Julia: How did Third Rail begin, who are the key players and how does it operate day to day?
Cameron: I started publishing The Third Rail two years ago. I work with my friend, our editor in chief, Jonathan Thomas to produce content. He’s been part of the project from the beginning. Originally TTR was print only but we got requests for issues in remote international places that were difficult and expensive to ship to, so we decided to build a website to host the issue content as well as to commission audio and video projects. The publication is growing, and we distribute to over a hundred locations world-wide. Because we are a non-profit and most importantly a free publication that pays its contributors, fundraising is a significant part of the day to day operation.
JS: How would you describe your community in Minneapolis? Is The Walker art museum the central organizing hub?
CG: We have a remarkable amount of foundation support for the arts here, more per capita than anywhere else in the U.S. so there is a strong artist community here. The Walker is definitely a phenomenal resource for artists, but there are other organizations that play an important role in the local scene: Midway Contemporary Art has a strong exhibition program and extensive research library; Bindery Projects is an artist run space that produces great exhibits and hosts artists in conversation; locally produced publications like the zine Wopozi invigorate the local community.
JS: You have a super exciting studio practice but it seems like the content of your work requires tons of planning, research and travel. What is a day in the life of your studio?
CG: The studio goes through so many phases each month, but research and planning are certainly the most time consuming, that that is part of every single day from at least 6 – 10 am. In addition, I work on the publication every day.
It’s important that I have multiple projects going on simultaneously. If I am bogged down in the specifics of one project, another is sparking and evolving in an exciting way: that is what maintains the balance and energy in the studio.
JS: Tell me how you became so interested in bioluminescence?
CG: My initial inspiration for the project began with three important films: The Very Eye of Night by Maya Deren, Mothlight by Stan Brakhage, and Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames.
When we look at a photograph or film we are seeing light reflected or refracted off of a subject. I was interested in making a film about the birth of light, a portrait of the universe through the movement of a single celled organism, a sort of cinematic creation story. I wanted to find a light source that had its own logic and rhythm, something more dynamic than the path of the sun or moon, something less static than the rotation of the stars.
This research pushed me towards bioluminescence and dinoflagellates. I became fascinated with the mechanics of this single organism.
JS: And the story behind your film, Luna del Mar?
CG: My research on bioluminescence led me to a small bay in Vieques, Puerto Rico where this dinoflagellate is constantly present. This soft glow of light has never been photographed or filmed before. I found a videographer and photo editor of a deep space photo magazine in Tokyo named Soichiro Takemoto, who engineered and built the world’s most light-sensitive camera. He knew about the organism and loved the challenge of recording its light, so he came onto the project.
I then began to study synchronized swimming and water choreography, and became aware of an Olympic Synchronized Swimmer named Luna del Mar. Yes that’s her real name. I tracked her down and convinced her to swim a choreographed routine in the bioluminescent bay on a moonless night.
We mounted the camera on a crane above her as she swam. After capturing the footage I returned home and reached out to Alex Waterman to compose the music for the piece. He incorporated recorded audio from the surrounding sea caves and forest, arranged the sounds and played his cello over the composition.
The final piece is 18 minute and 52 seconds. It’s a single shot that records the light made by the organism as Luna swims among them.
JS: Last year you did the Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship! What did you work on while you were there?
CG: I had an office at the National Air and Space Museum, it was awesome. While I was there I researched astronomical manuscripts from the Renaissance, the photography of planetary surfaces, and the morphology and nomenclature of impact craters on Mercury.
JS: When did cooking become a focus of yours?
CG: I love to cook. I was raised in a log cabin in the mountains of Colorado (with no running water). We had a huge garden and eating and cooking was an organizing principle for my family. My brother, sister and I were always sous chefs for my mother, and for my dad when he made Paella. After I left home I was forced to become more serious about cooking to meet my own expectations.
JS: Does your activity in the kitchen relate to your work in the studio? You pay such close attention to aesthetics and plating. Even the way you display produce on your counter is a work of art.
CG: I think so. It is all about time. Most of my projects in the studio take several years to research and complete. I usually have 5 or 6 projects in varying stages of completion. This can be really frustrating after months of work with little to show for the efforts. The ability to pick up ingredients and produce something in a matter of hours allows me the satisfaction of visual composition and project completion.