All In The Family: Todds Create Artificial Atmospheres

Robert Todd and Deb Todd Wheeler, "Artificial Atmospheres: tropospheric renderings," 2016, A six-channel video installation exploring local atmospheres, with heat-seeking infrared cameras, studio experiments and field recordings using six 19” monitors, color, HD Video (10:22).


REVIEW
ROBERT TODD AND DEB TODD WHEELER: ARTIFICIAL ATMOSPHERES
NESTO GALLERY
MILTON ACADEMY
170 CENTRE STREET
MILTON, MASSACHUSETTS
THROUGH APRIL 20

by Beth Neville

Art technological innovation doesn’t have to use cutting-edge equipment. As Robert Todd and Deb Todd Wheeler demonstrate in “Artificial Atmospheres” at Milton Academy’s Nesto Gallery, six TV monitors, two projectors, old cameras and a lot of imagination can produce a complex set of visual images. The artists let their imaginations run free, capturing digital images filmed outdoors and later manipulated in their basement studio. Working improvisationally, their digital installation conjures up a rich mélange of celestial and mundane images, ranging from a suggested solar eclipse to plastic bags.

“Artificial Atmospheres” consists of six small monitors with rotating images on one wall, an 8’ x 8’ projection of an “eclipse” on another wall. On the floor in the corner, a projection of a “sun flare” that refracts back and forth on a third wall. An unidentified voice occasionally utters the words “inspiration, pause, phase, expiration,” hinting at human rhythmic breathing and atmosphere. Deb Todd Wheeler and Robert Todd are siblings who collaborate on installations rather than fight over whom Mom loves more!

During an interview at the gallery, Robert summed up their techniques. “We had the environment mainly on our minds. We wanted to keep the images local and simple, without the grandeur of a larger piece, like the work of Bill Viola. We wanted to work in the moment, not using high production value cameras. Deb and I said, ‘Let’s try an H.D. camera, or how about this old camera.’ We went to Home Depot to buy a heat-seeking gun. We tried inventive ways of shooting with different cameras. Then, in our basement studio, we created diverse visual experiences. It occurred to us, ‘let’s not do a “single channel” work, let’s do an installation sequence.’ For the factory image we went local, up to to the Mystic River outside Boston to shoot, asking what is the atmosphere inside the factory? What is the atmosphere outside?”

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