Tirelandia takes place at the Bonneville Salt Flats, in Wendover Utah where thousands of visitors, filmmakers and high-speed auto racers gather to utilize this isotropic landscape. The auto racers divide the space around them and, quite literally, burn rubber, going through a set of tires every race as they travel up to 750 miles per hour in no particular direction. All thrust and no vector, the goal is not destination but speed. Speed, in this context, is progress and the goal is always to go faster than the fastest before you.
I imagine that the speed racing taking place on the Bonneville Salt Flats represents a form of “manifest destiny” as racers seek to conquer the limits of technology and themselves against the laws of nature. Similarly, in the work Fordlandia, the artist Melanie Smith addresses this resistance by exploring the repercussions of Henry Ford’s desire to colonize areas of the Amazon jungle for its rubber trees. Ford’s colonial notions of progress in opposition to the natural forces produced a ghost town overtaken by the Amazon foliage. Through my efforts to freely and speedily roll my “wheel” of rubber tires on the Flats, I reference Smith’s work by providing a visual allusion to the Greek tale of the futility Sisyphus encountered in his struggle to roll his rock up a hill – in his struggle to exceed the limits of his resistance to nature. As a result, I wonder what impact current notions of progress may have on the landscape when we focus on the thrust rather than the vector.
Tirelandia, screen shot
Tirelandia (Version I "Junk")
2015, rubber tires, TV monitor, 8' h x 9' w x 9' d
Artist: J. Eric Simpson
Bow, 2017-18. video performance, Lubbock TX
Bow (installation view) 50 gallon oil drums, video projection, speakers