Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Re-presenting the work

I've been working on some drawing / models ('drawdels') that get at the qualities and essence of the ice cuts, ie: looking at reflection, the two-and-a-half dimensional space between horizontal and vertical, etc. as well as some essays.

ICE CUTS: an index of abstraction

Cutting out a large shape of ice and suspending the positive not only signifies the ice as object, it also enters into an indexical dialogue between two oppositional conditions, that which is above and below. The slab protrudes into three dimensional space, referencing the negative as if to say that came from this, but this is bigger than that, so that other part must have gone somewhere below this. The trace only lasts for several weeks until the dark negative, which is merely a thinness of the surface, normalizes to the rest of the frozen thickness surrounding it. But until that point the ice object narrates a cause and effect; cut, shift, and freeze. The inextricably linked relationship between solid and void, or positive and negative, and even light and dark, engages in a spatial exchange that goes beyond the surface into a space that is obscured otherwise. The space it references operates as an abstraction within abstractions. The ice object is an abstraction of water, manipulated in such a way that it obfuscates itself and creates a third abstraction of an inaccessible space. And through this abstraction of a subterranean space, an other space is created in the mind of the subject.

It can be deduced that if the shape of the negative is twice as large as what reads as the positive, then we see only half of the positive above the surface, and can assume the other half is below the surface. And knowing that what we see is a chunk of ice bearing the same properties as the shape of negative (ie: continuous, uninterrupted, and coplanar), the chunk must do the same thing where we cannot see it. We can assume the ice object interrupts the space of the water below in the same manner as it does the air above. However the image of the ice as it appears to our eyes does not follow our systematic logic, and instead defies what we know of coplanar surfaces, and creates the effect of gently intersecting planes, which is an effect of reflectance through one medium to another or air to water. This is one read of what appears to be vs. what is.

The second read I would offer is the condition of the ice cut after several weeks –when the negative equalizes with the rest ice. No longer is there any trace of the positive intersecting with the negative, as the negative returns to an opaque gray, blending with the larger body of ice. What we might recall from science class is that the density of water is constantly oscillating as it narrows down to the point of freezing. Warm water rises to the surface (because it is less dense), cools from the air, and then falls back down to the lower depths where it is re-warmed. This process continues until the entire body of water reaches 4C, at which point the density of water reverses, or in other word the colder it gets the less dense it gets, and therefore stays on the surface, ultimately becoming ice. As the cold temperatures persist the ice freezes more, thickening the hardened surface.

But the water below is still 4C and so then it must be assumed that the negative protrusion of the ice object from above is submerged in water that is actually higher than the freezing point, and subsequently melts away. The condition that had previously been imagined below the surface is merely a spatial abstraction that does not exist. Yet the precision in which it describes space through an indexical relationship, and the image the subject can construct mentally is vivid enough to argue that it actually does exist, insofar as it elicits the same response from each subject. The fact that the subterranean ice object is merely made up is irrelevant as it carries with it a spatial experience as vivid as the real thing.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sugar Season

Since I stopped working on the ice cuts I've taken up a small maple syrup operation in my front yard. I have two decent sized red maples and few sugar maples, three of which I've tapped. I purchased the taps for \$3 at the Dexter mill and cut holes in milk jugs as collection buckets. Tapping the trees was pretty straight forward, drill a 2 inch deep hole at a slight upward angle into the trunk of the tree about 3 feet from the ground. Next, pound the tap into the hole and attach the collection jug, and the sap literally starts flowing (or dripping) at the rate of leaky faucet.

The most peculiar thing about this process is that the temperature must get down to freezing at night and go above freezing in the day. If only one happens without the other, ie: all freezing, or all thawing, nothing happens.

The first week I started it was pretty good, and I collected about 2 gallons, then it got cold, and nothing flowed for a few days. The weather snapped again, getting very warm during the day, and I was flowing about a gallon and half at its peak. So far I think I've collected 8 + gallons. Last weekend I boiled down a batch on a makeshift fire pit in my yard. Apparently an open fire imbues a smoky flavor in the syrup that is said to be the best. Okay, wood fire it is.

This took a very a long time, and required constant maintenance -lots of little pieces of wood were added to keep the flame hot. Luckily my roommate Erik chopped lots of wood throughout the day keeping a steady supply on hand. If the fire got down to just coals, the sap would only simmer. The sugar content in sap is about 2-6 % depending on who you ask. Boiling down 4 gallons took almost 12 hours, which is hideous compared to the rate at which small syrup operations evaporate their sap (hundreds of gallons per hour). By 10:30p the sap was getting darker colored and was quickly reducing down into syrup. I brought it inside to 'finish' it on the stove, which requires monitoring the temperature with a candy thermometer until it reaches 104 C, which is above the boiling point of water. This number tells you that your sugar content is correct and the syrup is done. One could continue boiling it, and would end up with maple sugar.

The syrup tasted very good, and you could definitely pick up a smoky flavor, which was actually quite nice. To be methodical, the next day I boiled down the other half of my sap on the stove, just to be sure there was a difference between open fired syrup. This was way easier because you could forget about monitoring the flame, although it took nearly the same amount of time. This batch came out a little lighter amber color and didn't have a smoky flavor, but nonetheless was very good.

For now, I'm using calder's dairy half&half bottles, but I have some real syrup bottles coming in the mail. I actually don't like the shape of a traditional syrup bottle, but they only cost about \$1 each. Shipping was more expensive than the bottles. I'm going to design some labels for the bottles, and begin speculating on this project at the scale of a neighborhood, and then the city of ann arbor, which by the way maps every single tree on every street, and all the trees in the parks thanks to the forestry department. Of these trees, 37% are maples. Ann Arbor could create a multi-million dollar sugar industry without planting anything!

Report from the Meltdown

I had not been out to the gravel pit since my last post in February when I disassembled the gantry crane and hauled it onto dry land, but I made a trip down there this morning. For the past two weeks the temperature has been going above freezing in the day and below freezing at night, and the last few days have been well into the fifties.

The ice on the pond is still walkable, but a little slushy. The snow has completely melted away, and the surface of the ice is now pocked with hotspots where a warm current of water has melted an open hole. The last remaining cut is still projecting out of the ice, but has melted in a weird way. The ice became very fractured under the sun as internal bubbles pressurized and escaped. Now the ice is melting along the fractures and has taken on a lumpy, jagged look. I imagined that the protruding ice slabs would melt down like a stick butter or a popsicle, smoothly and almost plastic-like, but this is much more degenerative and abrupt.

We're supposed to get three days of rain next, and I think that will be the last the remaining ice slab. Although the weather isn't ideal for this project anymore, I'm running it through a class I'm taking called the F-word for an assignment to theorize objects through the lens of different thinkers, like Adorno, Eisenmann, Krauss, etc.