News Column

Currents 2014 -- Bardo I: Como Arae: Corvas Brinkerhoff

June 13, 2014

By Paul Weideman, The Santa Fe New Mexican

June 13--Bardo I: Como Arae, an installation at El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe, employs "a dense mix of light, paint, and sound, immersing the viewer in an undulating, living, breathing painting," according to artist Corvas Brinkerhoff. "Objects in the room will create shadows, which will composite into a light and shadow underpainting, which I will interpret with actual paint." Visitors can sit or lie on benches equipped with embedded subwoofers. There they will be "bathed in colored light while gently resonating to low-frequency vibrations, inspired by the depths and hollows of transcendental, liminal states of consciousness."

Brinkerhoff said the artwork is not interactive in a technological sense, because it does not include sensors that could be triggered by viewers to activate devices. "However, the imagery of the piece is a lot about light and shadow, and your shadow becomes part of the imagery. I'm interested in creating work that connects with the viewer in a way that is deep and unusual. It's a way to take a break from the chatter and the madness of trying to, you know, make a living."

The artist, a Santa Fe resident for the past seven years, grew up in Lawrence, Kansas. "When I was a kid, I didn't really understand what art was, but I was making things with my hands. Once, when I was 8 or 9, my mother was gifted this ridiculous huge makeup kit, and she gave it to me. I loved it. Some of my first paintings were probably made with that." He considers his most valuable art education to have been in high school in Lawrence, the result of "an awesome teacher." He went on to study graphic design and advertising at Columbus College of Art and Design in Ohio, but he dropped out.

Brinkerhoff co-founded Meow Wolf in 2008 and has been an active member of the art collective ever since. For The Due Return -- the first of more than a dozen large installations staged by Meow Wolf -- he was responsible for the lighting, sound, interactivity, and multimedia design, and he contributed the "Nomad" control station in the piece, which had the form of a ship.

Brinkerhoff described his day jobs as "the Santa Fe shuffle." He has done freelance lighting and set design for Santa Fe Performing Arts and lighting and multimedia design for Santa Fe Playhouse. He also works in web design, including for the Center for Contemporary Arts, where he works with other artists as CCA'€‰s lead preparator.

He considers Bardo I: Como Arae to be psychedelic art, even though "it doesn't share the visual characteristics that most people associate with that. I'm not making mandalas or fractals. But in its conception, it is psychedelic. It's inspired by experiences I have had while doing a fair amount of shamanic work in South America."

Brinkerhoff spent three months in Peru a few years ago. (More than 100 of his photographs are offered in the "Peru 2012" album on his Facebook page.) Most of that time he was in Iquitos, a city of nearly half a million people and boasting "a large ayahuasca tourism business," Brinkerhoff said. Ayahuasca is a drink typically made from two psychotropic plants and traditionally used as a sacrament to alter consciousness. "I've used both plants in a ceremonial context. Most of my experiences were traditional with a shaman from the Shipibo lineage. In the traditional ayahuasca ceremony, you sit or lie in a circle with others, and it is silent except for the songs of the shaman. What you go through is often described as an out-of-body experience, perhaps similar to the process of dying, which is what I've been thinking about, and meditating on, a lot."

He dedicates Bardo I: Como Arae to David Loughridge, a member of Meow Wolf who died of a heart attack in January at 33. Brinkerhoff visited his friend when he was in a coma and "spent a lot of time reflecting on where he was and what experience he might be having."

The visual components of his installation are accompanied by a 35-minute original score of ambient music, which he composed. "There is something I'm trying to express. There's a feeling that I have had in the wake of these experiences with the shaman and my friend dying. There's a feeling that I've had, a certain space inside myself, and I want to try to make that happen for somebody else."

Why? "It's beautiful. It's also bewildering, and there is a discomfort, but it's wonderful. It's a beautiful thing. I also have an agenda that I want to be part of the solution, so to speak. I would like to make work that might help somebody have or maintain that kind of transformative experience, to heal, to learn and to grow, to know themselves better."

The title of his piece refers to his friend's coma and to The Tibetan Book of the Dead. In Tibetan Buddhism, Bardo I is the first "twilight state" the consciousness enters after the body dies; it's a transitional state between death and rebirth "in the human or some other world, or in one of the paradise realms," according to the book.

"This piece," Brinkerhoff said, "is trying to achieve a sort of liminal state for the viewer by combining color and light in a way that is unfamiliar and hopefully beautiful."


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Source: Santa Fe New Mexican, The (NM)

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