Can you tell me more about the Land Harps and Current Casting projects you’re working on?
I wonder if we can maybe jump to a couple of quick clips, and I can give you some examples of what the recent recordings have sounded like. [Andree plays excerpts of his Land Harps recordings, similar to those in this video.]
They sound almost electronically processed, but these are straight feeds from the instrument.
I thought that when you were playing these that you had taken the raw feed of the land harp and then added some element of composition, but these are just straight from the creek in Wassaic?
Yeah, these in particular are the files straight off the recorder.
Wow. So after you pull the raw recording, do you process it at all? Or do you just not touch it at all and put it alongside video, photography, or painting work?
I don't even know how much of it you'd call processing — it's usually just changing the volume to balance what was recorded. More like mixing. But that's usually all of the editing that I'm doing. I really like the idea that it's just what came out of the process, instead of being something that I'm then manipulating or embellishing.
In terms of exhibition, the latest instance will be at the Plains Art Museum this summer, in a show called The Other Four. It’s a collective of artists exploring non-visual senses as the primary artistic experience with the work. The recording was broken into its individual channels, and is actually experienced through bone conduction. So there's these suspended transducers that you hold to your body, and then you hear the sound through your bones.
I didn't even know that was possible.
So it's actually a way that I listen to the instrument when I'm installing it — you can put your body on the actual wire and hear the sound through your body. Because it produces a very quiet sound: the pickups that are in the instrument are contact microphones, so they actually pick up vibrations that are coming into direct contact with the microphone as opposed to vibrations that are coming through the air. That's what allows the recordings to be so hyper-focused on the instrument rather than the surrounding environmental noise of the creek.
Can you talk about what draws you to impermanence in general? Because a lot of your work is rooted in capturing and making visible these fleeting moments in nature, which seems to say something interesting about how you view impermanence more broadly.
I suppose that would be the connection between the work, right? The sound work is about this fleeting moment — the water current that happened to be passing at the time — and the sculptures end up being a very similar thing. The paintings that are being made of the current castings are also a series of moments that are being documented and layered on top of each other. So in some sense the larger body of work is trying to investigate impermanence or make meaningful statements about trying to hold on to or inhabit the present moment.
How does that relate to the role of physical labor in your project, then? Because there's a way in which to set up the land harp, you have to become a laborer working in the water, which is another way of inhabiting the present moment.
I really enjoy investigating open-ended processes that require a significant amount of time, patience, manual labor, and perceptual engagement.
For instance, the installation of the land harp instrument probably takes about three to four hours. Because you have to really balance the line tension and the direction with the speed and the depth of the water to actually make a sound, first of all, and then secondly, to make a sound that is really compelling to listen to.
So the actual labor ends up being a performative action in the landscape — you are physically in dialogue with the environment in a way that involves your whole self. And in that sense it's a wonderful state to be in personally as the artist: to do what I think the work is trying to celebrate. To be truly present.
What has that been like to enact in Wassaic Creek, in particular?
It's been very cold.
[Laughs] I imagine.
There’ve been lots of 40-degree days. And being early spring, the ground as a whole is still very cold. So the body of water feels barely above freezing, and having to actually put your whole self under the water is pretty physically demanding. Honestly, a lot of times I need to be done working on that project because my hands stop working — I can't grip things anymore.
I have definitely tried to embrace that as a part of the process. You think twice about whether or not something needs fiddling when it means plunging your entire arm into frigid water. I suppose this has resulted in more considered choices and a clearer vision of what is important in some cases.
And while working in the creek, I’ve encountered many people in the community out on walks or fishing by the water who have been very curious about what I’m up to when I’m working — which I can totally understand. I look like I’m dressed to be fishing, but don’t have a pole, have a lot of sound equipment, and am busy installing almost invisible wires in the water. Once I explain my process, and maybe even let them listen to a live result where gravity’s influence on water is producing a sound composition, people usually look back around at the environment and remark something like, “Oh you should try over there. I wonder what that would sound like?” In a sense, they are paying attention to specific qualities in the landscape that otherwise might not be understood in quite the same way. I enjoy that, by providing a unique way to engage with the environment, the work has somehow elevated fairly ordinary actions, albeit essential ones, in the landscape for these people.
The space has its own character, too. It has steep natural embankments and feels very isolated from human activity. Under shadow much of the day, the water appears icy black and the glowing greens of spring supply interesting reflected light. These qualities have certainly found their way into the work.
Let’s talk about the Current Casting project a little more. I still cannot conceive of how they take shape as a form. What material is it again?
Beeswax, okay. I didn’t know that that was a property of beeswax — that it just solidified like that in water.
Well, it's the cooling process, right? So it starts really hot, and then the super cold water as the wax is poured in returns it to a solid — like water turns to ice or like ice turns back to water. It's a beautiful material that is able to fluctuate states. I think that's why I originally started experimenting with it. I like the idea that the paintings end up tracking the physical wax itself, as it’s melted and reformed over time in response to these actions in the landscape.
In that vein, can you say more about how you think of the interplay between sculpture, painting, and music in your process?
The interplay is a really important thing, even just in terms of productivity.
I think about memories of working on cars with my father. I grew up in the north: salt, snow — everything rusts, right? So we'd be fixing something or changing a part, and there would be a number of bolts that you'd have to undo — but a lot of them would be just rusted on and you'd have to really work to loosen them. I’d spend all morning trying to get one bolt unstuck, but my father, having more experience, would just move on to the next bolt, and then move on to the next one, and then move on to the next one — and then come back, hit it with heat or with a penetrating oil, and eventually knock them all loose. Because in that break from using certain muscles to try to get that one bolt, you refresh yourself by moving on to the second one or the third one.
And that’s something I’ve realized over time is really helpful in my studio production. To take that same analogy of moving from bolt to bolt, moving from painting to sculpture to sound allows me to refresh myself or reduce fatigue in a way that allows me to be a lot more productive and be a lot more fully engaged with each activity. They all share, as we talked about before, a conceptual thread — but physically, the operations are very different. So it allows you to keep moving in a really nice way, and then they feed each other. Something that happens sculpturally can prompt a painting, a painting idea can then prompt a sound intervention — so on and so forth. Discoveries in one process inspire rethinking another.
David Andree is an artist whose work explores landscape as a subject of flux through painting, drawing, sculpture, and sound. Attracted to moments of tension between what was, what is, and what will be, David’s work strives to create meaningful abstractions through perpetually chasing the qualities of the fleeting present.
A Minnesota native, David maintains tribal affiliation with the Red Lake Nation of Ojibwe. David holds a Master of Fine Arts from the State University of New York (SUNY), received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD), and currently holds the position of Assistant Professor at the School of Art in Fayetteville, AR where he resides in the Ozarks.
He has had work exhibited at the Shirley Fiterman Art Center, Gallery MC and BWAC Gallery in New York City, Rochester Contemporary Art Center, Hallwalls, the Big Orbit Gallery, Exhibit-A and the Burchfield Nature and Art Center in upstate New York, The Masur Museum of Art (Monroe, LA), Plains Art Museum (Fargo, ND), Manifest Creative Research Gallery (Cincinnati, OH) in addition to numerous venues around Minneapolis, Minnesota including the Anderson Center, SooVac, Rochester Art Center, and the Minnesota Museum of American Art.
His work has been included in publications from Friend of the Artist, Manifest Creative Research Gallery (USA), with published works from Sunshine LTD (USA), Dauw (Belgium), Eilean Rec. (France), Herhalen (Scotland) and Touched Music (UK).
David has been invited as Artist in Residence at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (North Adams, MA), Hambidge Center (Rabun Gap, GA), UCross Foundation (Ucross, WY), Wassaic Project (Wassaic, NY), Works on Water / Underwater New York (New York, NY), I-Park (East Haddam, CT), Grand Marais Art Colony (Grand Marais, MN), Anderson Center (Red Wing, MN), amongst others.
He is the recipient of an Artist 360 Project Grant from the Mid-America Arts Alliance, an Artist Initiative Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, a Creative Climate Award from the Human Impacts Institute, a Juror Award from Ylinka Barotto, Assistant Curator, Guggenheim Museum, and his work is collected by Target Corporation, including private collections throughout Minneapolis, Chicago, New York, and the United Kingdom.
Now, more than ever
2019 Summer Residency