. The card and compass would both have a URL on them for a web page that would have more information about the art project, quotes from Marshall McLuhan on technology, the concept of soundscapes, and that would have 24 hours of audio recordings from the area of the walk (prior to the project being open so there are no sounds of human passage), or a live streaming audio of nature sounds from Crater Lake if the Science and Learning Center wanted to collaborate with this project and install a remote audio station that would broadcast the signal to a computer at the office from where it would be streamed live 24 hours a day. If using pre-recorded audio, the recordings would be divided into 20 minute sections available to play or to download. The site would also include basic orienteering instructions and would encourage visitors to get out and use their compass, while getting more time traveling in nature and trying to learn to hear the keynote, or background, sounds of nature more consciously. I could see this as either being a temporary installation, or possibly a more permanent one. I would provide the first 100 compasses with whistles for the project, along with instruction cards and the box that would hold the cards and compasses. I would also provide the solar powered speaker and the recording of the traffic noise. I would need the Park Service to provide the wood posts and boards for the sign, as well as to restock the box with instruction cards and compasses. If this was to be a long-term installation then after the first 100 compasses and cards were depleted the Park Service would have to supply compasses and instruction cards (approximately $2 each). If the Park Service decided to not continue the project then I would have the right to remove the solar powered speaker. As with the first Example I would use the residency to meet with Park Rangers and Administrators to determine the best location for this project. I would then use the rest of the time setting everything up, making the 24 hour recording of nature sounds, and if I had access to the internet I would also be setting up the website with the recordings.