Looking Out is a photo and video series, originally created for Instagram's IGTV platform, featuring works by Pittsburgh artists created through their respective windows while sheltering-in-place at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. This series envisions a new commons making our mutual experience of sheltering-in-place one less of isolation and more of collectivity and solidarity. This series is a Miller ICA project with prompt by Alex Young.
-looking out from our windows and for each other
[Looking Out #01] Tony Buba, COVID 19 an OBSESSION —PART I
“I have been obsessed with the coronavirus outbreak. Some of the obsession is because of my age. I am 76 and I will be 77 in October. People in my age group have extraordinarily little chance of survival even without having been subjected to breathing the polluted Mon Valley air their whole life. I am preparing for my death. Making out a will, living will, naming an executor, etc., all that crap even shipping all my material to be archived at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. So, death will not totally catch me off guard, but I have at least two new films I want to finish. The thought of dying before finishing another Braddock film and a film about my family is frightening. Why, I am not sure. The films could be dreadful, and nobody would watch them but that does not matter. I need to finish them. Another reason was the devastating outbreak in Italy where I have a lot of family and friends. Would I ever get to see them again? Of course, more selfishly would I be able to get back and get more material on my mother’s and father’s village. This piece was shot over a two-day period and it is structured with my COVID 19 obsession. The shots in seconds are 3,15,22,9,4 and 19 repeated seven times. The two days are blended, like my life. The audio is constructed, sometimes the sounds are synched, sometimes not, also like my life is now. I want to thank Alex Young and the Miller ICA team for asking me to participate in this project. It has given me an opportunity to focus and really appreciate the beauty of a Baltimore oriole.”
[Looking Out #02] Shaun Slifer, View from Work Desk, Wednesday May 6, 6:40pm
“If I swivel to the right in my desk chair, to take a break from the screen, this is what I see. Typically the bridge and the road below are congested with vehicles from 3-7pm on almost any day, but the last few weeks have seen traffic trickle off in a welcoming way. At night, in the summer, I can watch the bats and nightjars hunt the sky in the floodlights. At all hours, including the middle of the night, it’s common to hear the freight trains pulling around the big bend in the rail down in the hollow below, a prolonged industrial scream ringing around the neighborhood from the valley. Recently, pigeons have started coming over to the window, peering in and giving my cat some new wildlife to stalk.”
[Looking Out #03] Erin Mallea, Reflection Meditation
“Reflection Meditation includes videos taken from (and of) my window over the course of three days. The videos were then played on all the screens in my apartment and reflected in the window at night to be viewable on either side of the glass. The audio compiles sounds playing both inside and outside the window while recording footage.”
[Looking Out #04] Lindsey french, many wreaths for violets
“many wreaths for violets approaches the window as a surface for desire. The window is the surface for gazing, lingering, and languid fantasy, it holds the touch and the swipe as much as it holds the eye. During the short duration of this project, a small cluster of violets grew beneath two maple trees on the other side of my window. These particular violets were not the same violets that Sappho strung into wreaths, nor were they as strong or smooth as a symbol. Anne Carson’s translations of Sappho offered me a form for absence in expressions of longing, and I offered to these violets a few gestures of soft attachment at the surfaces of glass - as layers of opacity, as molecules of scent, as gestures of poetry - many wreaths for these violets.”
[Looking Out #05] Chris Ivey, The Reality
“The video was filmed out a window during another day for nature activity but can be seen as traumatic in ways to some. I thought it fitting to lay in audio from a discussion I held in November 2019 centered on black women's trauma in Pittsburgh. The discussion was held in part with the screening of my installation short The Silence When Black Women Die and Antwon about murdered teen Antwon Rose, from my video installation. The installation, We Are Here, is a four-channel video installation regarding social justice issues. The segment Silence tackles issues of visibility and identity for black women in Pittsburgh. In the installation, recently online through CMU's Center for Art in Society, advocate Tresa Murphy Green speaks bluntly of black women friends and several others whose deaths go unnoticed in the media and the city in general. The installation piece digs deep into the trauma experienced by Pittsburgh black women knowing that the value of their lives is fractional compared to those of white women. My goal is to foster inspiration in a screening environment that is conducive to constructive discussions led by passionate advocates. This piece was meant to be haunting in different ways. Hopefully, the audience will choose not to shy away from bigger issues in it as we often do now in our attention-deficit times.”
[Looking Out #06] Steve Gurysh, Kinzua
"I've made a number of works that come into contact with the Allegheny, Monongahela, Ohio rivers. Each flow through my mind as I try to understand the history of Pittsburgh as a confluence (and contamination) of geological and engineered forces. This past fall, I traveled with a group of collaborators—Alex Young, Erin Mallea, and Lindsey french—to the towns of Warren, PA and Salamanca, NY, where we visited the site of the Kinzua Dam, a project built in 1965 whose reservoir displaced 10,000 acres of Seneca land, breaking a treaty signed by George Washington and the Grand Council of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy in 1794. This project, built by the US Army Corp of Engineers, was designed to control the Allegheny River and mitigate flooding in Downtown Pittsburgh at the devastating expense of the Seneca people and their sovereignty. Every citizen of Pittsburgh should learn this history of dispossession and displacement. Perhaps the best place to start is the Seneca Iroquois National Museum in Salamanca, NY who, thankfully, have an excellent digital archive on their website. As we look out into the next decade, how can we imagine restorative justice for those upstream?"
[Looking Out #07] Carin Mincemoyer, Sky Notes
“Taking note of the sky outside my studio window is a practice I began in early April, after having been away for a couple of weeks, dealing with the onslaught of pandemic news and all of its repercussions. The framing of the window turns the activity of the sky into a drama, and I began a habit of consciously noting it and photographing it almost daily. In a time of uncertainty and lack of normalcy, it serves as a comforting bit of routine, a marker of time, and a reminder to be present.”
[Looking Out #08] Kevin Clancy, OTHER WORLDS ARE POSSIBLE
“OTHER WORLDS ARE POSSIBLE seeks to be a radiant two-way mirror portal, simultaneously providing a prismatic lens through which to reexamine the world outside and a radiant point of reflection to augment our current reality, depending on your vantage point, time of day, and atmospheric conditions. It exists as a physical and virtual portal, with a similar duality. Simply, it is a motivational poster for passersby who could use a tiny bit of hope right now. It is in a second story window of 3598 Bethoven Street, if you want to include it on one of your distanced, masked walks.”
Dichroic film on CNC routed acrylic, dichroic LED lighting, hardware, 47”x47”.
Sound by Reggie Wilkins. Thanks to Lindsey Landfried, digiFAB lab, and Penn State University for fabrication assistance.
[Looking Out #09] Ginger Brooks Takahashi, #asians4blacklives
“A sheer white curtain hangs over a window with crossed metal security bars. A mixed race asian person with short dark hair pushes away the curtain to hang a poster by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh that reads, ‘AMERICA IS BLACK. IT IS NATIVE. IT WEARS A HIJAB. IT IS A SPANISH SPEAKING TONGUE. IT IS MIGRANT. IT IS QUEER. IT IS A WOMAN. IT IS HERE HAS BEEN HERE --------- AND IT'S NOT GOING ANYWHERE.’ Also on the poster are drawings of three people looking out at the viewer. After securing the poster in place, with hands smoothing it to the window, the person steps away, and the curtain falls into place. The asynchronous audio is of helicopters and birds heard from inside my home. This video and audio were recorded on Monday June 1, 2020, as people gathered around the country to protest police brutality and the unjust killing of George Floyd and countless others.”
[Looking Out #10] Mary Tremonte, Unconditional Love
“I've been spending a lot of time in my backyard during quarantine, working with the plants and watching the seasons slowly change. I have also been looking at my backyard through my dining room window, where I do most of my eating and computer work. Although a DJ, I don't consider myself a sound artist, but I collaged this sound piece for a program during Toronto's OCAD University's Pride art programming in 2016, as part of Objects for Listening, a project by artist Cheryl Pope. It was originally played in the elevators at this art school. The prints in the window are by Pittsburgh-via-Mexico City artist Andrea Narno and myself. Andrea's text on their relief print "Solo juntxs podemos con tanta rabia y tanto dolor" translates to "Only together we can put up with so much rage and pain." I created the I See You and I Love You screenprint shortly after the 2016 election, in recognition of those most vulnerable who would be dangerously affected by such a brazen manifestation of white supremacy in the White House. It now feels more appropriate than ever. I've been thinking a lot about gatherings, in particular queer community-building, and am so grateful that I got to co-create with artist Vanessa Adams a month of programming for the Queer Ecology Hanky Project at Irma Freeman Center in February before everything shut down. Now it's June, a time of year when we typically gather to celebrate and agitate for queer liberation. I have broken with social distancing in the past week to be together with thousands of fellow Pittsburghers and millions of people worldwide to call for an end to racist police violence. How will we continue to be together in love and rage this month and beyond?”
[Looking Out #11] David Bernabo, Plant/Pole/Fence/Concrete
“One major upside of wearing a mask is that no one can tell that you are muttering to yourself when taking a walk through the neighborhood. When I say muttering, I mean rigorously classifying all the changing elements in your neighborhood--the collapsing garages, the greenery shooting through fences. The same exercise can be conducted at home. This is the view that I look at everyday. There are other views from other windows, but this is my favorite. This work places the acts of noticing and classifying at the intersection of what's real and what's desired or longed for. The viewer is placed at a confused perspective. The off-camera sounds of neighbors working on their houses and unwelcomed radio signals buzzing through loose microphone cables join the sounds of rain. The outside sounds are very present, but the inside sounds--the instruments--are more distant. The perspective is subjective, occasionally warped, and incomplete, which I think in these times is honest.” - 5/11/20
[Looking Out #12] Barbara Weissberger, Like diamonds, we are cut with our own dust
“Like diamonds, we are cut with our own dust is a short animation I made in front of the window in my workroom at home where I had been sheltering in place through the first months of COVID19. The piece reflects my state of mind at the time - avoiding contact and staying mostly indoors, I was fortunate to work from home and keep safely isolated. The seclusion and self-containment of this video gives me pause now, as the world calls us once again to communion, engagement and righteous action. The music of the same title was written in 2014 by my partner, composer Eric Moe, and is performed by him. Thanks to Alex Young and the Miller ICA for the invitation to participate in Looking Out, it’s an honor to be in the excellent company of the artists who have contributed to this project.”
[Looking Out #13] Scott Andrew and Jesse Factor, Portals
“This work is an extension of Scott and Jesse’s first collaboration at KST’s Alloy Studios during their Freshworks Residency this past March. The two artists explore how dance and media arts overlap to render otherworldly portals of nostalgia, celebrity, and fantasy. In this work, a figure both sublime and grotesque masquerades through a chaotic storm framed within the windowpane.”
headpiece design by Pissy Pussy
[Looking Out #14] Hyla Willis, Looking Out for One Another
[Looking Out #15] Margaret Cox, The Day Dreamer and Night Sweats
Graphic scores by Margaret Cox, in collaboration with Michael Johnsen + Maeve, featuring soap, linen, magnetic tape, and singing saw.
“I’m stunned by the complexities of emotions during this time of quarantine and global pandemic. A single moment can at once be overcome by illumination and caution, comedy and gravity, daydream and dread—perhaps it is in the air like an ebullient current both bubbling with energy and boiling with anxiety. I don’t yet have the mental clarity to simply relax or slow down. And yet within this overactive imagination comes new ideas, better processes, ways to care for each other at a distance, the destruction of falsehoods, the killing of demons, and leaving behind what isn’t useful. Parts of this project were inspired by two scenes from film Delicatessen in which Dominique Pinon as Louison punctuates scenes of dystopic chaos with surreal reprieve: once with an unearthly performance of bubble blowing and then again while playing musical saw on the roof of his nearly destroyed apartment building with Julie (Marie-Laure Dougnac). The Day Dreamer and Night Sweats are two graphic sound scores with audio accompaniment by myself and the dear and true Michael Johnsen. The window becomes a screen experienced through the muse, Maeve, as she takes in the current moment in safety and gratitude to feel all there is to feel.”
[Looking Out #16] Derek Peel, I Spy
[Looking Out #17] Centa Schumacher, A Rainstorm That Lasted Several Hours
“During a particularly intense recent storm, I noticed how the raindrops against my screened-in window distorted the light passing through them like a strange lens. Shooting these images with my camera, through the window, through the water--lens on lens on lens--felt like it was warping the very fabric of reality. But to open the window and engage with the world would destroy these new, temporary ways of seeing. As the weather waned and the sun shone through the droplets, the light became lovely but painful to look upon, and I eventually had to stop photographing.”
[Looking Out #18] Vanessa German
"They took the woman who lives across the street from me away in the ambulance last night. She is as old as the apple trees in Mr. Henry’s yard and can remember the days when those trees were so full of fruit that this entire wedge of hamilton avenue wd swim in bright sweet perfume of ripe apples. The paramedics took a long time in there. I know, because I opened the whole window to watch,(I needed to see everything to make my prayers.)I made prayer the entire time. I put my hands on my heart. I knew that I would not be welcome to run outside to ask, “where are you taking her?“ I would not be welcome to crowd into an emergency room waiting room. My work had to be done at the window.
And then, a paramedic came out of her pink and white house and basically donned an entire hazmat suit, to which I thought, “maybe he has kids at home.” I don’t know why I thought that. Other medics just had on masks and gloves. They brought her out in the upright gurney, a breather of oxygen on her tiny brown head. She was as small as a child. She looked scared even from the window I could trace the tempting panic in her eyebrows. She was alone.
And. I wonder if this is what the avenue will become: Evening ambulances and us at the windows, praying. I had to wonder, how many more of the Duchesses of Homewood South will we have to say goodbye to through windows of quiet prayer? Will they go and we won’t even know? I am not ready for this. There are still so many stories to share."
[Looking Out #19] Tony Buba, COVID 19 an OBSESSION —PART II: I, II, and III
“I have been obsessed with the coronavirus outbreak. Some of the obsession is because of my age. I am 76 and I will be 77 in October. People in my age group have extraordinarily little chance of survival even without having been subjected to breathing the polluted Mon Valley air their whole life. I am preparing for my death. Making out a will, living will, naming an executor, etc., all that crap even shipping all my material to be archived at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. So, death will not totally catch me off guard, but I have at least two new films I want to finish. The thought of dying before finishing another Braddock film and a film about my family is frightening. Why, I am not sure. The films could be dreadful, and nobody would watch them but that does not matter. I need to finish them. Another reason was the devastating outbreak in Italy where I have a lot of family and friends. Would I ever get to see them again? Of course, more selfishly would I be able to get back and get more material on my mother’s and father’s village.
The formula for the pieces are: each one is 4490 frames which is the amount of death in Pennsylvania when I finished the three pieces.”
[Looking Out #20] Dana Sperry, Confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Allegheny County, PA from March 19 to May 15, 5471 Rosetta Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15206
"This is the view from my office/studio. The bars that appears as glitches are the confirmed cases of Covid-19 from March 19 to May 15 mapped to the height of the video, cycling over and over. March 19 was the day the official shutdown in Pennsylvania started. May 15 is the day Allegheny County moved from “red” to “yellow”. While using actual data, the video is not meant to be a traditional infographic, but rather to act as an emotional visualization."
[Looking Out #21] Brian McNearney, Gutter Ramp
[Looking Out #22] Willy Smart, Subtitles Are Often Yellow and So Are Some Insects
“A window of course lets in more than light.”
[Looking Out #23] slowdanger, vista
“vista is an expression of the dissolution of our reliance on perceived as normal progression and growth. It is a farewell, as our known reality dissolves and transmutes.”
[Looking Out #24] Imin Yeh, waiting
“Almost my entire third trimester was spent in the lockdown. My figure had a way of hiding my pregnancy, and had I not mentioned it to few people, I could have just emerged from the quarantine with a child. Hopefully, it will be a new world, as it most definitely will be for us. Three short videos of three days in quarantine; waiting, delivering, and then, a new everything. A poem shared with me by my colleague Susanne Slavick: Heat by Gaby Garcia
‘When the world burns, we will be like the women
of Pompeii who left their bread loaves to bake—
our laundry mid-cycle, newspapers turned
to the op-eds, windows open to catch a breeze.
A show of unstoppable life—how could we keep
feeling for one another, flailing in the pale spring
morning like perfect idiots. How could we water
the flowers when the flowers would soon be ash—
It’s an act of hope to have children, my mother says
on the phone. I peel a mango. I pull a mess of colors
from the dryer and wash my face as though it’s been
somewhere new. I live and live and live.’”