Burn Pile, Truth Cabinet and Conch
Over the past year Bachrun LoMele and I have had a wonderful running conversation about his works of art. We have spoken about some of his early career as an illustrator in New York City to the most recent manifestation of Burn Pile at the Los Angeles Art Association’s Gallery 825, located at 825 North La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, California. April 17 – June 4, 2021.
I want to share some of those conversations and a look into the many developments of a very talented and prolific artist. This will be a multi part series and cover many aspects of LoMele’s art making career to date. Bachrun LoMele website: https://www.bachrunlomele.com
Morgan: You say “Does a greater truth—obscure, indefinable—arise from this? Does my own personal labor in embellishing these scrambled utterances by itself enhance them with meaning? ”
I am seeing a profundity to the segments that is surprising. How did this come to be, the disarticulation, the volunteer speaking and the the final manifestation of a Burn Pile?
LoMele: This has been a long process, and there have been developments and changes of emphasis along the way. I think the story of how it started will demonstrate how much my intention with it has changed over time.
In 2014, I learned from a friend that Fresno Regional was looking to fund a local artist, and they were particularly interested in “socially interactive” projects. At the same time I had recently been contacted by a group of young German artists who’d learned about our “Hatchery” art events here in the mountains. They were in Munster, oddly Fresno’s sister city in Germany, and were looking to get something going with us. Also at the same time the whole Julian Assange/Edward Snowden commotion was in the news, and the displeasing information that our government had been listening in on Angela Merkel’s private phone conversations. I thought it would be nice to send, as an art project, American secrets to Germany as an exchange. Because I wanted genuine secrets from people, I felt that I would need to protect peoples’ identities by separating them from their statements, and also somehow scramble their statements. My focus/intention with the project has since been through a number of changes, obviously.
The manifestation as a Burn Pile. I think this came about partly because of the obvious relevance of fire for California (and for where we live!), but also with notions of pyres and phoenix’s in mind. I was thinking of people speaking into the scrambling, into the “group scrambling”, as an equivalent of tossing their statements, even perhaps, their beliefs into a fire. A kind of letting go, and transformation. Also, I was already making use of LED signs in the installation, and realized that they provided a pleasing ember-y equivalence.
Truth Cabinet and Commemoratives
Morgan: Truth Cabinet is a wonderful thing. What came first, the commemorative plates or the cabinet?
LoMele: Thanks! The paper plates came first, and then I thought a paper cabinet would be a good way to display them. I hoped it would be fun that something called a Truth Cabinet would be made of paper barely pretending to be wood, and displaying paper plates.
Morgan: How is Truth Cabinet made? Prints glued upon a wood understructure or directly painted upon wood? Or another material?
LoMele: It is constructed of prints glued onto pieces of gatorboard, a more stable and rigid type of foam board, and these are attached to a framework of light lumber with concealed screws and strips of velcro. I designed this to be easily disassembled/reassembled and packed up with a thought to weight — with transport in mind. I have been making all these Burn Pile materials with feasible transportation in mind, of necessity because of where we live and our limited resources.
Morgan: Truth. So, how do we come to truth with these commemorative works?
LoMele: I once learned that the Andromeda Galaxy is the most distant directly observable object to the unaided eye, and that the way to see it is to look, not directly at it, but just to the side of where you suspect it might be. Then, if you’re lucky, you might vaguely sense it in your peripheral vision. Why is this so pleasing? I do feel that what is held as truth evaporates in the holding, and that it is only by releasing, yet with a sense of “truth-direction”, that there is a hope of sensing the always-outside-of-your-knowing. I refer to these paper plates as “commemoratives”, partly as a reference to the items which are produced to commemorate notable people or events or places, but in this case to commemorate my misreading of these donated expressions of truth — with the intention of both respecting their original sincerity, and also respecting my own response — my accepting as genuine this clearly garbled material. I would like to think that the interaction between these two sincerities is pointing to something offstage and unseeable.
Morgan: What would you hope that visitors are doing when they look at these installation?
LoMele: If I apply this question to viewers of a Burn Pile installation the answer is that I would like them to be taking the time to walk around it, and look closely. I would like them to sense a narrative of some sort, and be drawn in by it, and then be engaged enough to either formulate their own theory or justification for what they’re seeing, or to seek more information as to my intention with it. I would hope they would not just be repelled by the confusion of the words – and assume that it’s all just rubbish. Ideally, I would like there to be a moment of recognition of some aspect of what I’m after. Perhaps feel an accumulation of human expression. I’d like people to enjoy the flow of the moving, glowing words through the heap. I think this project can be variously interpreted, and prefer to leave open all possibilities for interpretation.
Morgan: There is variant of Burn Pile called Conch. Could you talk about that?
LoMele: This was a collaboration with sound artist Anna Dembska (in Maine). She used the donated statements from the Booth and Apple Voices to created the sounds which emanated from the paper mache conch (covered with print-outs, and filled with shredded print-outs). She devised it so that it never repeated, her program would select statements and match them with different Apple Voices, and layer them to create a non-repeating, shifting soundscape. This short video has a recorded bit of that sound feature.