Ou-topia  - Photographic Triptych 2009

Ou-topia is a Photographic Triptych. The centre panel consists of a plan that can be downloaded from the Internet to produce a paper model of the house described by Henry Thoreau in his novel Walden. On either side are two photographs of a derelict structure found in woods in Norway while there on a residency. Walden emphasizes the importance of self-reliance, solitude, contemplation, and closeness to nature in transcending the "desperate" existence that, he argues, is the lot of most humans. Thoreau regarded his sojourn at Walden as a noble experiment with a threefold purpose. First, he was escaping the dehumanizing effects of the Industrial Revolution by returning to a simpler, agrarian lifestyle. Second, he was simplifying his life and reducing his expenditures, much of the book is devoted to stirring up awareness of how one's life is lived, materially and otherwise, and how one might choose to live it more deliberately - possibly differently. Third, he was putting into practice the Transcendentalist belief that one can best transcend normality and experience the Ideal, or the Divine, through nature. The Triptych combines autobiography with a social critique of contemporary Western culture's consumerist and materialist attitudes and its distance from and destruction of nature. It is not a criticism of society, but an attempt to engage creatively with aspects of contemporary culture.