benjamin cirgin
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Work statement

It is no secret, and often unquestioned today, that large-scale commodity production has been, and continues to be, a driving force in economic systems across the world.  Human consumption rises; media and marketing advance in controlling a vast amount of unconscious cultural capital; and the proletariat value of life today still rest in the hands of a select few. My work develops through questioning the readily accepted norms found in mass media imagery, popular culture, and the anthropocentric nature of the human obsession with objects.  I position myself (out of necessity and curiosity) as an active participant in the consumption of domestic objects, built environments, and a member of the working class community to present an alternative engagement with the objects and processes that I find simultaneously confusing and mesmerizing.

In my studio practice I researching how trends in popular culture develop, implement, and become the status quo of contemporary society.  Drawing on concepts from these trends, I create works that form questions through material, concept, and technical experimentation: not relying on a singular method of making, but an expanse of techniques that balance on craftsmanship, aesthetic judgment, and material significance.  My work is project based, feeding my conceptual strategies rather than seeking an aesthetic or formal consistency. My history as a designer, carpenter, cabinet maker, stone fabricator, art preparator, and life negotiator, merge with the ceramic process creating abstract forms and cast mimics of significant objects, functional pottery, and immersive installations.  Through collaboration with multiple artists I work to realize long-term projects and new approaches to art-making, utilizing media such as recorded and generated sound, video, material printing, text appropriation, and many others. Working collaboratively with this group of artists exposes my work and thinking to new and exciting techniques, resulting in unconventional works that rely on artist and spectator participation.

I believe that an artist’s primary purpose is to generate questions rather than taking a position that provides the viewer with answers. With this approach I move through the world vacillating between my skepticism of human intention, and being captivated by the intricate forming processes found in consumer driven systems of objects.  Through constant negotiations within the urban setting and the people that inhabit those places with me, I construct unlikely sculptures, create unconventional functional pottery, and arrange installations that disrupt the expected commodity object and the spaces they inhabit.  My intent is to pose questions and manipulate ideas that fracture the human experience of our routine lives.

Benjamin Cirgin | 2016

cast too wide a net

Rocio walks in the tempered late evening humidity in Neuquén surprised to see many of his comrades on his route to the tile factory.[1]  This used to be a walk he dreaded, but since the takeover he proudly wears a colorless uniform sipping slowly from his tea. Starting work in the clay mines was only temporary.  The pitch offered an eventual position working in the pressroom operating machinery inside the tile factory instead of listening to steel belts deliver rocks to the earth grinder.  The employee takeover was imminent, but the lasting surprise of a business ran by its employees continues to be the anomaly no one thought to consider.  A loud extended buzz lasting for nearly five seconds meant the shift was over.  Captain Davidson was arriving just as the five-seconds of pause between back up signals, crane hoists, and safety alarms returned, filling the unseen layers of sound at the bustling shipyard.  It felt both exciting and alarming every time he boarded the freighter.  An ongoing joke exchanged between crew-members ‘Lets get Ron his new Lexus Captain’, met with sarcastic humor depending upon the American economy and its demand for foreign imports.  The El Faro was the largest of its kind, a full football field of cargo rising twenty stories containing everything America needs to eat sleep and adorn their new homes with designer kitchen tiles.  The pressure mounting on Captain Davidson to get this fleet to Jacksonville with a storm brewing somewhere in between, resembled the feeling he just had as he boarded his freight-liner.[2]  Another alarm sounded, but this one was from the coast guard.  Connie wore earplugs even though it was against company code.  After four years of working in the warehouse she couldn’t stand the alarming sound of the reverse noise her forklift made every ten seconds when swiftly maneuvering each pallet from its respective stockroom shelf to be delivered to the showroom floor.  For a split second she wondered how many kitchen floors, bathroom walls, outdoor walkways, or tunnel overpasses worth of tile she’s shifted from one place to another.  Grateful at age fifty-one that she passed the online forklift training after being let go for low productivity from that hotbox Campbellsville warehouse in Kentucky, filling orders on foot for online consumers at the blink of an eye.[3] As the taillights flashed and the box truck slowed to a halt, Fidel knew the sound of the reverse warning that he might have a job, at least for the day.  From the well-worn sign on the side of the truck he thought they might need an experience tile installer. As a jornalero in southern California you’re hoping for a full days worth of work that could net ninety to one hundred and fifty dollars.  On the short side it could just be for a few hours and often the pay came later, if at all.[4] 

[1] "Zanon Factory Occupation - Interview with Workers.”. November 06, 2006. Accessed March 15, 2016. https://libcom.org/library/zanon-factory-occupation-interview-with-workers.

[2] Conlon, Kevin, and Yasmin Khorram. "El Faro's Captain Lived and Died with the Sea." CNN. November 23, 2015. Accessed March 15, 2016. http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/23/us/el-faro-captain-davidson/.

[3] Bernton, Hal, and Susan Kelleher. "Amazon Warehouse Jobs Push Workers to Physical Limit." The Seattle Times. April 03, 2012. Accessed March 15, 2016. http://www.seattletimes.com/business/amazon-warehouse-jobs-push-workers-to-physical-limit/.

[4] Bacon, David. "The Gritty Life of a Day Laborer | East Bay Express." East Bay Express. January 15, 2014. Accessed March 15, 2016. http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/the-gritty-life-of-a-day-laborer/Content?oid=3810328.

Benjamin Cirgin | 2016


cyclical objects

Limestone mills have a specific objective: to unearth raw material, in this case stone. Each stone gets a grade attached to it and either makes the cut to go on for processing or ends up stacked along the edges of the mill forming its exterior facade. The selected stones get sent to be cut by a wet saw, honed and milled into squares for lining the sides of buildings, cut into counter tops, or shaped into ornaments to adorn entry ways. This totality of stripping the earth’s surface to create marketable products is a small part of the process parallel to Timothy Morton theory of the “hyperobject”, or an object too large for the human to encounter.[1]  A hyperobject isn’t an object at all; it is the framing of a series of events that add up to an effect. When the input and output of every earth-mining mill across the world gets totaled (virtually impossible), a hyperobject forms. The necessity for framing a series of events under the umbrella of a hyperobject is to give some clear borders to the processes and effects that we – the human race – cannot grasp until long after they become irreversible.[2]

The domestic object is one small part of the consumer hyperobject. The production process of each domestic object has it’s own extensive line forming a tight “interobjective mesh” that stands in front of, or lies behind each person.[3] This mesh is made up of all the intricacies needed to produce, distribute, and sell domestic objects (the oil to provide electricity to power the production plant, the machines that make the machine needed to create each product, the total manufacturing system and all of its inter working parts, the shipping industry created to deliver each, the labor system built around each store that receives the product to sell to the consumer...). The list of domestic objects and their interobjective mesh make up a consumer hyperobject that continues to grow at an enormous rate.

[1] Morton, Timothy. Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World (Posthumanities). University of Minnesota Press, 2013. 1. Morton is not using the domestic object, consumerism, or any part of the capitalistic market in which I describe in my argument to present his case. I have provided this concept as a connective tissue to stitch together my analysis of a consumer “hyperobject” and its “interobjective mesh”.

[2] Ibid, 2-3.

[3] Ibid, 86.

Benjamin Cirgin | 2015

too much all the time

Walking to Rudy’s her voice alters in pitch

That moment when you know the conversation is about to change

The woman talking just too loudly outside the bedroom door

Construction blocks down the street interrupted by cars and a couple screaming

It always starts out with “I haven’t really told anyone here about this…”

That rattle inside the car between thirteen and fifteen miles per hour

And there it is “My mom died about four months before this started”

Why does no one tell him that his indoor voice belongs outdoors

Conversations that just happen throughout

It’s hard to undue what has been said

Just before I could get the headphone in the other ear

It was, death, “Started in the chest and changed her speech”

Timing is really all that is needed to change a path

All I can think of is that song Black Captain

“We were close.  What the fuck am I going to do now?”

As the head begins to shake

There is just no more room for these

“and I’ll say goodbye, before we meet”

What could one possible say to help at a moment like this

It’s just too full now and sleep will help to erase 

To wake up and remember what they were

Benjamin Cirgin | 2014

behind the noise

It is raining outside.

I can hear the flooding drops increase in rapidity.

The sound of the rain begins to overtake the insistent hum of life’s electrical devices.

I go to the window.

For a few seconds, the noise of my surroundings disappear.

I watch the deep layers of rain fill the spaces normally unseen.

As abruptly as the rain began, it leaves.

I return to my life of everyday noise.

These sublime intervals lend a central component to why I arrange objects and manipulate

materials to seem simple.

Simple arrangements operate by alleviating unwanted visual noise, allowing it to escape.

Benjamin Cirgin | 2012

function

There are those few objects of use that I find myself frequently returning to.

These objects offer simplicity of form with detailed attentions to color, texture and a function unique with each individual use.

My aesthetic influence springs from a fascination with interior spaces and material textures.

Drawing from my experience as a carpenter and furniture maker has informed my love for well-constructed objects of use and their spaces within.

These objects carry a specific task and when considered, offer the user a place to rest.

My intention is to encourage the recognition of material choices, intimate vessels, and formed structures by communicating my aesthetic importance for moments of consideration.

Benjamin Cirgin | 2011