Units of Understanding and Increments of Meaning
Works of Ariel Erestingcol
The art of Ariel Erestingcol is a document of material innovation and thematic investigation. In his series, titled Landmark #1-4 (all from 2007), presented at his solo exhibition at Togonon Gallery in San Francisco, CA, Erestingcol uses fusion beads, commonly used in children craft projects, to explore the subject matter of disasters and policies of emergency preparedness and response. Landmark #1-4 and his major oeuvre, Lima Zulu Charlie 646 (LZC 646), 2007, are rendered through the meticulous placement of these colorful beads, a technique employed that takes careful planning and hours to execute. Acting like pixels on a digital screen, each bead is a unit that builds up to recreate the horrific scene like that of the Oklahoma City bombing depicted in LZC 646 or television broadcast alerts that are depicted in the Landmark series.
Erestingcol’s project is a deliberate meditation on media images that informs the viewers of particular episodes in current events. The Oklahoma City bombing of 1995 was a tragic episode in American history. The same image of the blown out federal building in Oklahoma City was broadcasted repeatedly for hours as the media tried to provide the reasons behind this event. Almost a decade later, Erestingcol revisits this episode and recreates the scene to continue the search for meaning of disasters like this or speculate reasons for events about to happen. In this body of work, each bead stands for a unit of understanding, while the rendered image becomes an increment of meaning adding to the multiple meanings that already exist in collective memory. Erestingcol’s contribution to this dialogue is in the act of making these images; each image of the event has to be broken down to small pieces to facilitate consumption and then recreated to arrive at a personal resolution, an incremental addition to its significance. Each piece from this series employs this strategy, using beads as units of understanding and creating incremental meaning expanding the experience of the larger socio-political events.
Even though Erestingcol used different materials and imagery in his previous work, he employed the same strategy of building up an image through the aggregation of material. His piece, Up Close With Chuck, 1999, takes wooden tongue depressors with the tips painted in grayscale to recreate the image of the artist’s face. Each painted tongue depressor acts as a unit of understanding to create an increment of meaning addressing questions of identity. In his piece, When You Wish Upon a Star, 2003, he questions the media’s role in forming identity and the development of personal ambition. A garbage bin turned upside down suspended from a basketball hoop explodes the fantasy of being a basketball star but provides a hopeful message when the viewer climbs into the garbage bin lined inside with small mirrors shining back the participant’s fractured reflection as he or she reaches for the star above containing a small crank operated music box playing, When You Wish Upon a Star from Disney’s animated feature, Pinocchio. The experience becomes a declarative event when the loud speakers mounted on the outside of the garbage bin blast the sound to its surroundings. What looks like a garbage bin from the outside is actually a shell that inhabits the effort and hope of becoming.
Indeed, the fragmentary images that Erestingcol presents reflects his critique of media reportage and its fractured attempts at creating meaning of everyday events. It is in this kind of critique that art becomes a powerful tool to alternative understanding and meaning. Each of Erestingcol’s artwork becomes a unit of understanding adding an increment of meaning to our collective consciousness.