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At the Epicenter: Cristopher Cichocki's New Earth Art

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The multisensory work of Cristopher Cichocki builds upon survival ecology, developing contrasts and union between ancient and technological elements by constructing a beautiful, anxious and raw electronic wilderness. The madness of unsparing nature and its subjection to industry discloses a confrontation for dominance, where together they perish under the desert's hellish sun and intense salt water sea. Cichocki's inversion of the spectator in this new world order ensues a relationship concocted by painting exotic landscapes with blacklight shrubs, photographing earth across the surface, all the while swimming into other worlds full of colors and fascination.

"Salton Shore," 2011. | Photo: Cristopher Cichocki.
"Salton Shore," 2011. | Photo: Cristopher Cichocki.

Cichocki also directs a curatorial project and non-profit arts organization entitled Epicenter Projects, an itinerant exhibition manifesto created to liberate artists from the traditional gallery setting and champion a residency for experimentation in anomalous settings. Featuring a roster of artists working and producing work in ephemeral, public environments, the collaborative enterprise proposes locations along the San Andreas Fault Line as a site for groundbreaking artwork. "The San Andreas Fault Line provides a contextual framework that inherently addresses the ephemeral nature of time, space and environment. While some projects will stay installed within their given site(s) for an audience to experience directly, many projects will exist as fleeting, performative actions captured through an array of documentation: photography, video, audio recordings, book publications and/or printed editions. Throughout 2015 these hybrid archives will culminate into a program of online solo exhibitions that individually showcase each artist via EpicenterProjects.com," exclaims Cichocki. The inaugural 2015 line-up of Epicenter Projects artists includes Shiva Aliabadi, Jane Chang Mi, Luis G. Hernandez, Patrick Gilbert, John Knuth, Olga Koumoundouros, Filippo Minelli, Robert Seidel, Nicolas Shake, Melissa Thorne and Richard Twedt.

"Intersection," 2011. Rojo Nova, Casa França Brasil, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. | Photo: Cristopher Cichocki.
"Intersection," 2011. Rojo Nova, Casa França Brasil, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. | Photo: Cristopher Cichocki.

Cichocki's multimedia environments engulf and intoxicate his audience in the politics of nature and human hierarchy, a conversation between light and shadow inundated by the sounds of production and wildlife. "My art practice embodies a variety of media including painting, photography, sculpture, video, sound and installation; I intersect all of these mediums into the form of multisensory installation environments. My work explores the interconnection and mutation between mankind, environment and industry. Correlations between water, life and survival manifest through transformative atmospheres suggestive of microscopic and/or telescopic imagery," Cichocki states.

He calls his art practice "New Earth Art," extending upon historical influences such as Land Art and Light & Space, addressing many of the same issues decades later in a more troubled and toxic global environment. "The synthesis between organic and synthetic elements is omnipresent, our current generation is inheriting an environment that is long overdue for reconstruction and repair. Science and biology are mirrored and mutated within my art practice. There's an inherent beauty embedded at the core of natural creation, while at the same time there's always the potential for a catastrophic shift with nature, especially when elements are manipulated," explains Cichocki.

"San Andreas #48," 2013. Enamel, sand and barnacles on panel illuminated by ultraviolet radiation. | Photo: Cristopher Cichocki.
"San Andreas #48," 2013. Enamel, sand and barnacles on panel illuminated by ultraviolet radiation. | Photo: Cristopher Cichocki.
"Land Spore (Desert Reserve)," 2012. | Photo: Cristopher Cichocki.
"Land Spore (Desert Reserve)," 2012. | Photo: Cristopher Cichocki.

Cichocki transitioned from exploring the forests of Wisconsin to the multicultural warmth of California's Palm Desert at the age of 10, initiating his amazement and inquisitive relationship with the arid landscape that is now fundamental to his work. "In Wisconsin, I'd spend most of my time creating structures out of found materials in nature, which in retrospect were my first 'earthworks.' With the transition to California, I continued similar collaborations with nature but with a vast desert landscape, being able to explore down mysterious dirt roads, often stumbling across surreal abandoned structures or sun-baked detritus, I'd construct ephemeral sculptures at these random desert sites with the given materials. I didn't think of it as art when I was a teenager, it was just instinctual creative fun," Cichocki remembers.

After being exposed to experimental art forms and becoming aware of his process as an artist at CalArts, Cichocki floated around Los Angeles for about seven years until he felt it was time to move back to the Coachella Valley for a change of pace. "As anticipated, my art quickly transformed once I revisited my desert roots. I was previously making site-specific works in the streets of L.A. with neon marking paint and construction materials and that early L.A. work was gritty, filled with urban decay and hazard. I brought that urban palette back with me to the desert and a dynamic contrast suddenly emerged within the arid desert environment as I inserted my neon into the landscape. This organic/synthetic tension has been the foundation for much of my work in the past decade," affirms Cichocki.

"Circulation," 2014. Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego. | Photo: Cristopher Cichocki.
"Circulation," 2014. Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego. | Photo: Cristopher Cichocki.

There is an engaging paradox between the desert and the underwater in Cichocki's work, as he creates ephemeral sculptures, paintings and installations that can be discovered when least expected in the remote and isolated vastness of the desert. What makes many of these site-specific works just as special and unique as the environments they cohabitate is that some only last for days or instances, while others have a much longer life span. "I live and work in the desert of Southern California's Coachella Valley, an area that was submerged underwater thousands of years ago, this region now being one of hottest places on earth. Much of the desert's cacti and tumbleweeds are the surviving seeds of the ancient ocean and the wide-open terrain of this 'desert abyss' is an extension of my studio. When I transform these desert elements with vibrant neon paint and expose them under black light they begin to have an uncanny ability to resemble bioluminescent sea life," Cichocki explains. A decade's worth of influence on Cichocki's body of work has been inspired by the Salton Sea, the largest inland body of water in California, which was created by a man-made convergence in the early 1900s.

"Tens of thousands of fish die along the shores of the Salton Sea annually due to algae blooms and an increasingly high salinity level, 53 percent more salt than the Pacific Ocean," he says. "I've incorporated many of these dead fish into my work, and although these fish have a regional narrative, they are equally relevant to a parallel of worldwide ecological catastrophes such as the BP Oil Spill and the radioactive waters of Fukushima. I see the work I produce from the Salton Sea spanning far beyond a regional narrative as the imagery becomes iconic and archetypal on a universal level of ecological narrative."

"Live Transmission," 2014. Summit Artist Residency, Eden, Utah. | Photo: Cristopher Cichocki.
"Live Transmission," 2014. Summit Artist Residency, Eden, Utah. | Photo: Cristopher Cichocki.

Cristopher Cichocki - Abyss Radiation from Epicenter Projects on Vimeo.

Cichocki's work has been featured in diverse exhibitions on both coasts of the United States as well as Brazil, Portugal and Japan, while his audiovisual work has screened in experimental forums throughout the United States, Canada, Europe and Latin America. A noise connoisseur and audiovisual experimentalist, Cichocki has been performing AV sets at music venues since 2007, as of late billing himself under the performance moniker, Sssound Object. "With Sssound Object you can expect a full throttle experience with elements of noise, ambience and an overall synesthesia of audio & video. In the past few years I've been doing less performances in music venues and more in contexts like museums, art galleries and the open desert fueled by generators," Cichocki details. Cristopher Cichocki also forms part of a community of experimental video artists entitled Undervolt & Co., which functions as a distribution platform for content made exclusively for the video label/publisher. "I should also mention I'm part of an audio/visual label that releases my video work called Undervolt & Co. Undervolt is like a record label, but for video artists. We also have a lot of group screenings and events that span internationally," explains Cichocki.

"Desert Abyss: Cycle in Cycle," 2013. Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, California. | Photo: David Blank.
"Desert Abyss: Cycle in Cycle," 2013. Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, California. | Photo: David Blank.

Cristopher Cichocki - Property Division (Traversing Terrain) from Epicenter Projects on Vimeo.

Liquid Static: Cristopher Cichocki (Trailer) from Undervolt & Co. on Vimeo.

Cristopher Cichocki - Infrastructural Mapping from Epicenter Projects on Vimeo.

\Nicolas Shake - Humdrum Catastrophes - Epicenter Projects from Epicenter Projects on Vimeo.

Explore more of Cristopher Cichocki's work via his website.


 

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