Sequentially-building, interconnected relationships are developed based on scale, and they indicate both physical and conceptual comparisons. For example, a drop of afternoon rain falls in the St. Johns River, contributing to the flow of billions of gallons of water each day — water that is used to transport many ships with cargo destined for international consumption, and each day cars drive over any number of the busy bridges that traverse this river. By considering the scale of the river, relationships connect the flow of the water to the financial flow of commerce and the speed of travel, and so on.
In Joelle Dietrick’s Cargomobilities, the new mural occupying the Project Atrium architecture of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in downtown Jacksonville, dynamic constructed imagery is specifically designed to trigger conceptual relationships of scale indicated by specific physical dimensions.
First, this is experienced through the human scale as compared to that of the dimensions of the dominant architecture. In this ratio, the mural rising above dwarfs the individuals visiting the atrium, in the swarm of colors and tectonic shapes that seemingly project and swing out from the fabricated surface.
Embedded within the fractured imagery of the mural, a reference to the artist’s own home emerges out of the color and turbulence. This abstracted façade depicts the first home she bought with her husband in Tallahassee, and it’s directly set against site-specific imagery designed to replicate the architecture of the atrium in a 1:1 ratio.
Specifically, the MOCA atrium stairs can be seen rising from within the painted mural. By including references to the surrounding architecture, Dietrick is creating a visual loop, similar to the data feedback systems she researches in the developmental phase of her work. The 1:1 scale of the atrium imagery is then related to the rise of shipping cranes and heavy cargo containers toward the top of the bold mural. These components were developed, as the mural title indicates, based on research of the cargo shipping industry, and particularly the day-to-day business of the local Jacksonville Port Authority (JaxPort). By creating these scale comparisons, Dietrick is defining connections between the personal and local, between public and private, and between divisions of labor and commerce to indicate the conceptual shift from small details to big systems and data.
MOCA Curator of Collections Ben Thompson first contacted Dietrick, a Tallahassee-based artist and educator, and as the project progressed, Dietrick transitioned to work closely with Assistant Curator of Exhibitions Jaime DeSimone. Dietrick explained that DeSimone was consulted as a sounding board for many aspects of the research and imagery, as the plans for the mural developed. In terms of research, this ephemeral mural was produced to recast information gathered from over 10 years of the housing market, combined with geolocation data from cargo shipping containers, past projects, security networks, and first-hand experiences.
In particular, for this project, Dietrick toured JaxPort for a closer look at the dynamic industry that impacts her concerns with micro and macro shifts. She mentioned that beyond observing the impressive scale relationship between worker and cargo, the security of the site visit was intense, presenting both challenges to her process, but also fuel for her research.
Dietrick, whose projects have been shown locally (at Florida State College at Jacksonville and Jacksonville University), nationally, and internationally, are rooted in intense research. She generates information and then visualizes that data through a glitch aesthetic, which is punctuated by fragmented images, sharp color shifts, and dynamic forms. This mural is physically the largest project she has taken on, and it was produced through the combination of paint and cut sections of pigmented ink jet prints on Terylene adhesive fabric.
A glitch can be a sudden interruption, a defect, a blip, or an unexpected malfunction. It can be momentary, and normal functioning may resume. In this large scale ephemeral project, the glitch is projected, freezing the suspense. It’s similar to moments of crisis or emergency when time seems to slow down, enabling more sensory information to be recorded. Cargomobilities has hit pause during the static of the glitch, to compress information, enabling time to reflect on the effects of the market crash, potentially unstable financial systems, and the impact of industrial shifts on everyday life.