Content

Experiments in trying to understand the world.

Dana Karwas

Current work. Paintings, installations, digital imagery, and drawings. 



Observations    Art

Dana Karwas











Event: Tōhoku Earthquake
DATA source: Strong Motion Network K-Net 
Origin Time 2006/01/18 23:25:00 
Lat. 37.798 Lon. 142.200 
Depth. (km) 36 Mag. 5.7
Station Code MYG002
Station Lat. 38.7262
Station Lon. 141.5109
Station Height(m) 79
Record Start Time 2006/01/18 23:25:46
Sampling Freq(Hz) 100Hz
Dir. N-S / E-W / U-D
Scale Factor 3920(gal)/6182761
Max Acc. (gal) 48.060
Date of Event: 3:11:2011



Tōhoku
2011-03-11 05:46:24 UTC



On March 11th, 2011 at 5:45:24 UTC the 9.1 magnitude Tōhoku megathust earthquake shook Japan. I experienced this earthquake first hand in the basement of a skyscraper in the Shinjuku ward of Tokyo. This piece is about what it felt like to emotionally process one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded in human history. The final painting, Tohoku from Green to Blue, is based on my own personal memory guided by 3D model views and live animations of the seismic data.  I reconnected with the 5 minute event on canvas through the psychological and physical space of gestural painting. 

My eyes changed from hazel green to dark blue for a few hours after the event— in fear.

What is that loud clanking sound coming from the building above — that is the sound of the beams  hitting each other. 

During the first aftershook, I laid down on the ground near a large tree in the park— to be part of the shaking ground, not separate from it. 


I wanted to keep looking at the sky— it was not moving.




Fig 1. Tōhoku from Green to Blue II. Acrylic on Canvas.  80” x 55”. 2017


Fig 2. Tōhoku from Green to Blue I. Acrylic on Canvas.  60” x 36”. 2017


Fig 3. Tōhoku Seismic 3D Curve POV001. Digital Print. 2017


Fig 4. Tōhoku Seismic 3D Curve POV002. Digital Print. 2017

Click here to download video demo file.











Contrail Time


When we look at most clocks we are looking for the current time and referencing that against what we have to do next.  Contrail Time can tell time, but instead puts the viewer in a space that is common to many; flying or seeing a contrail – but with mystery. It allows viewers to ask questions about contrails, about other people in the same position, about scale and distance, and ultimately serves as an empathy device. Similar mysteries can be found in how astronauts see the earth for the first time from space and experience the Overview Effect.  


Contrail Time uses live-action contrail footage from transpacific and transatlantic flights to allow the public a direct encounter with a new but familiar way of experiencing time. Upon entering Contrail Time viewers  will look up towards a large video projection showing a continuous contrail with not plane in sight.  Viewers can look to the point of emission of the contrail, trace it until it disappears on the other side of the screen, and stretch out a moment in time. The contrail footage is synchronized with the Earth’s rotation, operating on a day and night cycle.


Air travel can condense or expand the hours in a day by crossing multiple time zones. It can rework  expected durations of sunrises and sunsets for those used to being on the ground.  Contrail Time is based on my airplane window view from transatlantic and transpacific flights. Looking out at cloud formations in the distance or down at reflections in the ocean, it is impossible to fully understand the scale. Is that clould as big as a football field, or 700 football fields? Is that an actual wave breaking in the ocean, or is it a huge swell 50 kilometers wide? Without anthropogenic signifiers such as roads or cargo ships, the scale remains a mystery.  While looking out the window during a Berlin to NYC flight, I saw a distant continuous contrail. The mechanical representation of a plane and its linear cloud signature connected me to a unitless scale in space and time.  It would break occasionally and and then reappear, and I followed me all the way to NYC. This scaleless machine formed cloud became my clock, my own personal flight tracker.


From the ground, a contrail is observed and one can often see hours of a flight captured in one single contrail, but even with the sky as the full frame there is a time dilation mystery that the observer contemplates as they watch the plane move at an unknown speed across the sky.


Have you experienced Contrail Time?






Storm Stoppages


In 1914 Marcel Duchamp’s piece Three Standard Stoppages subverted standards of measurement. He dropped three one meter long strings from one meter above a canvas to create a standard unit of measure based on the curve of the dropped string.  Duchamp states, “If a straight horizontal thread one meter long falls from a height of one meter on to a horizontal plane twisting as it pleases [it] creates a new image of the unit of length.“ 1

Growing up in Missouri, I came to understand the drama of severe stroms through frantic TV announcements and direct observation of the chaos happening to the trees and sky outside my window.

Storm Stoppages is a measurement of a severe thunderstorm through the movement of a large maple tree. The tree is located in the front yard of my childhood home in Wildwood, Missouri.  I would often look to this tree as a way to determine the severity of storms; as an indicator of  potential danger or as a signifier of all clear.  










1. More informtion about the artwork 3 Standard Stoppages can be read at MOMA. org. https://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/marcel-duchamp-3-standard-stoppages-1913-14







Fig 1. Storm Stoppages Severe Thunderstorm, Wildwood Missouri.  Digital Print. 2017





Click here to download video demo file.




Contrail Time


When we look at most clocks we are looking for the current time and referencing that against what we have to do next.  Contrail Time can tell time, but instead puts the viewer in a space that is common to many; flying or seeing a contrail – but with mystery. It allows viewers to ask questions about contrails, about other people in the same position, about scale and distance, and ultimately serves as an empathy device. Similar mysteries can be found in how astronauts see the earth for the first time from space and experience the Overview Effect.  


Contrail Time uses live-action contrail footage from transpacific and transatlantic flights to allow the public a direct encounter with a new but familiar way of experiencing time. Upon entering Contrail Time viewers  will look up towards a large video projection showing a continuous contrail with not plane in sight.  Viewers can look to the point of emission of the contrail, trace it until it disappears on the other side of the screen, and stretch out a moment in time. The contrail footage is synchronized with the Earth’s rotation, operating on a day and night cycle.


Air travel can condense or expand the hours in a day by crossing multiple time zones. It can rework  expected durations of sunrises and sunsets for those used to being on the ground.  Contrail Time is based on my airplane window view from transatlantic and transpacific flights. Looking out at cloud formations in the distance or down at reflections in the ocean, it is impossible to fully understand the scale. Is that clould as big as a football field, or 700 football fields? Is that an actual wave breaking in the ocean, or is it a huge swell 50 kilometers wide? Without anthropogenic signifiers such as roads or cargo ships, the scale remains a mystery.  While looking out the window during a Berlin to NYC flight, I saw a distant continuous contrail. The mechanical representation of a plane and its linear cloud signature connected me to a unitless scale in space and time.  It would break occasionally and and then reappear, and I followed me all the way to NYC. This scaleless machine formed cloud became my clock, my own personal flight tracker.


From the ground, a contrail is observed and one can often see hours of a flight captured in one single contrail, but even with the sky as the full frame there is a time dilation mystery that the observer contemplates as they watch the plane move at an unknown speed across the sky.


Have you experienced Contrail Time?