Benjamin Todd Wills

Automatic Drawing Machines.  




I’m really interested in old school performance and animation techniques, like zoetropes or the Gilbert and George singing sculptures, so for me, the drawing machines have a few functions. Additionally, I don’t come from a film, or animation background, so I really have to rely on a combination sculpture or multiples to be able to experiment with this world.

The potentiometer is set at zero, so when you approach the piece you can set it to whatever speed you would like to, and from a completely safe position. They are very approachable for curiosity interaction. I also chose to retain the emergency, automatic pull switch, in the pieces, as to pay homage to the former existence of the treadmill, and give another clue as to how to interact with the machine. I want my drawing machines to be recognizable as treadmills, so that that everyone is comfortable, and confident in knowing how to make them function. So the potentiometer and the stop switch are both fully functional.

Second, as the performers make marks, they begin making animations. Lines begin to spiral, text becomes blurred, and small drawings can be strategically placed to create the rapid succession of images, producing a motion illusion.

As the title suggests, the machines are also making drawings. I’m interested in photo stills of the tread itself, after it’s been marked. As I’ve begun collecting images of the blurred drawings, I’m finding new ways that these images could be incorporated into the next incarnation of this project, furthering to possibilities these machines can have.


Airplanes.



I write letters to prisoners. I have done this for years now, and have written literally thousands of letters. Somewhere along the way the correspondence gave birth to an art project—an aggregation of objects that has provided the source material for sculptural work that I have been creating since 2013.

That year, I received a paper airplane from one of my correspondents. The plane itself—the folds, the textual content, the illustrations it carried—was loaded with messages, but because it came from a prisoner, the object carried an even deeper meaning. An object that would typically connect me to childhood and creativity had been transformed into an object representing sadness, urgency, and pain. That plane (and the many more that followed) was a vehicle of escape, missed opportunity, and in some cases, rebellion for its creator.

As the collection grew so did the similarities between these prisoner-created objects. Each one is different than the next, however each one is immediately recognizable as an artifact from a place of incarceration.

Each inmate has a unique way of designing and decorating their plane. They vary in size. They are constructed from a wide array of papers. Some are made from notebook paper, some from drawing paper, commissary lists, denied appeals, behavioral write-ups. They are covered in poems, pen work, drawings, letters, color. They vary in theme from regret to hostility, from bravado to humility. Collectively, they give insight into a world separated by “temporal, spatial, and cultural borders.”

When the collection is displayed, I organize the airplanes in a grid, each one-foot away from the next. After a viewer’s close up and far away investigation, these objects translate into a conversation that is charged, enlightening, often heated, but never uninteresting.


Sick Scarves.



Sick Scarves is an ongoing project, currently taking place in Topeka, Kansas.  

In 2017, 19.2% of residents in Topeka were living below the poverty line. As an artist, it is possible to try to redirect the conversations that we are having on day to day basis.  This could be the first step toward a social change. 

Sick Scarves is a simple project.  We find public places to set up, and offer free crochet and knitting lessons to anyone who is interested.  All of the yarn and tools are provided.  As people begin to learn, they are creating samples, which are then turned into scarves that are donated to the Topeka Rescue Mission.  

This project creates not only an enviornment to learn a new craft and create an object for warmth for someone in need, but an environment where people can discuss poverty, and why it’s important that we act now to help.  The percentage of people living below the poverty line fluxuates every year, however the opportunity for change in this community is constant.  By continuing to generate projects that challenge the way people interact with their community, poverty, social justice, or politics, artists have a substantial ability to redirect ever shifting public conversation and opinion.

Project Collaborater : Alexandria Henderson


A Lifers World.



8' x 6' x 10' Drawing. Charcoal.

When I began writing to inmates, many of the first responses came from people who had been housed in solitary confinement.

Over the years, I have collected a large number of cell drawings. This work is a scale representation of one of those drawings.

Different from Front of the Cell, this project had two walls on casters that would open, allowing for a more literal and performative read of my source material.

 

Front of the Cell (8x6)


8' x 6' x 10' Drawing. Charcoal.

When I began writing to inmates, many of the first responses came from people who had been housed in solitary confinement.

Over the years, I have collected a large number of cell drawings. This work is a scale representation of one of those drawings.



Benjamin Todd Wills

Cargo Collective 2017 — Frogtown, Los Angeles