In 1999, I said to hell with art, I’m going to do something useful with my life. So I enrolled in Oriental medical school to learn how to do acupuncture. Well, that didn’t work out for various reasons, so after a year of study, I went back to being an artist. I came away from that experience with useful information, and a fascination with the acupuncture needle, a very specific and arcane object. Without going into an explanation of how acupuncture works, suffice it to say that the purpose of the needle is to stimulate and move energy in the body. I was wondering how to translate this effect into a piece of art.
My practice has always involved proliferations of objects, and I believe that objects have resonance. So I started to experiment with making objects using the needles, and ended up creating beads that I strung on 8’ strands which I arranged like a curtain in an 8’ circle that had an opening so the viewer could stand inside the piece. Ultimately that piece incorporated about 50,000 needles, and yes, it moved energy. While the piece was in process, my friends from acupuncture school would come over to hang out at my house and they would take turns sitting inside the piece—they all agreed they felt a peaceful, healing vibe while interacting with it. Of course, this reaction is to be expected from acupuncture students. The real test came when it finally was installed in the gallery. I was truly blown away by the reactions of people. One man sat in there for a really long time and communed with the spirit of his father. Another man, who was a wealthy political operative, said he never felt safer or more at peace that when he was in that space.
My process involves generating systems to allow visual chaos and chance to emerge; I generally repeat one thing many times to build a complex visual situation from a very simple one. The pattern of the strands of beads creates the structure for the interaction of the needles with the ambient light. The visual effect is quite beautiful, as light interacts with profusion of needles, infusing the space with light, energy and movement.