Jacksonville, Florida (June 9, 2015)—In “Cargomobilities,” a new site-specific work in the “Project Atrium” series at the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, a cultural resource of the University of North Florida, Tallahassee-based painter Joelle Dietrick produces a multilayered mural of paint and adhesive fabric to present a modern day commentary about the interconnectedness of macro economies and micro systems. Fascinated with geolocation data for cargo ships and shipping containers, the artist employs a glitch art aesthetic that allows her to analyze, recode, manipulate, and visualize data into a pulsating scene of cranes, cargo ships, and houses. Like the frenzied pace of information flow at the Jacksonville Port Authority (JaxPort), “Cargomobilities” is a continuous, rapid, networked, and energy-dense temporary painting.
Producing “Cargomobilities,” the largest mural of the new series, is no small feat. What begins as an intensive computer-based research project in the artist’s studio results in an equally laborious application of paint and adhesive material on the gallery’s walls. To start, Dietrick mines years of data from larger informational technology (IT) systems, such as the housing market from 2005 to 2015 and geolocation data for cargo ships. In doing so, she finds inspiration in their complex data patterns. She transforms the failures of said systems into an abstract environment of houses, shipping containers, and cranes. As the layered forms are suggestive of the physical scale of these economies, the images’ wall placement echoes the complicated IT patterns and glitches as well as the reverberations of one market crash onto the other.
As part of her research, Dietrick also toured JaxPort, the eighteenth largest port in the nation and sixth largest port on the East coast when measured in 20-foot containers (20-foot equivalent unit, or TEUs).
“The scale of the men working set against the boats and containers was extraordinary,” Dietrick told MOCA Jacksonville. “I was able to see the larger systems at work and their relationships to individual people.” In a recently published book, “Cargomobilities: Moving Materials in a Global Age,” a comparison between the sizes of cargo ships and quantity of shipping containers onboard puts the contemporary world of freight in perspective. The authors first compared the size of the 18th-century trading ship, “Halswell,” to the largest cargo ship in operation today. The former was 42.5 meters long and 11 meters wide; the latter is 400 meters long and 59 meters wide. The amount of shipping containers onboard each ship increased in proportion to its size. The overwhelming difference—14 20-foot containers to 18,000—is almost incomprehensible.
In the “Cargomobilities” mural, scale also makes a difference in such that Dietrick applies a 1:1 ratio to construct her images. Cloud-like glitch patterns of nonsensical colors are layered upon semi-recognizable blue forms. At times, the shifting shapes recall the activity of the port, its larger-than-life setting, and the vast contrast between the scale of its workers and the industry at large. The artist adds a personal element by rendering to scale the first home that she and her husband purchased in Tallahassee. From multiple vantage points throughout MOCA Jacksonville, the magnitude of the housing crash and shipping industry become apparent—both are physically larger than us.
While “Cargomobilities” might read as a visual representation of the port’s exterior, Dietrick specifically set out to explore its infrastructure and supporting IT systems. Fascinated with the errors in digital and analog data that can occur, she examined the source codes of related images before breaking apart and manipulating ASCII files—one letter or number replaced with another letter or number—only to rebuild the file as an image in Google SketchUp and Adobe Illustrator. Such computer-based work occurred in her Tallahassee studio and Florida State University, where she is full-time faculty. On the university’s large format printer, she produced the pigmented ink jet prints on a Terylene fabric with adhesive. These prints were run through the school’s plotter and cut into specific shapes to be applied to the gallery’s walls. Dietrick’s process, from computer-generated renderings to painting and adhesive fabric on the gallery’s walls, replicates the complex inner workings of the industries as well as micro- to macroeconomic shifts that impact, even if peripherally, our daily lives.
Dietrick’s paintings, drawings, and animations explore contemporary nesting instincts and their manipulation by global economic systems. Her recent artworks and research consider housing trends that complicate our relationship to place, particularly the notion of home in the wake of the housing industry collapse. Her work has been shown at Transitio_MX in Mexico City, TINA B Festival in Prague and Venice, Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago, MCA San Diego, Long March Space Gallery Chicago, Soho20 New York, and MPG Contemporary Boston.
Dietrick combines elements from earlier studies in “Cargomobilities,” particularly as it relates to color. Each year, the paint manufacturer Sherwin-Williams releases a new color palette, commonly referred to as a “color forecast.” In 2010, Dietrick produced “The Sherwin Series,” a collection of paintings and prints that investigated the link between aesthetics, commerce, and politics by remixing images of foreclosed homes using the prescribed color forecast of that year.
“Sherwin-Williams optimistically chose the colors during the height of the housing bubble before the foreclosure epidemic began,” she said.
Now five years later, Sherwin-Williams released the new color forecast “Voyage,” which Dietrick uses for paint in “Cargomobilities.” Consisting of 10 colors, the titles of “Voyage”—from “Riverway” to “Crystal Clear” to “Cyberspace”—relate to the artist’s interest in the shifting spaces of transnational systems. The other vibrant imagery in “Cargomobilities” references colors seen on a computer’s screen, bringing the mural full circle back to the realm of technology.
Regions is the presenting sponsor for “Project Atrium.” Supporting sponsors are The Boeing Company, Driver, McAfee, Peek & Hawthorne, and the Jessie Ball duPont Fund. Contributing Sponsors are Agility Press; State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, Florida Council on Arts and Culture; and WJCT Public Broadcasting.
Joelle Dietrick is an emerging artist whose work has appeared around the world.
Profile “Project Atrium”: Joelle Dietrick’s mural opens the fifth season of “Project Atrium.” Interview MOCA Jacksonville Director and Chief Curator Marcelle Polednik and Curator of Collections Ben Thompson about how the series began and how it has garnered national recognition for the Museum.
Year of the River: The event is part of the Year of the River celebration by Cultural Fusion organizations. Cultural Fusion is a partnership of arts and culture institutions dedicated to creating unique offerings through collaborations with the goal of heightening expectations for valuing culture in our community while strengthening the impact of its members.
Founded in 1924 as the Jacksonville Fine Arts Society, MOCA Jacksonville is a private nonprofit visual arts educational institution and a cultural resource of the University of North Florida located in the historic Western Union Telegraph building in the heart of downtown. MOCA Jacksonville serves the community and its visitors through its mission to promote the discovery, knowledge, and advancement of the art, artists, and ideas of our time. For more information, including hours of operation, admission prices, and upcoming exhibitions and programs, visit mocajacksonville.org or call 904-366-6911.
Denise M. Reagan, Director of Communications