Studio Visit: Sarah and Joseph Belknap

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Right before the snow, celebration, and holidays Make-Space found where Sarah and Joseph Belknap live. When I state that we had found where they live, I do mean where they talk, sleep, take pictures of the sun, laugh, pour plastic, and cook. The warmth and sincerity from the two are infectious. If you ever find yourself a guest of theirs, take note.

The Belknaps don’t talk about their studio practice, they reveal things in the universe that they find, literally, wonderful. The two want to share them with you. They want you to find them as wonderful as they do and, honestly, it is hard not to. It is, perhaps, appropriate to liken the curiosity to when one is young and discovering the world. Looking back to when I was young I knew of bullfrogs. I knew they existed. I had seen pictures, heard stories, and could even spell their name–give or take some letters. But it was not until I visited a family friend’s pond that I heard them croak at dusk. I heard more than I could count and in the dim light, I could not see even one. I think in that moment I felt the same excitement that the Belknaps feel about the universe. That moment I had moved from ‘knowing about’ to ‘being with’—experiencing without an end allowed my mind to wander. But I wanted an end, an answer, a bullfrog in my hands. Something that would make my experience a tangible conclusion.

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This motivation, born out of curiosity about the world around or above us, is obviously nothing new. What do you think made us reach the moon (other than politics, national pride, and the Cold War)? All joking aside, I went hunting around the pond with a net in hand. The Belknaps are also hunting but have realized the hunt can be a place of poetics. They have suspended themselves in the very curiosity that had prompted their investigation–no longer seeking answers, but developing a type of actualization out of a combined personal ideology about what surrounds us.

The Belknaps are understanding the universe through the filter of themselves. They are challenging passive notions about our experience with the world–why is a photograph any more real of a representation of the moon than a silicone moon skin made from the two’s memory of the surface? In the video “Joseph lights Sarah’s cigarette with the Sun” Joseph does exactly what the title implies (with the aid of a magnifying glass). How else would you contextualize the complexity of the relation of the Sun to yourself than doing something that is just as dismissive as it is dependent on a complex system?

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I ended up catching a bullfrog with my net. It was huge and slimy. Its legs were tangled in the net as it tried jumping over and over. There was a bug half eaten falling out of its mouth. All the sudden I was terrified and didn’t even want to look at it, let alone touch it to let it go. Maybe I was scared because it wasn’t what I had expected, it didn’t fit the idea that I had made in my mind. And if the reality of the frog wasn’t bad enough, I also had the responsibility of the frog. Luckily I laid the net down and the frog eventually freed himself. Perhaps, I was better off listening to the croaks and poking around the pond only thinking about bullfrogs. The Belknaps are not hunting as I was hunting, they understand the poetics of relating to something unattainable and they materialize that understanding.

Thank you for having us out Sarah and Joseph. Sarah and Joseph Belknap currently have a solo exhibition at Heaven Gallery: Center of the Circle: Sarah Belknap & Joseph Belknap from January 17- February 16, 2014.