PERCEPTION and INTERVIEW // Carly Ptak's Idea Machine

photo by Samuel Huber

Faraday Cages.

Always a game of disruption and calm.  Some examples of Faraday Cages: (intentional or not)

A microwave oven

An elevator

A "booster bag" --the one crafty shoplifters use to boost items without them getting detected by the scanners

The 2013 Papal Conclave employed one to avoid digital eavesdropping

Electrical linemen avoid electrocution by wearing them, with no theoretical limit to voltage

I visited Carly Ptak's Idea Machine at the Clocktower Gallery on April 2nd and after a long series of almost got together for an interview, we finally spoke a couple of weeks ago.  

Ptak's Idea Machine is, for all intents and purposes, a Faraday Cage housing a performative installation, where one is invited to place her cellphone in a microwave, take off her shoes, and enter into Ptak's contraption.  

Once in, Carly and I had a simple discussion about objects, water dripping and trying to meld brains.  It actually worked! She imagined a box fan and I imagined a box like object with oscillating tendencies.  Pretty damn fortuitous, I'd say. All components of the installation were solid.  Her presence in the cage was instantly ethereal and otherworldly, the space itself was a destabilizing composition of video projector light flickering on my face and small drips of water making their way on my cheek.  I felt activated and shown a part of my being that I had not gotten in touch with for quite some time.  It reminded me of the old I have a destroyed face quote:

Very early in my life, it was too late. At eighteen it was already too late. At eighteen I aged. This aging was brutal. This aging, I saw it spread over my features, one by one. Instead of being frightened by it, I saw this aging of my face with the same sort of interest I might have taken for example in the reading of a book. That new face I kept it. It's kept the same contours, but its matter is destroyed. I have a destroyed face. Let me tell you again: I'm fifteen and a half. It's the crossing of a ferry on the Mekong.  (Marguerite Duras, The Lover)

The idea of the installation was to provide a shielded space from electromagnetic waves of all sorts, the ones in our pockets, the ones accumulated in our brains, our spines.  I did feel different after having stepped inside, but not in a cleansed way.  Rather, I was able to notice all the accumulated electromagnetic grime and grit that I was bringing in with me, the layer of sweat on the back of the neck after a hot day.  Or maybe it was all the accumulated overstimulation I had and still have stored inside myself, I felt it highlighted things on me as a surface..  In the interview below, Carly talks about her experience with the Clocktower, the installation, and waves and rays.

photo by Samuel Huber

So what was going on at the Clocktower?

Carly Ptak: "The Clocktower got in touch with me, which was really great, because I'm not good at pursuing things like residencies.  So they contacted me and asked me to come.  And it took me some time to develop the idea.  I kept having different ideas of what I wanted to do, and then I would thing about them and try to plan them all out and I eventually realized, Why am I trying to do something, I'm really good at having ideas, that's what I enjoy the most.  Instead of having an idea about what I'm going to do, I'm just going to do what I do already and have ideas. (laughs)

During recent years I have begun to remember that I have not always been coming to Earth. In fact, I haven't been here very many times at all! The place that I identify as being "from" was not a material based realm. Ideas were instant reality there, while here we perceive a much longer "time" between "idea" and "manifested material reality." So I was taking people to visit a state that is very natural to me.

RZ: And did you have more ideas when people walked into your installation?

CP: Definitely. The Faraday cage created a very particular type of space and part of the reason it was designed that way was that I was originally supposed to come in September to do the residency and I had to delay it. I didn't come because I started getting really really fatigued last year around July and August.  I had been travelling for May and June and started feeling poorly after I had been home a couple of weeks. So I became convinced that it was because of electromagnetic pollution. Here at T Hill there are cell phone towers across the street which are pointed at

my bed, and huge electrical station boxes right outside of the building.  I have never been low energy like that before and I decided that it was all of these waves that were causing the fatigue.  I

was researching the Faraday Cage as a surround for my bed before I developed the Idea Machine, and the two merged when I considered the expense of building one!  I eventually found out that it was a tick disease that caused the fatigue but I continued to be intrigued by the mechanics of the Faraday cage.

RZ: So now do you have a Faraday Cage at your house?

CP: I just came to NY and picked up the installation on Friday. I plan on setting it up in the future, or maybe just keeping it ready to travel.  There's a

lot of ways to look at energy; I've decided to deal with those energetic

waves on more of a subtle energy level.  I do have devices that affect the energy of the house, but they're not as mechanical as a Faraday Cage, they're a

little more abstracted.

RZ: What are your devices?

CP: Well, I have a lot of mirrors pointing at each other, and prisms, many devices I invent myself like honey batteries. I also have small orgone blasters, tesla purple energy discs, a De La Warr radionics machine....but mostly I work on creating a beautiful space that makes me feel wondrous  The hard part is keeping it clean!

RZ: Do you have an orgone accumulator?

CP:  I don't have an orgone accumulator but I'm going to build one by the isolation tank downstairs.  We just opened a float center here at t hill ( with a Samadhi Tank.  We already had an esoteric library  and I plan on expanding the library into a zone with subtle energy devices. I will have them here and available for people to use and experiment with. I already have a fancy radionics machine, and a couple of other devices, but I am really hoping once this gets going people will donate or lend items to be used at the library. There's alot of different styles and types of machines but most of them are quite an investment. If I had lots of money to spend on them I would! It would be great to develop a subtle energy museum someday. Except I would call it a useum  because all of the devices would be usable. Or maybe a playseum.... Of course the devices are unnecessary, we've got it all available within ourselves, but they do make things more fun!

RZ: So going back to Idea Machine, what were the strongest ideas that people who entered the machine came up with?

CP: The two main things that came up: At the end of the first night when I was doing the shorter sessions, the 4-minute sessions, the next-to-last person who came in was this wonderful guy, Derek, and he has these wonderful dreads.  And I hope Derrick is OK with me telling you about this, I think he is, I hope he is. (She since checked with him and Derrick Mulira Barnicoat says it is okay.)

RZ: Derek was the person who was telling me about the orgone!

CP: Did you see Derek after he came out of Idea Machine?

RZ: No, I'm afraid not.

CP: So he came in, and he was talking about how he feels scattered and

unable to focus, and about how there are so many things happening and it's hard to choose one.  My response was that I felt like it was his hair. He has these huge long healthy dreads streaming out everywhere in every direction. Hair is a sense organ. It really does affect us in many ways. As I pointed this out our conversation snowballed and this short session ended up with him cutting off his oldest dread!

RZ: Woah, that's so wild

CP: (laugs) Yeah, it was this sudden, I mean, I have the dread next to me right now.  It was this sudden material manifestation of these intense interactions and experiences that were happening in there and it really brought to me, I mean I knew it was serious, but it was suddenly very serious when I was holding somebody's oldest dread in my hand. (laughs)

above: Derrick's dread

RZ: That's fabulous! The magazine focuses on installation and a lot of people make installation and they call it as such, but it's kind of an arbitrary term, and for me I've found that the successful installation gets completed when the person enters it and has their experience and adds their presence to the whole thing and it kind of completes this loop, right?

CP: Yeah, and that relates to the other really big thing that happened from the Idea Machine, and this is growing and growing.  This woman Daphane Park read about the installation and contacted me before I arrived and was very welcoming the whole time I was in New York.  She came in for her session, and this was a longer session, and during that session we were talking about many things when she used the term "socially engaged art". And I had never heard that before.  I didn't think about it too much until later when I was alone, then I thought, I don't wanna be part of something called "socially engaged art"! You know, that's so dry and so academic,  so blah, yuck!  I started thinking about what do I want to be part of?  I was reflecting back on when Twig and I played music before there was a genre called "noise" and when that term came about I

wasn't super excited about it. I have never identified as being a noise musician though other people have called me that.  So I thought that I need to develop something, I need to make a genre that I can support, and I got really excited about the idea of naming something and I decided to keep it simple: Loveart. 

The main idea behind Loveart is that every loving act is a work of Art. The more I develop it the more I realize that Loveart is it's own thing, an unnamed movement that already exists. It's a morphic field that I am tuning into, as many people already have, and by naming it it will develop more characteristics and stronger resonance. Just like a soul exists before it takes on a body, Loveart has always existed and is it's own entity. We are birthing it by setting some parameters and giving it a name, but it is it's own thing.  Daphane and I feel very serious about it, seriously playful.  So we've made a proclamation

RZ reads: mhhm, hhm, hm hm.  But you're leaving it so ambiguous.

CP: You think so?

RZ: I think so, I mean I get the vibe, and I get the general vibe, it's this ethereal thing, almost transgressive, but what makes a love artist?

CP: And that's what I'm working on right now.  The main thing that makes a love artist is that they are choosing to focus on light, in whatever way that means for them, and to bring the light of love into the world. It could be as simple as picking up some trash on the sidewalk, or planting special flowers for butterflies, or the Idea Machine, it's unlimited. Essentially everybody is a Loveartist in some way. Yet each time it is a choice for love and that is important.  Also, there is the more focused piece, you know, we're creating Art with a big A.  It's Art that is focusing on love and focusing on light and not focusing on darkness or issues that make life difficult.  No! A LoveArtist says "Here's the beauty of life and I'm spreading it as best I can".   

Let me look at this list more...What else makes a love artist: One of them, that they practice some sort of awareness discipline, it could be anything.  I practice Qigong, which is very traditional, but Twig practices doing the dishes, he's very serious about that!  That's his zone, he says it really helps him focus and he does it every day.  There is an awareness about practicing something and having self discipline. Loveartists are eternally curious people, they recognize each other when they look into each other's eyes.  Another important aspect is that they're people who realize that they're sensitive, and before I came  to New York I was like, oh, I'm sensitive to all these waves, I'm sensitive to all this

energy that happens in NYC, and I can't deal with it.  That's how I felt in September, I was like, I can't deal with that much energy right now, I have got to stay home and show love to myself. But when I felt better, I could create a space that was clean. And that's the idea for what the Idea Machine was: as clean a space as I could possibly create in the moment. And that was me focusing on: I'm sensitive, I'm going to protect my sensitivity and allow it to flourish in a healthy way rather than do things that I don't like doing, or not even that, feel overwhelmed by the living of life all around me.

RZ: Well I understand that there's this monstrous energy when considering this city as a whole and you know, it's just sharp teeth and just kind of sharp and abbrassive and a lot of really ambitious people who are willing to make moral sacrifices I suppose for their ambitions.  And it's kind of, it's grimy at the same time, I guess for me it doesn't feel specifically dirty, it's in a way poetic.

CP: I don't think it's dirty, it's overstimulating, I get overstimulated, my sensitivity gets "bzzzzzzzzzzz" and then I can't handle it. Or I can, but I need to know that I can limit my doses, have a comfortable space to go to if I need to. It's not any one thing in particular, but I have to notice my self and my responses. If I am getting frazzled it's my responsibility to do something about it. By changing myself I change the world. It isn't necessary to focus on things we don't like and try to change what is outside.  Our world is so complicated, and so information laden and consumerized it is necessary to limit focus and energy to stay healthy. The Idea Machine was a safe space that I created for myself that energized me enough to share with others. I was putting into practice the realization that the more love I give myself then the more love I have to give to everything around me.

above: photo courtesy of Carly Ptak

Carly Ptak lives and works in Baltimore at the T Hill Center. Love Art's home base is

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