Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Interview for Invigorate.com

This is the full text of a written interview done for Invigorate.com, the final version of which can be seen here.


Andres Amador uses a rake to expose wet sand on North Californian beaches during low tide. The result? Vast esoteric designs: beautifully intricate, and excruciatingly temporary.

    CC: You have never measured your pieces, but judging from the size of people in them they can cover nearly 100,000 square feet. Does your imagination zoom out to a bird’s eye view of your progression? What’s your headspace like when you’re in the groove?
    AA: Its a good question. Our normal sense of scale is based on human proportions. There was an adjustment necessary when i began making my art. There is an intuitive sense that must be overcome and re-oriented to work at the scale I do. Depending on how high my overlook was, I would need to create the design accordingly. On the ground thick lines might look quite thin from high up. Details so meticulously made may look incoherent from above. Now I am finding myself at that place of re-conceiving scale again. I recently began using a remote controlled helicopter with a camera. It allows me to take photos from *really* high up- up to 700 feet high. The instinctual approach I've developed over the years for working at scale are being recalibrated to work with an even greater scale. I'd say that it takes practice and experience. As for keeping things together at such a scale, its as though I am 'feeling' the placement and balance of the components of the art over the area I am working.

    CC: Your proclivity for playa art was awakened while exploring body-oriented disciplines such as martial arts. In your practices energy seemed somehow tangible. In what ways is energy palpable?
    AA: In the end all martial arts is about learning to harness, focus, and engage energy. In the practice of Tae Kwon Doe, there is an emphasis of kicks, punches and blocks. The energy of an attacker is made palpable by the pain you would feel from blocking a kick (cause it does hurt). Contrary-wise, in the practice of Aikido, one learns to harmonize with the energy of an attacker, to work with it and guide it. The first is a very brute force way of engaging energy, the second is a more nuanced and sophisticated way. In both the energy is quite palpable.
    It was only while learning to fire dance with a long staff that the awareness of energy began to come to me. And through that I got involved with contact improvisation dance, which is a blending of aikido and modern dance. It is like peaceful, martial arts in that no one is defending themselves and no one is attacking- it is simply the exchange and play of energy between two people. It was through engaging contact improv that my awareness of physical energy really peaked, learning what was possible through it, how to navigate it. The awareness permeated my being and began to affect the way my art expressed itself in terms of the movement of energy in my composition, which I began to feel in a visceral way.
    Now the physical awareness of energy has become an awareness of energy on more subtle but no less impactful planes. Its an ongoing journey of deeper levels of energetic awareness. I am working on designs and gatherings that will be focused around the energy generated from intention, prayer, and meditation. Very interesting topics.

    CC: Crop circles. Mandalas. Moirés. Ancient architecture. Fractal dimensions. Things loosely labeled as sacred geometry. These have instigated your work as well. Why do you think human brains experience delight when encountering authentic mystery?
    AA: There's nothing like unresolve to fire the imagination. Ancient works of architecture, the likes of which are perhaps not possible with todays capabilities really have us rethinking what we know. It takes us off balance and has us questioning reality. Thats a good thing! Complacency and thinking we 'know' what things are about leads to taking them for granted. Aside from mystery, the human brain is an unparalleled pattern recognition machine. We make patterns from all of our senses and make interpretations. But we also make patterns from abstract awareness and create stories with those as well. Its how I can look back at my life and see the connecting thread of how I experience myself to be. Geometry and fractals are pattern made accessible, with mathematical underpinning. In nature, pattern is chaotic and can feel scary. I can imagine that ancient people found comfort in pattern that felt 'understandable' and likely trans-wordly. For them geometry was a way of seeing through the eyes of god, for the perfection it offered was not to be found in the natural world.
    I think humans are coming back to our origins and re-appreciating that which cannot be fully known. Fractals are being fully incorporated into computer graphics and architecture. 3-D printing is allowing for the creation of things never before possible. I'm seeing more and more examples of the natural world being used as a source of inspiration for what we are making, particularly in the realm of architecture.
    CC: Did your creativity sprout up in childhood in any comical or unusual ways?
    AA: I once thought I could make some super liquid by mixing together household cleaners. I put it in the fridge thinking it needed to stay fresh. That didn't go over so well with my father who thought he could drink it (but thankfully gave a whiff before having a try!). Fortunately I was a poor magician, and nothing was blown up.
    I was a lego fiend (back when legos were more rudimentary, with limited sets) and would spend hours completely absorbed creating fantastical sets with elaborate stories. For a period during the mid 80's I was an avid comic book collector, particularly enamored with the X-Men. During that time I was a role-playing buff as well, into sci-fi games such as Star Frontiers and Gamma World.
    In the world I was a constant investigator, thoroughly exploring the city by bike and later roller skates. My activities were pretty sedate though- nothing that would hint at what I would be up to years later.

    CC: When you finish a piece you sniff out higher ground and take photos. Then you sit with the creation for a few minutes in appreciative mediation. I read the following sentiment of yours:
‘The only constant in this existence is impermanence. In the end, our lives are about the experiences we've had. Not the things we have held on to. And in the face of our own certain erasure, the act of rallying forces on behalf of creation and beauty is a declaration in the face of a seemingly indifferent ocean of reality.’
What advice can you give my readers regarding how to accept death/endings with an elastic, courageous mind?
    AA: I think the first thing is to accept the reality of our mortality. There is no escaping the incoming tide. That's a scary awareness and can easily lead one to seek solace in trans-worldly beliefs such as 'the afterlife'. As long as that doesn't take us out of our earthly experience, then its a fine place to find comfort. All too often though, the afterlife is used as a way to escape the life we have on earth, which does the life we are living a disservice. If one takes the view that this is the only life we have, then the question really focuses on 'what are we doing with the experience?' It has been a constant thought for me as I've navigated my own life. For a period of time I was working at a bank on the IT department. I was temping, and after 6 months offered a full time position. I turned it down as all I could see was how much I hated the day to day experience, how I yearned to be outside, how much I wanted to control the flow of my life rather than report to an external entity. I would love to go back and thank the man I was then who had the insight to value the experience over the goal (in this case the goal of financial security). It was during that time that I got involved in the arts and I have never gone back to a regular job since. Thats been over 15 years ago and I have absolutely no regrets. On the contrary, I am grateful for the ride I've been on, even as it was scary for lack of knowing where it was taking me.
    Once I came to the place of valuing my experience as it was happening, the next step was to confront the fear of death. Thats a big hurdle and may take a life-threatening experience to make the potential an accepted reality, especially for those young and feeling invincible. There are ceremonies that ancient peoples would (and still) do that have one confront one's mortality. Really they are having us confront our *fear* of our mortality. We *can* die, we *will* die. There are *no* guarantees. Security is a myth. These are stark statements. If one can say them and still feel strong, happy even, one has passed the test.
    What exists on the other side of this morbid recognition? That the life we are living is all we truly have. It places scrutiny on what our experience truly is. Thats the next level of disconnect as so many people are unhappy with the flow of their lives, and this is the main cause of drug abuse and TV and video game check-out. When we are not satisfied with our own lives we find solace in the things that distract us from our experience or at the least have us feeling marginally better about our lot, which explains the prevalence of reality TV.
    To really make the shift one has to take responsibility for the experience one is having. That can be an overwhelming proposition as we can be in positions where we feel helpless, being tossed about by the tides of fate, by forces larger than us that dictate how our lives must be- that we must make money in order to have a house and insurance and a car and nice clothes and and and.... This has us making choices on how to use our energy that are not made towards what feels good to the soul, but towards what seems like will address the needs we think we have. In short, we sacrifice our experience in order to have, essentially, security. And that becomes the trap as our things and the lives we form create their own types of needs- car payments, house payments, years of investment in a location or job, etc. Once we are deep in the life we have created and realize the dissatisfaction, it can feel too late to do anything about it.
    The truth is it is never too late to take ownership of the experience. Even to be in the midst of a bad one, an ongoingly bad one, and to take responsibility for its existence, is to begin to turn the tide. The proactive approach is to face the experience one is having and ask 'what would have my light shine a little brighter?' Bit by bit, if one makes choices according to this question, then regardless of circumstances, one's life starts to feel brighter for one is more directly guiding one's experience and choosing to direct it towards feeling good, which is the key.
    When one is living fully, when one's existence feels satisfying and full, then death no longer has the power it once did. From this place, the knowledge of one's mortality acts as a galvanizing force, strengthening one's resolve to act towards the upward movement of one's experience. The art on the beach is a symbolic act. Why do something that is destined to imminently wash away? When one recognizes that in the vastness of time nothing we can do will last, that even the pyramids will fade, the question becomes why wouldn't I spend my time creating beauty and feeling good? There is no goal I can strive for that will bring me as much as the experience I am having as I am doing it, whatever that may be. This doesn't mean I don't go for long term goals. But it means that in striving for those goals, as in striving for completing an artwork and photographing it before the waves come, that I feel good about the journey for it is entirely possible that what I was reaching for will not work out.

    CC: Ember Dequincy. She seems like a cool lady. In what ways is she integral to the endeavor? What are your guys’ senses of humor like? And what other hobbies do you guys have besides having a ball on the beach?
    AA: Ember is super cool in a totally down-to-earth way. She is sassy and sweet and has one of the biggest hearts I've ever encountered. It is a blessing to experience us working so well as a team, complimenting each other amazingly. She is a frequent and valued assistant on the beach and an essential part of the planning and management side of the art. Increasingly I am finding her to be a guide in the direction of the art as business- always being a voice for us to follow our hearts rather than the money (which is important as I, facing the reality of a soon-to-be-born child, am feeling the provider instinct more and more). Humor-wise, we are complete goofs with each other. She is really good at not taking herself seriously, often making fun of herself, and has helped me be in that space as well. We laugh often, at the often ridiculous world around us, at silly situations, at ourselves. For hobbies we are very well matched, both of us loving to hike and backpack, adventurously exploring new locations, inquisitively examining whatever catches our awareness. We love to play games and engage others in a semi-competitive challenging way, and almost always carry a bin of games in the car wherever we go for spontaneous matches (no board games!).

    CC: What is your dreamscape like? And what part does dreaming play in the human experience?
    AA: For years I have been trying (more like, desiring) to be able to lucid dream. It is so appealing to think I could explore...whatever I wanted while asleep. So far that is not in my conscious reality. My dreams tend to be abstract and amorphous. Some are vivid and direct but do not necessarily offer me direction that I am aware of. My waking daydreams feel more connected to my direct experience. I dream possibilities and directions, drawing together various influences that have passed through my experience. Dreaming, if defined not strictly as the visions one has while sleeping, is absolutely fundamental in the human experience. Dreams are the groundwork for inspired reality. They provide us a direction to move that may perhaps defy the scrutiny of logic, but offer uplift to the soul. Dreams offer us energy, providing vigor to move forward in the face of the inertia of reality as currently experienced. If we couldn't project into possibility, if life were based solely on the rational and directly achievable, I feel it would be a lot less rich (although we may not know that, I suppose...)

    CC: What is the evil version of you like?
    AA: The evil version of me is sarcastic and cynical and doesn't care. The evil me is a 'frat boy' who just wants to go 'wooo' and have a good time without concern for the impact. He is unconcerned about the world around him or the feelings of others and so feels free to do as he pleases. This version might make artwork that is meant to be in-your-face, a challenge, without the invitation to participate in it, without the reaching out 'across the aisle'.

    CC: You are thinking of relocating to the deserts of Utah. To be part of an international community that aims to bring sustainable living to the world. Cool! What new avenues do you foresee your art taking?
    AA: For a time we were participating in an effort to form a community in Utah. It was very exciting. We left the effort about 1 1/2 years ago as it was still not actual (only virtual), with no land to go to. Instead we set our bags down in a more humble, but in many ways more realistic and relatable, budding community consisting of just another family and ourselves. During the time I was seeing myself as committing myself for life to this other endeavor, I was projecting that the art would transform to engage the landscape that the new location would offer. The proposed property was within easy walking distance of Pink Coral Sand Dunes, a gorgeous location that could have offered very interesting directions for the art.

    CC: And what part about living in an intentional community are you most looking forward to?
    AA: I am part of intentional community now, although at a much smaller level than anticipated. The things I appreciate so much about it: a sense of connected destiny, a coordinated effort at mutual support, a feeling of being held emotionally, psychologically, and physically by a structure larger than myself or my primary relationship. We sweat together and celebrate harvest and each other's successes together. I wish I could be there more, but work has had me traveling and away from the farm more than I was anticipating.

    CC: And lastly, to steal one from the great James Lipton…if heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
    AA: Niiiiice!' (with a big smile and high five)

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