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Nathaniel Robinson Text


.you sometimes go plein air painting with our buddy aaron sinift. given what you do i thought that rather odd until i realized how much landscape figures into your work. what specifically does plein air painting do for you?
It connects with one thing I’m always thinking about: the ways that thought and experience contact reality, or fail to do so. Painting the landscape—at least in the weird way I go about it—really brings out the impossibility of fitting understanding to the contours of reality. This is not necessarily a bad thing, in fact it is oddly reassuring knowing that there is a well of complexity out there that can be accessed just by paying attention. If you want to be confused and confounded on a very basic level, plein air painting is perfect.  Plus I have a thing for misty distances.

.yeah, i see that in your work. am i correct that most of your work is generated out of actual experiences rather than brain work?
I think that’s right, although I can’t seem to locate the dividing line between experience and brain work. Things do often begin when I see something that seems suggestive or promising. Sometimes I don’t immediately know why. I also sometimes begin with the realization of a physical possibility. 

.that, the growing discernment, somewhat relates to the title, civil twilight—a term i didn’t know. will you briefly define it?
Civil twilight is a time of day—actually two times of day—just before sunrise and just after sunset. So it is a period of transition from illumination to darkness, or from natural to artificial illumination. Or the reverse.

.might we think of this adjusting or readjusting as being he basis of your sense of humor?
Yes, come to think of it. To boldly oversimplify: If it isn’t funny, it isn’t serious. I seem to spend my time thinking either about cloudy inexpressibles or gutter-level contingencies, skipping the middle part altogether. Occasionally a modest lightning bolt connects them—and who has not been prompted by a lightning bolt to chuckle?

.is casting, making a replica, a facsimile, and then making variations part of that chuckle?
I think so. Casting is an extremely common process—most of the consumer goods surrounding us probably involved casting is some form, though I certainly don’t know the details. Even so, it is fascinating to me; I’m always interested in situations where intentional control and the de facto behavior of matter blur into one another. Casting has equal and opposite potentials—for illusion on the one hand, and for revealing material particulars on the other. It is part of the chuckle in several ways that I don’t think I can articulate, but might be able to suggest. One way that often comes up in my work, not just through casting, is in giving some kind of permanence, maybe even formal integrity, to things that are on their way to disintegration. This shifts the emphasis from the identification of an object by its name, use, etc., to the fact of its actual existence. I suppose there is an irony in this, since the original is often destroyed in the process.

.and then we have the matter of what you choose to cast, which is another level of amusement. where did you find that heap of something that was a book?
I found it on the sidewalk—it had been out in the rain. It had a lot of character, and structural complexity.

.what are some of the perks of using found objects?
Although factually I have often found objects and done things with them, I think of what I’m doing as having more to do with representation than with appropriation. I think that this makes more sense when the found object sculptures are seen in the context of the rest of my work, and what I said above about identification versus existence. To answer your question more directly, wandering around looking at things has been much more fruitful than sitting down and thinking things out; I do the latter a lot, but it would be half a pair of pliers without the former. Actual objects have the hallmarks of reality, such as bottomless detail and evidence of nonhuman goings-on, and I love to trace those. It is sort of like the way you convince yourself you’re not dreaming when trying to escape from a nested dream.

.you occasionally make videos. in most of the ones i’ve seen, something you construct is of significance. would you talk about some of the similarities and differences between making sculpture and making video?
The way the dimension of time comes into play is different. Video lets me construct objects and situations temporally in addition to spatially. The addition of time allows for the mutation of space. Illusion is something I think about a lot, and in the videos illusion is both a means and a subject. I’m not so much interested in creating illusions, or revealing illusions, I’m more interested in what illusion reveals.

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