Jaclyn Santos, Transmit, 2009

The contestants on Work of Art embark on our second challenge:  to create a 3-dimensional work of art from objects we find in an appliance graveyard.  This was not a challenge I was particularly excited about, considering my prior experience working in sculpture was basically limited to the foundation class I took in college.  Nonetheless, I tried to view the situation as an opportunity for growth.

The inspiration for all of my artwork has always stemmed from my personal experiences.  Therefore, it would be impossible for me to participate in a reality tv show and not have it influence both my state of mind and the work I was making.

On set, I was acutely aware of the fact that I was being observed. The cast was far outnumbered by the crew and there was a constant feeling of tension – after all, we were being critiqued, judged, and one by one sent to the “chopping block”.  We had no contact with the outside world and our necessities were provided for – or not – by others… much like children.  I can’t possibly understate how vulnerable this made me feel.  I then thought about this on a larger scale;  how television objectifies people, characterizes them and displays them for the world to judge.

I decided to submerge a television in a tank that would be filled halfway with water. Water is the source of life for humans, yet deadly to electronics.  In a pathetically ironic way, I used my art to regain a dominant position over “television” and objectify it: displaying it to the world in a state of vulnerability that would enable the viewer to partake in my experience, while examining his own relationship to the object. The objectified television would have to endure superficial scrutiny and the humiliation of a public death.

I entered this project knowing it would “fail,” yet this failure was interesting to me and worth exploring.  Obviously, the work of Jeff Koons came to mind and I remembered something he said about his Three Ball Total Equilibrium Tank: “Enclosed in the watery vitrines, the basketballs become idealised objects which may refer to nostalgia or ambition – either way they are unattainable… Over a period of six months the balls gradually sink to the bottom of the tank and have to be reset.  Because of this, they may be seen as representing transience, human frailty and vulnerability to change in fortune.”  I’m in no way implying that the project I made in two days is anywhere near as successful or realized as Koons’ renowned sculpture – but there is a certain boldness and romanticism about attempting something impossible that served to inspire me.

As fate would have it, I ran into budgetary and technical difficulties that prevented me from successfully constructing a tank that would actually hold water, and I had to adjust my piece while maintaining the integrity of my concept.  I scavenged the studio for materials I could use, and ultimately decided to incorporate a clear trash bag, a rope, and a picture frame.  I submerged the television in the bag of water then tied it with a rope knotted like a noose.  In retrospect, I feel that the noose and frame were overkill and the piece could have functioned without them.

Jeff Koons, Three Ball Total Equilibrium Tank, 1985

Damien Hirst, End of An Era, 2009