7 Electrons Artist Interview - Craig Dorety

I initially found Craig Dorety’s artwork through the website of Jim Campbell and was immediately drawn to his “Window of Perception” series of installations made with birch ply, LEDs and microcontrollers. I set out to ask Craig more about his art and inspiration.

7E: Your work seems to question the limits and boundaries of human perception. Is this correct and how did you formulate or come across this theme?
That is correct. At some point I realized that what we perceive and what exists are not the same. This is true even of our self-perceptions. Things seem what they aren’t, in other words. Our reality is limited by our ability to perceive the known universe. Being knowledgeable in the realm of science and engineering has been  very helpful in understanding the questions of what it means to exist in my reality. It hasn’t been very helpful with answers, but it sure helps with the questions.

These ideas came around in my teens whilst experimenting with psychedelics. Upon discovering hallucination, I realized that my perceptive filters were malleable via chemicals. Later I learned that they are malleable under other conditions: low light, low blood sugar, not enough sleep, and deep meditation among others. After exposure to OpArt and learning about optical illusions, I realized that even an unimpaired mind can be fooled by light and dark, and color relationships. The visual cortex of the human brain can be overwhelmed by patterns. I would call this an ‘internal’ limit to perception.

I also think in terms of 'external’ limits. The human eye can only perceive a limited amount of detail, distance, and frequency of the EM spectrum; hence the development of the microscope, telescope, infra red, etc. These are extensions or improvements  of our external  limits to perception. Space telescopes and electron microscopy are great technological extensions. We can really get a broad picture (so to speak) of what our local universe is like. 

I also think in terms of information. As humans, we collect a lot of it. I like to manifest information. Carving lunar topography data into wood with robots as reconstruction….and then being able to touch it with my fingers. This is amazing. And this is how I work with LED technology as well; I use digital photography and video as source for LED control. Pictures are just information about a subject from a certain perspective. I take that information and re-map it in space and time such that it can be seen from a dimensionally different perspective. Most people, when they first se my 'windows of perception’, can’t figure out what they are looking at. I’ve created objects of light that defy the visual cortex’s ability to understand without viewing the art from a number of perspectives.

I guess I like to think that if we can modify our own environments by means of toolmaking, then I am trying to make tools to modify my internal environment by perceptive manipulation and perspective modification.

7E: We discovered your artwork via Jim Campbell’s website. How did you meet, and what’s your relationship like?
I met Jim in 2008 after a friend forwarded me a job opening in his studio. It was a great match. I started working for him right away. I was with Jim full-time for 5 years. During that time we worked on a number of large projects together. He had the ideas, I helped him make them. It was a great mixture of art, engineering, project management, and hard labor. He has been a great mentor, and working for him brought me the experience and technical know-how to achieve my own goals with light and technology. Oh, and his art is amazing. I’ve traveled the world with it.

7E: Was there a moment as a child or earlier in your life that you can remember when you realized you wanted to be an artist?
It was more of a realization that I AM an artist. I was very young…maybe 6 years old. I asked my family for drawing and music classes at that age. They were supportive of my interests, but I was always told I couldn’t or shouldn’t be an artist. Those pressures didn’t come from family alone. It has been a gentle lifelong discouragement of what I AM, not what I want to be. It has slowly dawned on me over the years that I make art because I have to. Not because I want to. I don’t aspire to be a famous artist. Thus life is a matter of earning an income while I make art.

7E: I noticed you’ve built some synths and DIY MIDI controllers. What was the inspiration for those?
I’ve been a life-long musician, and I got interested electronic music at a very early age. I remember mashing beats together with a dual tape deck when I was 9 years old. I was heavily influenced by pink floyd and euro pop in the 80’s: later by techno and underground dance music in general. In 1993 I took some JC classes in electronic music taught by Ed McManus in Eugene Oregon. I’ve been performing original electronic music since 1998. When EM performance changed primarily to laptops, I got bored. All of the usb midi controller options were boring looking and didn’t add life to performance. So I built the kromatron to put performance back in my hands: Since then I have built several strange sound objects, synth-kits, and other midi controllers.

7E: What is your micro controller platform of choice to drive your LED based artwork?
Moslty arduino. They’re relatively cheap and accessible. They really simplified the toolchain required for microcontroller programming. I’m moving to more advanced platforms, though. I’ve maxed-out what the 16Mhz arduinos can do with LEDs. I [also] use a CNC router, a home-made laser cutter, and a 3d printer.

7E: Any future projects coming up you can let us in on?
Here’s one of my more recent works:    (please watch in 1080 on full-screen)

It’s too early to release any photos, but I’ve started a series of works involving insects/arachnids, and lots of colored light.

Check out Craig’s website and etsy page for more info and artwork.

- Terry

Craig Dorety featuring a collaboration with Jim Campbell at johanssonprojects