Contemporary Art @ Bošaziçi - Interview Project, 2010

Philip Ross

Andi Nahmias, B.U., nahmias@boun.edu.tr

Philip Ross: “…the natural world was constructed like a language, and therefore could be read like a language. Much of my artwork has been focused on the pursuit of understanding the stories that are written in the languages of nature.”

Phil Ross; an artist who thinks that art is indispensable and irrevocable; bases his artworks to the nature for the last fifteen years. He is an admirer with a life time interest in biology. In many of his projects, he shows the interesting parts of the natural world; and he uses various techniques to make it happen. In this sincere interview, he described the process of making an art; the reasons why he bases his artworks on the nature; and what he thinks about using bio-techniques in art.

Andi Nahmias: Can you describe your process of ‘making a piece of art’?

Philip Ross: This often involves several years of research, and is inspired by wanting to know some aspect of the world with greater clarity and depth. I immerse myself in the readings, languages and activities that will familiarize me with the field I am investigating, and have the faith that eventually I will create something that will be gratifying in both memory and behavior. This is augmented by more conventional artistic practices like drawing, writing and model building. I used to think very much about an artwork as some part of the world that was the subject of one’s actions and participation in techné, but at this point in my life the work is integral to the day to day interests, community and habits that make up my life. I am not as concerned as I once was with artistic creativity leaving to produce material artifacts.

Andi Nahmias: Why the nature is the magical fragment and the inspiration place, for your art works?

Is it possible to say that the nature fascinates you and you want to fascinate people?

Philip Ross: When I was about ten years old, during summer vacation, my family stopped to visit Three Mile Island: while on route from some place to another. Three Mile Island is a nuclear power plant that almost had a meltdown of its core rods, and we all wanted to witness in person the spooky cooling towers we had seen quite regularly on TV. We stood in the viewing area, on the opposite side of the river from the towers, and solemnly gawked. I remember that there was a row of recently planted trees between the cooling towers and the viewing area, lovely flowering trees that partially obscured the base of the nuclear power plant. It was painfully obvious that this was part of some public relations campaign, an attempt to neutralize the iconic image of those towers. It made the feelings of remorse, dread, whatever the sentiment that near nuclear meltdown evokes, just a little more difficult to experience. This was my first recognition that the natural world was constructed like a language, and therefore could be read like a language. Much of my artwork has been focused on the pursuit of understanding the stories that are written in the languages of nature.

Andi Nahmias: What do you think about the usage of bio techniques in art?

Philip Ross: Bio techniques are the first art, born from our participation in the world, the refraction of these events through language and behavior, and the environmental solipsism that exist when self modification is an emergent aspect of our species. Limiting art to historical precedents discounts the manifold like qualities inherent to our creative being, and bio techniques are only different in kind from any other historically semiotic condition for symbolically representing thought and culture.

Andi Nahmias: Do you think that in ‘using bio-techniques’ form of art; should there be a limit?

Philip Ross: To what? Actions? Ideas? Organization? I don’t think it is so great to kill things only for aesthetic ends, but I often do this in order to make some of my artworks. I think that this kind of work is in the light so much right now because as a culture we are very uncertain about our position in regards to the polis joining with the zoo, and the ethical encumbrance we have to state as the baggage of the humanist project. The second creation is always couched Faustian contracts like this.

Andi Nahmias: You sometimes photograph the nature; sometimes visualize it by painting pictures and sometimes go further like; using the biotechnology in art. Which one is the most satisfactory field for you and why?

Philip Ross: I cook my meals the same way I make my art. It is not a special event; it is only what I am trying to do at the moment to keep on moving. They are all satisfactory as they help me to think and act out the ideas that are in my mind in different ways.

In some of his art works, Phil was re-painting the nature, in some, he was re-building the natural objects and in some, he was he was picturing them. Looking at these works; one starts to interpret nature differently and one starts to share Phil’s amazement of nature. Before Phil,

they were only objects; only natural entities to me; but when I looked in his eyes; I could detect the differences in them, I could perceive them alternatively. Phil basically shows us; how fascinating is the nature and he also shows that; how can they differ in meaning when looked from different aspects. As I keep looking at his art works; his amazement of nature caches me, and I also start to interpret each item I see in the nature, differently. Phil Ross is a very brave, decided and strong willed artist; who spends his life time on his interest to biology. This interest let him to succeed in the unification of art with biology and nature. And nature is the field that he bases all his art works on; and as he keeps being fascinated by it; each time, he comes across with better, diverse, charming, amazing and pleasant art works.