By Linda Dodge
Ted Hiebert is a visual artist and theorist, and an assistant professor in the Department of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences at the University of Washington
Bothell. Growing up in Alberta, Canada, he originally thought he would pursue a career in science or technology. But later he had an opportunity to attend a boarding school near Victoria, where he was exposed to students hailing from over 70 other countries and to exciting new ideas in the fields of art and philosophy.
From this initial exposure, Hiebert found art increasingly attractive as a potential career. He says, “I found art gave me the freedom to think for myself. Unlike other disciplines that are heavily information-based, art gave me the opportunity to make new creative contributions immediately and in an unfettered way.”
With photography and digital arts as his main fields, he focuses on the relationships between creativity, imagination, questions of cultural meaning, and technology in contemporary life. He sees his work as “a critical exploration of representation in the service of imaginary possibilities.” Hiebert’s photography focuses on “moments where representational logic fails” and attempts to give these moments a representational form of their own. “For me,” he states, “the simplest and most compelling of such moments has always been the self-portrait. You can never see yourself the way everybody else sees you except in a mediated form… so the photograph then becomes this sort of entry point into your own identity.”
Professor Hiebert believes in UW Bothell as a place that inspires innovation and creativity. He sees campus as a place with real respect for “independence… for independent spirit,” where he can design and teach his own classes. He acknowledges his challenge as a teacher is to provide a context where students can learn skills as well as more creative thinking. He believes, “ If you don’t know the answer, don’t go and try and find someone else’s answer– make one up… and represent that somehow.” For Hiebert, creativity depends on being deeply engaged. He considers the classroom a
safe place for exploration but believes the exploration itself is more meaningful if it happens outside the classroom.
In his current project, Excerpts from the Library of Babel, Hiebert uses a process called Kirlian photography to image each page of copies of Jorge Luis Borge’s short story, “The Library of Babel.” This story imagines a library of infinite knowledge that contains every book possible to write. “What’s
missing from that story, “reflects Hiebert, “is the viscerality of books.” So Hiebert built a camera that uses electricity instead of light to generate pictures. Each image appears differently based on the condition of the object: traces of fingerprints, stains, and wear and tear left by the reader. “In an information culture there’s the risk of that material and personal side of things getting lost,” says Hiebert. This exhibition attempts to “call into people’s awareness the idea that there is a counterpoint to information and it is not necessarily the object but it’s the history of using that information.”
Hiebert’s work will be on display at the Kirkland Arts Center from September 24 through December 3.
Ted Hiebert: Excerpts from the Library of Babel September 24 through December 3, 2011 at Kirkland Arts Center For more information see: www.tedhiebert.net