Azimuth is a floating sky observatory and also refers to the angular direction of an object, celestial or otherwise, often used in navigation or astronomical observations.

When I first saw the photos of the distant martian landscape sent back by NASA’s curiosity lander, they felt so familiar, from a place I had been before. The distant mountains and red hills littered with rocks reminded me of the landscapes I had hiked in various deserts of the western US. At that moment, time and space seemed to collapse in my mind and the life cycles of civilization and technological development came full circle.

If the exterior of the craft, loosely modeled after the Apollo lunar return modules, symbolizes the pinnacle of modernity’s technological achievement and the era’s attendant hopes and optimism, the primitive interior relives mankind’s desire for escape and epic journeys over land, water, and beyond. Bridging the two is the view of heavens and the magnetic pull of the impossibly-far.

As I lay on the deerskins next to the embers of a smoldering fire, I run my hands through the soft earth beneath me, gaze at the stars, and inhale the aroma of smoke and mud. I feel grounded and secure and drift off to another era. Sometime later, the capsule begins to gently rise and fall, surfing on the wake from a passing ship and a feeling weightlessness ensues. A contradictory experience of terrestrial, nautical, and astronomical placement occurs. I am reminded of my own desires to explore and encounter the foreign, and then consider the impossibility of escape.

Azimuth was created in collaboration with Steve Gurysh for the VIA festival in Pittsburgh the first week of October 2012. It was facilitated by The Drift, an artist-run collective I co-founded to produce art for the rivers of Pittsburgh. Images 1-3 courtesy of Ryan Howard of Lux Aeterna Creative.




Echoes from Luke Loeffler on Vimeo.

Enacting a sort of modern day Walden from my tent in the Laurel Highlands, I constructed my own communications tower extending the reach of the phone tower just over the ridge. Is technology merely an “improved means toward an unimproved end” as Henry David Thoreau put it? Is there really nothing to say? As I considered his cynical view of technology, culture, and the content of the telegraph in light of today’s possibilities, I carved a slit gong from a log. These types of talking drums, able to generate sound waves reaching for miles, have been used since antiquity to alert neighbors of invasion, exchange idle gossip, or entertain. Sitting atop a hillside in the Laurel Highlands it became a communications dead-end as incoming messages, having made it to this final station, are permanently deleted with a musical flourish sending faint echoes through the forest and through time.


A recreation of the piece was installed for group show Extra Fancy at Bakery Square in April 2012. It consisted of the tower, a partly-carved log, three video channels, and polaroid photos of cell towers disguised as trees.