Saturday, November 1, 2014


Digital photograph of Con*tain*ment, an interactive art installation of photography, sculpture, and assemblages by Jen Crickenberger and Heather Marcelle Crickenberger, presented for the month of July 2007 at the Light Factory in Charlotte. Photo located and color edited in October 2014.

“We must expect great innovations to transform the entire technique of the arts, thereby affecting artistic invention itself and perhaps even bringing about an amazing change in our very notion of art.” (Paul Valéry, Pièces sur L’Art, 1931, Le Conquete de l’ubiquite, quoted in “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” by Walter Benjamin, 1936)
"Always leave town with an orange, and pretend you're laughing at it." (Moran and Linehan, Black Books, "Cooking the Books" 1.1, 2000, TV Series)

In 1936, Walter Benjamin argued in "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," that the countless new and unknown contexts generated by technological advances in printing had resulted in a disruption of the work of art's specific context in time and space, or its "aura". What was lost with such a disruption is similar to what is lost when we search our computers for files and find that we have multiple copies, multiple versions of a digital text: a sense of authenticity or the authority of an original. 

As writing has evolved to include digital media, the manner in which we perceive works of art is changing as well. They are no longer bound as a particularity in time and space as they used to be in museums.  Our experience of the works of art differ drastically when we access them digitally, in solitude and at whatever hour we see fit.  As a result, new art increasingly conceived as simulacra--as copies without originals--art created digitally in the cloud for digital audiences in digital formats that only computers can read.

Now, as artists endeavor to create and disseminate their work electronically, something new is happening: a vast store of artwork and their appearances in different contexts is amassing in digital space, all the while their hard-copy counterparts decomposing in the world of the physical. Storage drives, email accounts, blogs, websites, and other backlogs of the worldwide web have all become ephemeral repositories for digital copies of material objects and events in the physical world that might later be lost, fragile though these repositories may be. Digital space has not only become an extension of human memory, but of the physical world that surrounds us, promising to preserve the fleeting moment, the abandoned building, the disassembled art exhibit. 

This essay features written reflection and a selection of photographs representing Con*tain*ment, its origins and development as evidenced from material and digital artifacts and writingsits deterioration and decomposition since its conception in 2006, and its eventual resurrection in the form of this digital narrative. Here, in hyperspace, this old project takes on new form, and the ephemeral reemerges, digitally rediscovered, transforming into something new.   

By returning to the remnants that have survived the years, whether as material artifacts or virtual traces, we hope to extend the work we started then--in materials like paper, clay, plaster and cloth--by investigating how the effects of these materials change when remediated into digital form.  Prior attitudes toward memory and the physical are reexamined through the process of digital curation and reflection enacted to produce this text where digital space intersects and extends the ephemeral world of physical objects. 

"The Traveling Orange," dried orange in glass candle holder, which was part of Con*tain*ment, in its current context seven years after the exhibition. 

Con*tain*ment and Interactive, Site-Specific Assemblage

From the Original Submission Form

In July 2007, we presented an artistic installation entitled Con*tain*ment, which was presented in The Light Factory's main downtown gallery in Charlotte, North Carolina. (The company has since moved.) The installation was designed to fit the far right-hand corner of The Light Factor's downtown gallery. Our composition was comprised of rudimentary building materials, makeshift furnishings, and an arrangement of photography, art objects, repurposed refuse, video, plaster sculpture, microfiction, and paper assemblages.  Visitors were invited to explore the space physically, using a pair of disposable examination gloves which were provided under the Artist Statement.

Below is pasted the 2-part artist statement required by The Light Factory for inclusion in the July 2007 members show.

(An installation for the Member’s Show by Jen and Marcelle Crickenberger)

- EXTERIOR:  Wood or PVC pipe frame 10’x10’ (or smaller if needed) with painted flat pasta shell beaded curtain suspended on frame surrounding entire space within. This can be adjusted to one wall if necessary.
- INTERIOR:  Mixed media installation: found objects, paint, sculpture, photography, writing, rose petals, pasta curtains, furniture, music, food, etc.
- This installation is free-standing and self contained.  It can be moved to any space of the gallery or adjusted to fit the needs of the gallery.

Brief Description:

The beaded curtain serves as the exterior for this organic, textured, washed white cube structure.  You enter the threshold of the curtain to find a white ‘suggestion’ of a bedroom.  All of the furniture, the floor, every object inside this space is painted white (textured/washed out/dusty white.)  You then are invited to explore all of the containers in the room.  There are suitcases, tiny boxes, drawers, filing cabinets, baskets of letters, etc.  Within each container you will find the visual representation of a memory using cloth, eggs, sculpture, grass, photography, paintings, poetry, etc.  Most of these will be more metaphorical representations while some will get extremely intimate and raw.  The concept is for the audience to rummage through the containers and consider their own experiences in relationship to those found in the boxes. 

The Subject

The subject of the study was "containment"--both as an obstructive silencing force and as a means of escape available in art and language.  The word itself was emphasized in that visitors were first met with the elaborate Oxford English Dictionary definition upon entering the exhibit.  

Opening Night

Oxford English Dictionary (unabridged, compact edition) on pedestal. The dictionary was covered in heavily textured art paper and lined with rice paper with embedded flowers. It was left open to the definition of "containment" which had been circled.

Con*tain*ment, configuration at time of opening, July 2007.

Modified lighting structure, handmade ballerina jewelry box, paper mache framing structure with prints of Magritte's derby sporting business men from Golconda.

Video of woman flying handmade kite on windless day with photos printed on paper pillows. 

Sculpture made from book, chocolate, photography and other mixed media.

Handmade kite with whitewashed clay sculpture and antique bird cage.

Plaster and unlined handmade dress with artificial rose attached at bust, phone "off the hook" in white wooden box, medicine cabinet and bra on right side of image with chicken wire caging. 

Table set with dishes, photography applique and art objects.

Cement blocks used to stabilize open ends of exhibit walls.

Condiments and spent thoughts.

Phone detail with broken caging and discarded dress.

Handmade sink, plaster, stained blue with used paintbrushes, box of band-aids with short story folded up inside. In background, book sculpture and fish bowl with dead mermaid sculpture.

Distorted image from video and paper pillows with cage background and shadows. 

Dead tree in suitcase. Note background of Magritte's Golconda and shadows of black birds which were printed on the paper mache frame structure.

Clock in waste basket filled with origami boxes. 

Salvaged window, canvas covered with printed blackbirds, pillows made of paper with photographs printed.

View of Con*tain*ment from the outside.

Notes on a dream, a box of pastels, and a glimpse of our grandmother as a young woman.

Color photos printed on transparencies and submerged in mason jars filled with water.

Molded paper and gel medium.

Paperweight with photo of leaf and fingers.

Paper pillows with printed figures and birds.


Visitors lifting pillows, shuffling decks of handmade cards, rummaging through drawers filled with origami boxes and small folded notes--peaking behind curtains, reading stories of intimate moments. The result resembled a crime scene, ruins of a once private world that had been by placed before the eyes of strangers, one left open to examination. 

The Month of July

In the month that the installation was open to visitors, a couple (two strangers to both my sister and myself) chose to use the installation for their wedding. 

A Word on Loss & Recovery

Due to a hardware failure that occurred a few years ago, most pictures of the installation and its opening were lost, as well as the "Artist Statement" which hung above the box of examination gloves provided at the exhibit entrance.  The selection of images you will find in this text were were scavenged, cropped, or retrieved created from emails, blogs and web pages. Photos were taken by Jen Crickenberger-Kratz and Heather Marcelle Crickenberger with a few from Alastair Gill. The highest resolution image of original photos from the exhibition was 2400 x 3600 pixels in size. Some images were only recovered in thumbnail format and are highly pixelated, even distorted. 

Wire fencing and cinder blocks. 

For this text, we made use of the digital fragments, either distorting them further or as a signpost for discussion about the effects of media on content. Some photographs are very new. They are fresh takes on old things that survived from the installation. In some cases, their current contexts are preserved; in others they have been photographed as artifacts or altered in Photoshop. The orange featured in the image above traveled with us through Spain, returned to the United States in our suitcases, and dried slowly on my bookshelves for many months in the glass candle holder pictured above.  At some point during our installation process, it was glossed over in gel medium. The arrangement was placed in the exhibit, possibly on the book shelves that are not visible in the surviving photographs and has managed to outlive much of the data we were hoping to recover.  


"Player's Choice": Hand made box of playing cards displayed in lid of box in which they were found. These cards were part of Con*tain*ment, arranged on the makeshift bed with some cards removed from the box.  Cards were made with ink jet prints on textured glossy paper and gel medium. The images are digitally produced miniaturizations of sumi ink paintings from the series One Heart, One Blow: Studies in Sumi, presented at The Artist's Basement in Columbia, SC in 2005. Originals were sumi on water color paper, 16" x 20".

Afterlives and Other Incarnations

Germinating bulb in nest of twine next to paper pillows printed with black and white photos. During the month of the exhibit, the bulb had unexpectedly produced a shoot and started growing.  

The two-headed serpent is seen here on the bottom shelf. Some of the objects were stored in boxes or thrown away.


Projections: Exploring Reading and Writing in Emerging Technologies (or How an Apparatus Becomes Self-Aware) (2014) by Heather Marcelle Crickenberger. Projections was a digital artistic installation presented in the Creativity Studio of North Carolina State University’s James B. Hunt, Jr. Library as part of the North Carolina Literary Festival on April 5, 2014 from 1:00-4:00 PM. This project was an extension of the work begun in the my doctoral dissertation at the University of South Carolina,  The Structure of Awakening: Walter Benjamin and Progressive Scholarship in New Media (2007) which was an introduction to an experiment in scholarly discourse in digital space: The Arcades Project Project (2002-2007). All three projects are discussion in relation to one another in "The Critic as Producer: Projection, Reflection, and Remediation in Immersive Technologies" (2014), which is an online scholarly article.  

Sunflowers cast over scavenged virtual ragpicking in Projections.




Whitewashed photo of thistle in Capiliera with sun setting over Sierra Nevadas.

Whitewashed sunflowers, deadish and lacking cheer.

The same dictionary from Con*tain*ment where it currently resides in my home office (2014).  The white paper cover has been permanently attached.

Snake sculpture (originally presented in a box filled with dry white rice, revisted with dictionary.

Phone concept as achieved by accident in home office.

Power Heels

The shoes are gone but the fetish remains...

Dreams of Spain Acrylic and sumi ink on canvas (24" x 48")

Faces in the Landscapes

Face in the landscape viewed from train.

Whitewashing & Color Pops

Refrains and Rhythms in Spanish Landscapes and Interiors, June 2006


Left, white vegetation. Right, clay rooftops and whitewashed walls. 

Interior of the Alahambra, vaulted ceiling.


Field of sunflowers with white sky.

Windmills and clouds.

Road sign with white stripe. 


El Tajo Gorge, Rhonda.

Rhonda from bridge.

Cliffs of Rhonda from bridge.


Miro exhibit, print reproductions.

A Set of Rose Curtains

Our pension in Rhonda.


The sheers in our pension window.

Highway Sunflowers


Roadside sunflowers.

Capiliera, Cherries, and Tinto de Verano  

Whitewashed walkway with rose branch.

 Thistles whitewashed buildings.

 View from our table, white lamp post and large pink flower.

 Cherries over our table.


Tinto de verano on our table.

Cherry tree through bead curtain.


Left, Sierra Nevada, view from dash. Right, bull billboard on hill.

View of Granada from Sacromonte, nightfall.



Above, random graffiti from the streets of Granada.

Tinto de verano

The Alahambra


Baths, arcades.

Labyrinth with roses and early summer flowers.

 Living wall with arched threshold and roses.

Oranges and roses.

Oranges with fountain and pentagon-shaped hedges.

Interior of Alahambra, shuttered windows. 




Above, writing meets ornamental architecture.

Picaso exhibit inside the Alahambra.

Containing Ourselves with Language and the Color White
Before Jen asked me to be involved with the installation, she had already decided she wanted to work with whitewashing, as a way to unite a collection of seemingly disparate objects. She would bring us back to the white exteriors while I would try to work color in wherever possibly. 

Media and the Shape of Thought

We designed the project in an effort to understand the relationship between various media and their application in the contemplation of a concept. Below, once again, is the image from the Light Factory's main downtown gallery, July 2007.

Con*tain*ment viewed from a distance, July 2007, The Light Factory, Charlotte, NC.


Two Walls Instead of Three:

What made this space challenging was the fact that we found out only a day or two before the opening that we would only have two walls to use in the exhibit.  For the past several months, we had thought that we would have movable walls to use in creating the concept of "containment".  Our attention was focused on the objects because we were planning to use a white-box space to frame the collection. 

Hardwood Flooring:

Security Camera: 


Paper & Fabric Assemblages

Plaster Carvings

Basic Construction Materials

Bedroom Furniture

Interactive Art Objects

Clay & Found Art

The original travelling orange. In the months of May and June, it flew to...

Electronic Media

Jewelry Box for Girls

Dishes with Photo Applique

Dish #1: "Habits of mind" - Clear class plate with ink jet print attached to back.

Dish #2: "Toast to an Idea" - Clear class plate with ink jet print attached to back.

Dish #3: "Cleaning Up" - Clear class plate with ink jet print attached to back.

Current home of plates featured above (with Ziggy).