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Katie Caron on Dominium

OL: Let’s start with materials: what is Dominium made of?

KC: Dominium is a multi-media sculptural environment incorporating many elements of our world including: oil, iron, plastic, acrylic, clay, silicon, motors, florescent lights, moss, salt, and water. Much like the Cabinets of Curiosities from the 1700’s, Dominium is an encapsulated space containing the whole world within. Before the information age, people understood the world through tactile specimens in museum displays. This work is both referencing that era of curiosity compared with the immersive experience of looking through the virtual windows of our era, the tv, computer, and iphone.

OL: How do you think of the different levels? What did you call them to yourself while you were building them?

KC: The work represents a cross section of a fictional landscape which of course references our own world. Each level reveals the hidden and unknown elements which both impact and even control the life on the surface.

The bottom level I call the “Wasteworld,” as it is made up oil, latex paint, and iron filings. Magnets move below its surface causing small creatures to form and move in the ooze. It is the oil we extract for consumption and the primordial stew from which we evolved.

The “Waterwold” is the next level up from the bottom. It is comprised of clay, water, oil, moss and silicon forms. Backlit, there is a mysterious depth to the water. This layer is the spawning ground for life as the silicon forms reference egg sacks and growth.

The “Saltworld” is where salt water evaporates creating mineral structures. As the water changes from liquid to solid, it creates a moist atmosphere throughout the layer.

The “Wireroots” and “Motors” are the layer just below the surface. They control the movements of the iron filings, and reference our evolved technological condition.

Finally, the “Surface” of this world is a vacuumed-formed plastic landscape, sculpted from clay and computer parts. It references a topographical map of both a rugged and colonized landscape. Iron filings scurry about its surface much like ants; their efforts appear repetitive and futile.

OL: I’m reminded when I look at these pictures of when I read The Recognitions, growing aware of the way in which the world is real and fake in equal measure, as are famous works of art and breathtaking landscapes (what’s been re-touched or restored? what’s been landscaped? How is it framed? How did you get there? It’s like the paradise of Hieronymous Bosch: whose paradise is this? And how real is the alternative?

Having done a bit of work with stop- motion animation and video, I am fascinated by our mind’s ability to transport us through a mediated lens to another time or world. It is so easy to create illusions with film, but how can you create an engrossing visual experience with an object? I am obsessed with human nature’s interest in being fooled. The complexity of the present moment is not enough as we seek 3d movies or video games to transport us elsewhere. So it is with theatrical lighting, motors and magnets that I seek to question the line between what is real and what is artifice.

OL: You lived in Colorado for many years, but Dominium was conceived and made outside Detroit. Do you see both places in the Box? I ask because there seems to be more of the technological world here — right angles, lights. It’s a different world than that of your Colorado work.

KC: That’s a great question! In some ways, it is a combination of the Detroit and Denver landscapes. The ariel perspective of mountains and city scape is very much what I missed about Denver when I moved to Detroit. The open sky and looming rockies, made the city and its inhabitants feel small and insignificant. Detroit is the “Underworld,” a place in transition from industrial decay to agricultural rebirth. Place is a huge influence on my work and inspirations.