Baird’s approach involves the unearthing and sourcing of material on-site. Traveling to a cave system in the Midwest, Baird creates a mold of its surfaces, casting sculptural elements which capture the textures and histories of these natural formations. The casts are executed and displayed as fragments, showcasing select components of that site’s particular story. Using a digital technique familiar to archaeological preservation, Baird has acquired the entirety of a cave’s interior surface through a process of LiDAR 3d-scanning.
Two works derive from this data-set. In Graft, an architectural intervention presents a 1:1 contour of the caves mouth as an entry-way for the viewer to crouch through, mimicking the experience of the artist entering into the source of the work. In Fountain, the data-set is rendered as a scale model functioning as a fountain housing a steady stream of flowing water. The water moves in direct contrast to the frozen moment that the cast marble-dust object represents.
Having access to a place, in its entirety as a digital object, promotes the relationship of ownership between maker and subject. This relationship is explored throughout the show, in particular, how technology allows for us to pseudo-experience and access locations that are beyond our physical reach. This is presented as information through the proportions of screens that are ubiquitous to our present.
Throughout many cultures, the tortoise holds a deep-rooted mythology of carrying the world both within and on top of its shell. Baird explores the analogy of the form-as-vessel embodied by the tortoise in his Moment series. Sourcing freshly excavated fossilized shells from roughly 30 million years ago, these forms stand as material facts to a deep history and mythologically have captured the world as it was at the time of their death. They confront us as experiential locks without keys to a distant time and space. Vestiges are derived from an interest in highlighting a single gestural mark as an extremely significant form, embodying and exploiting the well-worn idea of ‘essence’ to mark-making. Using and obscuring museological display strategies, objects placed in vitrines are instantly historicized and lent a self-evident significance. The break in the continuum of the finger in Vestige points to a single, frozen moment. The breaks are not violent, rather they highlight a specific, physical point in time. Objects’ marks are signifiers of timelines, existing as part of a continuum. This language of fragments, moments and blunt tactility point to Baird’s interest in the systems layered in archaeological explorations.
The works in of the water can be read in tandem with landscape artist Robert Smithson’s (1936-1973) theory of non-sites. A three-dimensional logical picture is abstract, yet it represents an actual site. It is by this dimensional metaphor that one site can represent another site, which does not resemble it - this is the non-site. The romantic notion of the sublime - the overwhelming sensation of vastness, grandiosity and awesome power of the natural environment - and the effect it has on our consciousness, emerges again through technological objects and the seemingly infinite possibilities contained in their development.