9 Million Mile Tread

Written for a 2015 installation in the Porch Gallery, at University of Iowa

Standing here, somewhere between an airport and the highway, I am struck by an inability to comprehend something about distance. The disconnect is first felt in the body, where the inertia of the motionless passenger contradicts the speed at which it traverses land. What is this that enables us to chase the horizon with such ferocity? I find analogies for our petroleum-based culture in the economy of honeybees, also fueled by fluids of precious viscosity.

9 Million Mile Tread takes its name from the hypothetical distance a bee must fly to produce twenty pounds of wax, the measure that makes up the columns of Two Foot Sole. Such a length would wrap many times around the earth, yet the soles extruded from these figures would leave the ostensible wearer encumbered, unstable, and just 24 inches taller than before. The calculation is surely a stretch, conflating the collective labor of bees, horizontal distance, and height, yet the result evokes something of the absurd in our effort to overcome distance.

Bees bring us incredible numbers but oil yields even wilder calculations, enabling us to traverse vast distances in minutes and gain miles by the gallon. The body is propelled at exhilarating but nauseating speeds; our feet need not even touch the ground. In this state, land exists as a mere triangulation of energy, time, and distance.

This work is a meditation on energies refined from unfathomable figures. In a stacking of metaphors, images of exaggeration and warning emerge: a small scoop, an hourglass, a rising level. Because the scale of this work is imaginary, the body may be repositioned in a landscape that is both just within reach and impossibly far.