Time Shifts: Camille Utterback, 2012 Kraus Visiting Professor of Art-School of Art - Carnegie Mellon University

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Time Shifts: Camille Utterback, 2012 Kraus Visiting Professor of Art

San Francisco-based artist Camille Utterback joins Carnegie Mellon this semester as our Fall 2012 Kraus Visiting Professor of Art. Her large-scale interactive works blend painting, computer programming, sculptural ‘reactive’ objects, and architecturally integrated public projects

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left: "Text Rain" 1999, Pittsburgh Children's Museum; 
right: "Abundance" 2007, City of San Jose, California by ZER01

What are some hot topics being explored in your class?

Examining our tendency to use the word ‘technology’ as a subject with it’s own volition, or as a term to mask a more complex set of relationships. We read Leo Marx’s essay “Technology as a Dangerous Concept” to start this discussion. 

I hope my students leave the class with a deeper understanding of how contingent our tools our – how embedded they are in a certain historical moment in time.


Recently we researched and presented a ‘new camera’ – which could be interpreted as a new type of hardware, software, or artistic process used to ‘picture’ time in a new way. Our clocks and calendars are just another set of visual and cultural tools that shape our understanding of the world.

Don’t be intimidated by technology, but once you can bend it to your will, don’t take it too seriously. 


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student projects clockwise:
Sarah Keeling "My Body and the Second Hand";
Anna Nelson "Waiting for Ice to Melt";
Lazae LaSpina "13 Moon: Personal Time Keeper"


Time Shifts: Class Show, December 6, 6-9pmThe FRAME Gallery, CMU
RSVP / More info 
Our work tests the current possibilities to extend/re-imagine how we represent time using digital tools, and how these possibilities, in turn, re-inform traditional media. 





Being a "working artist" is a dream scenario, but also daunting. How have you made it work?

I am still working on how to do this! You have to pare down your priorities and understand what is critical to you – financially, emotionally, creatively and be resilient when things don’t go your way - this happens to EVERYONE.  

I think as an artist you can’t have too set of idea of where your path will take you, and you have to change your plan a lot as you go. What is working now? Why? Why not?


What/who inspires your approach to artmaking?

Young artists; old artists especially older women artists like Lillian Schwartz, whose computer art / films were just at the Three Rivers Film Festival; watching how light changes everything; looking at brushstrokes in other people’s paintings; wanting to try new things – which keeps me in over my head. I'm also so grateful to my art professors: Ed Epping taught me to trust the iterative process, Mike Glier tested my limits with Jean Genet and Marquis de Sade, Aida Lalein showed me Bill Viola and Martha Rosler, Steve Levin who loved my paintings, and Dan O’Sullivan who taught me you can connect anything to anything (technically speaking) and that the more you laugh while doing it the better.

What projects are you working on currently?

I’m working on a commission for an insurance company in Boston that involves 40 linear feet of double layer glass and 3 interactive projections. Working with glass a new direction for me, and some days I feel like I’m in over my head (but I usually feel that way with most projects!). I’m also prototyping some new ideas for dynamic animations on monitors that are modulated by surfaces in front of the screens (sandblasted glass, maybe other CNC cut materials). I’m hoping to get a bit further on this before the end of the semester.

Why come to CMU?

I wanted to start teaching again and at an art school that has students studying different disciplines. Meeting new colleagues in the art school and in other disciplines was a goal and has certainly happened. Also, I’d been to Pittsburgh a few times – first for a show at Wood Street Galleries (2001) and then to work on the commission Text Rain at the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum (2004), which is still there, and it seemed like it would be a fun place to come back to. I’ve really enjoyed learning about the many different worlds that co-exist here.

My time in Pittsburgh has been social, inspiring, refreshing, busy, grand (I seriously love walking into the College of Fine Art building’s front door).