Pom Poms

I became interested in using pom poms to make artwork and in 1994. My attraction included the craft, "low" or anti-art nature of these objects, their simplicity, their feminine associations, their qualities of taking on a cathected relationship, between the viewer and the fuzzy, their sizes, mostly small, suggested vulnerability, their molecular resemblance as if they were parts of something else, their use as decoration, as fringe rather than as primary subject, their softness suggesting infantile vs. adult usage, the perceived need for comfort or comfort implying trauma, particulate vs. collective identity, their ephemeral nature; transience, impermanence, state of becoming, etc.

My surrounding interests included psychology, Freud's notion of the fetish, the Fort Da stand in, part -objects, disappearance and return, presence and absence, Objects Relations Theory; Winnicott's transitional objects. Feminist theories including categories or traits of perceived gender and artwork associated it. Resignification, appropriation, meaning shift, use value, ideological and cultural shifts and amalgamations, polysemy and multivalence. Posing the theories about the precision of the image through color theory, Pointillism (from Seurat to Chuck Close), the phenomenology of seeing, the physiology of seeing, new digital image technologies, the pixel image, against the problematics of representation through setting up an image that can’t be seen, except through a system, or not yet seeable, not really fixable, not objectifyable, not knowable.

“Fluffy Pom Pom Flemish Print Redecoration Project,”
1997, instructional video, excerpts from the full 12 min. video. In this instructional video I suggested that old outmoded Dutch prints could be redecorated using different artwork strategies to arrange colorful pom poms on the prints and then scanning them into the computer to create new and "better" digital works. This is where I developed the idea of using lines of pom poms to trace or emphasize existing formal elements or to create entirely new overlaid visual imagery. The resulting hybrids imparted a new meaning to the original work.

In the opening introduction to the video:

"Fluffy Poms Poms are usually used at the fringe of things like clothing. Even though they are often thought of as decorative or insignificant- they are also very colorful, inescapably cozy and full of their own kind of life. Pom poms come in a surprising range of sizes, all the way from 2 inches down to 2 or 3 millimeters. This allows for a wide range of uses as well as different interpretations of what they mean. They are a perfect element to re redecorate our 18th Century Dutch prints."

My texts about:

“Venus Apartment,” 9'x10.' 4000 1" pom poms, exhibited at the Harn Museum of Art, 2000

Artwork instructions: Included in framed plaque next to artwork:

“I went to landofvenus.com and Venus wasn’t there. She was probably out because it was about 3:30 PM her time. It was another 2:30 minutes till her next show. I copied a still of her apartment and separated it out into 8 colors that matched the colors of pom poms I had. Using a projection of this image I arranged the about 3750 pom poms to match the corresponding colors in a 10 by 7 and a half foot square.”

“Recovered Websites:

There is an implication that despite the increased availability of images or seeing through new technologies, something has been lost and needs to be recovered. These works attempt to reconstruct or recuperate scenes from the World Wide Web through a variety of means. At times I engage meticulous processes of correspondence, carrying with it a mixture of science and obsession, rational and irrational. At others I collect frames or footage from Internet sites and reconstitute them as photography, video art or installation. The work is made with the idea of remaking that which is desired to be seen or has the promise to be present. However it is also simultaneously fixed on the unseeable, the expectation of vision through vision disintegrated.

The exciting thing about this is that the Web promises global connection, and with it the capability to see/experience all forms of exoticism, eroticism and deviance, even at a great physical distance. Like Freud's notion of the unconscious these experiences can be seen as latent even in the very everyday scenes and locations where events will or have taken place. So the constant vigilance of webcams rewards the viewer even if the view is banal. The uneventful moment suggests the conduct of absolute documentation. The possibilities of staging in real time are relegated to the realm of disbelief. The breadth or proximity of this distance from the viewer to the erotic or deviant event is tested and traversed through these works. Though we sense that these new technologies are fetishistic, they nevertheless seem to serve intensely human needs. The care with which the process of vision is reconstructed in this work represents my sympathy for this situation.

These works utilize the principle of transubstantiation, that is, they transfer of sites of desire at a distance, remote locations composed of ephemeral vision, back into material, and to physical presence. These processes often happen through another agent, the ready-made mass-produced image of comfort and innocence, such as the baby face, the pom pom, themselves promising intimacy. Alternatively, I engage a performative gesture which engages a particularly corporeal action of construction. The results of these enactments recall reverberations between body and mind, presence and absence, intimacy and distance. Each point (pixel) that makes up the image is itself an activity—the image frieze is turned back into the activity, recovered, if you will.
Use of careful systems for the reconstruction of site/sight can act as the promise of all reliable scientific processes for generating vision, such as color theory or the precision of computer pixel numerology. On the other hand the repetitious practices required in this work point towards more psychologically driven motives.”

Lower Manhattan Cultural Council
5 World Trade Center, Suite 9235
New York, NY 10048
March 7, 2001

Proposals for World Views Studio Residency Program...


2.) The WTC Fluffy Pom Pom Window Display Project

This project would involve a performative installation gesture consisting of a giant " image" placed in the windows of the World Trade Center tower (WTC). The image would be composed of up to 20,000 small multi-colored pom poms positioned as a stand-ins for pixels, one in each window of approximately 100 floors of the WTC. The source image would be derived from a webcam download from a location and subject at great distance from the WTC. The nature of this source image would have to be determined through research and aesthetic considerations. The image dimensions, approximately 200 wide x 100 high in pixels or pom poms, would wrap around the building. It would only be visible conceptually. Pictures of as many pom poms in situ as possible would be taken and archived on a WWW site in the configuration of the image.


In a message dated 7/1702 4:08 PM, Willpap writes:
Pom Pom Addendum


One important item I missed in my it pom pom chronology that figured very importantly in my mind and interests in doing a memorial with pom poms was an application/proposal to the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC) submitted the previous March, 2001. (see attached to Microsoft 2001 word document with images). The LMCC offered a yearly artists residences on the 92nd floor of Tower One. I had visited a friend in the residency there in 1999 and had been considering site specific ideas for the proposal the previous spring.

There were two proposals I submitted, one involving webcams associated with each business in the building and the other to install a huge "image" made of pom poms which were to be distributed to each business within the building and displayed in each window. The resulting displays, one colored pom per window, in theory, would create a wraparound image around on the entire skyscraper. The image, interestingly enough, was yet to be determined and my proposal was never accepted.
Through this process there was at some level a kind of emotional investment and bonding I had with both the artist program and the buildings. After September 11th I reflected this proposal, in particular calculating the number of windows in each building, the haunting psychological image of the windows broken and the pom poms scattered across the area, had I executed my project. Additionally there would of been a high likelihood that I might have been in the buildings when they were hit. (One of the artists accepted, Micheal Richards, was in fact killed.) There was also the unfinished in question of what was the image to be? I suppose this is all part of my burning question.

Some Ideas generated around the use Pom Poms in the Soft Wishing Y Memorial:

Pom poms as paths, as navigating points:

Hansel and Gretyl, the story of, laying stones into the forest to be able to find their way out, even though they word of successful.

Installing the Y as a "wishing walk" (Ulmer/Walker)

Navigating the stars, constellations, sextons (see video footage of New York Nautical Society proximate to the in not why installation).

Navigation of ships = Navigation of airplanes, points and trajectories, The suicidal navigation of the hijackers as navigation gone awry.

Common saying: "you connect the dots." The Rorschach test, recognition, Freud’s Uncanny

Recent questions in the news about 9/11, the FBI and the CIA had the information but they "didn't connect the dots," (need to find it texts source)

Pre-Sept.11 Report Faults Agencies Aol NEWs

.c The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (July 17) - U.S. intelligence agencies didn't adequately use traditional spying networks or high technology to penetrate Osama bin Laden's terrorist network, a House panel said in a report Wednesday.

In its review of intelligence failures leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks, the House Intelligence subcommittee on Terrorism found a wide range of problems at the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency.
AP-NY-07-17-02 1158EDT
Copyright 2002 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. All active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.

Pom poms as structure:

pom pom as pixel, this structure of the digital image, in what do we invest libido, the micro or the macro, what is it that makes an image?, the cathected image.

The Y installation as a digital image made up of dots/pixels, laid down at the micro level but to be potentially viewed from space. Interesting with respect to Ulmer’s notion: “Poststructural theory shows that conventional consultants remain within a middle reality and ignore the macro- and micro-cosmic dimensions of disaster.”

In a message dated 4/23/02 3:50:06 AM, derekj_pasquill@HOTMAIL.COM writes:
Re: Y Activities Y Practice

<< 'When I see three oranges I juggle; when I see two towers I walk.' Phillipe
Petit, aerialist, commenting after his arrest in 1974, for crossing between
the Twin Towers on a tightrope.

From the same book, Skyscrapers by Judith Dupre, Black Dog and Leventhal,
New York, 1996, a big coffee-table book, dimensions 18 by 7.5 inches), a
mention of the diminuitive size of the architect, Yamasaki, at 5 foot 1
inch. The aerialist, Petit, and Yamasaki, forming a Vierendaal-type truss
in the memory?

Pierre qui roule n'amasse pas mousse

regards pasquill >>

Infrastructure: the problem of September 11th as an invasion or overturning of American infrastructure, bureaucracy

James Bogardus Triangle park (at the confluence of the Y, see website images), according to Bill Tilson, Bogardus is a risk of responsible for the been a structure of early skyscrapers, which can be envisioned as a structure of links and points. Bill also mentioned Bogardus 's structures as being able to withstand stress or damage in a localized area with out in compromising the structure as whole. Note: in a recent Frontline investigation It has been suggested by a structural engineers that the World Trade Centers ultimately fell because of structural problems, debris from the blasts removed fire retardants from the internal cross beams which then melted and sagged leaving the outer square structures as the only and insufficient support system. The plaque reads:

"James Bogardus (1800-1874) was an architect, engineer and inventor who devised the iron front building and the freestanding iron fire towers and shot towers that foretold the construction of the skyscraper as a building type. Bogardus built the world's first cast-iron building (184y) at nor the northwest corner of Washington and Murray streets. To surviving embargoed is cast-iron buildings can be seen nearby at 75 Murray Street (1857) and 85 Leonard Street (1860).

David N.. Dickens, Mayor
New York City Department of Transportation
Lucas J. Riccio, Ph.D., P.E. Commissioner"

Note: the use of the word “foretold” as a divining reference
Note: that the world's first cast-iron building was labeled "184y" ending in Y
Need to investigate this building

lookup, Bogardus, for images and info

Pom poms As code, as encryption:

pom pom = asterisks,

Secrecy: see the Wishbone tradition

Warumverbot: See Ulmer on Conduction: “The wish does not replace empirical reason, but resonates with the Holocaust imperative of Warumverbot ("here there is no 'why,'" said of
the concentration camps)

In a message dated 3/16/02 12:49 PM, Willpap writes:
Wish/Y Interactive


…We've been developing an idea for a simple input page for the accompanying Website which would collect wishes/questions surrounding both 911 event as well as the audiences own personal wishes/questions. To be consistent with the wishbone idea, where your wish must be kept secret, we've devised the idea that a person could input wish /question online and then that question would be encrypted by replacing letters with password-type dots (looking also like pom poms). The questions would then be stored and displayed on another page online, in order of their input, with sentences looking like groups of dots and spaces between where the words were.>>

In a message dated 4/18/02 8:23 PM, Willpap writes:
Re: Finding Y and Sizing Y

<<So we say that wishs/questions are encrypted and then compressed before they are added to the Y as poms. But lets keep the first encryption so that password dots appear as the original words and spaces so that users can "see" the outline proof of their wishes.

A typical 94 charactor sentence wish would become about 12 poms.>>

Secrecy and Internet encryption was also the method Al Queda and the hijackers use to communicate with each other.

In a message dated 4/13/02 1:28 PM, Willpap writes:
Re- Soft Wishing Y Memorial Sp


Can you say more about the particulars of the Pythagorean correspondences, I've been looking up what of his unspoken/unwritten (therefore wishbone) theories you might be after. Is it buried in a book of yours?

<<Some interesting things about Pythagoris relevant to the Y:>>

<<"(5) that all brothers of the order should observe strict loyalty and secrecy.">>

Pom Poms as Particulate/Between:

In a message dated 4/13/02 1:28 PM, Willpap writes:
Re- Soft Wishing Y Memorial Sp

Some interesting things about Pythagoris relevant to the Y:>>

<<In certain fundamental cases, the early Pythagoreans represented numbers and explained their properties by means of dots arranged in certain 'figures' or patterns.>>

Pom poms as Scale Micro/Macro:

Ulmer’s Website text:
“Poststructural theory shows
that conventional consultants remain within a middle reality and ignore
the macro- and micro-cosmic dimensions of disaster.”

In a message dated 4/2/02 10:19:13 AM, gulmer@english.ufl.edu writes:
Re: Soft Wishing Y Monument Online

<< I wonder how Claes Oldenberg would do this? A humongous POM, filling
ground zero (simulation of course)? But that's his thing. The tiny pom
has its own poignancy (Hansel and Grettel in the urban forest, leaving a
trail of emergency poms).>>

In a message dated 4/23/02 3:50:06 AM, derekj_pasquill@HOTMAIL.COM writes:
Re: Y Activities Y Practice

<< 'When I see three oranges I juggle; when I see two towers I walk.' Phillipe
Petit, aerialist, commenting after his arrest in 1974, for crossing between
the Twin Towers on a tightrope.

From the same book, Skyscrapers by Judith Dupre, Black Dog and Leventhal,
New York, 1996, a big coffee-table book, dimensions 18 by 7.5 inches), a
mention of the diminuitive size of the architect, Yamasaki, at 5 foot 1
inch. The aerialist, Petit, and Yamasaki, forming a Vierendaal-type truss
in the memory?

Pierre qui roule n'amasse pas mousse

regards pasquill >>

Other Associations:

Poms: 1/4 inch orange poms- for E-mergency

End of the Y installation, pom poms = rain, puddles with drops (see Video)


In a message dated 4/13/02 1:04:41 PM, gulmer@ENGLISH.UFL.EDU writes:
Re: Re2: Soft Wishing Y Glue

<< On Sat, 13 Apr 2002, Will Pappenheimer wrote:

> My mother's maiden name: PALMER: originaling from: one who lays out poms:

great SIGNATURE at work in your poetics! Does the "pom" have a
history? (like people went to wheelwrights to get their wheels made and
to palmer's to get their poms?)
Regarding your attraction for tri-items, the pom eidos connects with
Tribbles, from Star Trek (viz citation).

"The TRIBBLES are harmless and nice small spherical and hairy animals that
have the only fault of multiply vey quickly if they are able to find the
necessary food. The reproduction of the Tribbles happens for splitting,
equally in which they multiply the cells of the human body. The TRIBBLES
is notorious to be "sweetter animals of the whole universe," but also to
be most useless!
The Tribbles have no mouths, but they aro neverless voracoius, expecially
of a particular kind of grain called "quadrotriticale".
The Tribbles hate Klingons!"

Here is another possible connection between us. I won't go into it, but
I have a mystorical connection with Shmoos (which are to L'il Abner what
Tribbles are to Star Trek, sorta). But Shmoos are shaped lke bowling pins.

glue >>

Fuzzy Attachments

Research on Fuzzy Structures

What is a Fuzzy Structure?

A complex mechanical system, like a submarine (you know, one of those cylindrical shells with hemispherical endcaps, submerged in water, strengthened with ribs and bulkheads, and loaded with lots of classified stuff), is impossible to completely model for two reasons. Firstly, the total number of degrees-of-freedom is
way to large for any computer in existence to handle efficiently or economically. Secondly, even if it was computationally feasible to model such a structure, it is impossible to obtain complete, detailed information about all internal substructure details. The theory of fuzzy structures is a method of predicting the vibration of,
and radiation and scattering from such a complex structure without having to know all the internal details
. The part of the structure which can be modelled conventionally (shell, ribs, bulkheads, etc.) is called the master structure. The remaining part of the structure, which cannot be modelled conventionally, is called
the fuzzy substructure.

The Pierce, Sparrow, Russell theory of fuzzy structures

Currently, at Penn State, the fuzzy substructure is modelled as a system of 1-DOF attachments whose properties are governed by a principle of maximum ignorance. That is, the number of attachments is unknown, though it is assumed that there are a large number of them; their exact locations are unknown, though it is assumed that they are "smeared" over a given area; their individual masses, stiffnesses, and natural frequencies are unknown. What is assumed to be known is how the total mass of all attachments is distributed according to natural frequency. This information, termed the mass-frequency distribution, is the key to the whole theory.

It has been shown theoretically, that the primary effects of the fuzzy attachments are to add a frequency dependent damping and a frequency dependent mass loading to the master structure.

See also Ephemera:

Pom Pom as Wish, as desire:

In a message dated 3/29/02 6:21:28 PM, ti@VA.COM.AU writes:
more wish

<< Dear Linda, (and list)

I love the pom poms. this is a simple elegant project - in the web
layout to its projection (possibility). It really values exchange
between, and for me, exposes the (im)possibility of desire, of wish
and the way one wishes the world to be another world, and the
overwhelming v-a-s-t of I-deal.

Softness: Pom Poms are Soft:

In a message dated 3/30/02 12:28 PM, Willpap writes:
Soft Wishing Y Soft Beta

<<et al,

It seems that there is no question that pom poms are soft,

but why is software soft? Is it because entrepenurial types were worried that computers wouldn't seem friendly (AI)? Or were they trying to escape producing anything concrete, as in: use-value, or finished, as in: always possible to upgraded, resold?

At the recent CAA conference in Philadelphia some artists hailed the concept of beta sites as beta art, art always in a state of development, becoming. Others questioned its stability, its longevity, perhaps its rigor?

In the tradition of beta software , the Soft Wishing Y Memorial has updated the date of installation of pom poms to April 20th, 2002. Interesting in this date is the preponderance of zeros and twos rather than zeros and ones. Perhaps this suggests that even the digital world is mirrored. There's never nothing and one and there's always at least two, the double, the switch.

I have begun to build the main homepage for the S W Y Memorial which will receive, introduce and allow viewers to input wishes. Josh Wienaught is making progress with this latter interactive component. I'm going to follow a pattern of bifurcation, even in beta construction. There is lots of information gathered and text mostly beautifully written by Greg Ulmer. I will start by including as much of this as I can in a straightforward presentation and then it will begin to divide and multiply in pages and design.

Lets for try to get Soft Wishing Y Soft, the interactive component of the MEmorial, ready to receive Wish Input by Monday April 1st.

Beta-house-stylie, of course


In a message dated 4/2/02 10:19:13 AM, gulmer@english.ufl.edu writes:
Re: Soft Wishing Y Monument Online

<< I wonder how Claes Oldenberg would do this? A humongous POM, filling
ground zero (simulation of course)? But that's his thing. The tiny pom
has its own poignancy (Hansel and Grettel in the urban forest, leaving a
trail of emergency poms).>>

In a message dated 3/30/02 11:02 AM, Willpap writes:
2 Kinds of Balls


Can I ask you a favor? As you can imagine trying to get old of 3000 to 4000 little orange pom poms. There is a really good craft store in Arlington called "Play Time Inc." and they have a whole wall devoted to pom poms in the downstairs section of their store. I am looking for as many packages of the bright orange pom poms that I can get. Their size is one quarter inch or 10 mm. If you want to check the color you can go to the Website and there's a little picture with a map: ( http://www.willpap-projects.com/WishY/SoftWishingYMonument.html) Could you take a quick trip up there and see what they have and buy it if it looks good and I will reimburse you.

The store is really quite close to you. You get on Mass Ave and drive West towards Arlington. After you cross the intersection of routes 16 you drive perhaps another mile until you are nearing the center of Arlington. Broadway, which comes in from Teele Square, Somerville, merges with Mass Ave on the right at this point. It is a Y formation of course. There's a little street that goes to the right just before it merges which takes you right over to Play Time at 283 Broadway. You will of course love the store! It would be so great if you could do this soon so that I can sleep well on my bed of poms and not worry so much.

Play Time Crafts * 283 Broadway * Arlington, MA 02474

attached is map file:

Da Best,


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In a message dated 4/21/02 6:53:33 PM, stfr@earthlink.net writes:
wishing Y


Hey Will,

I heard about you putting out the Y from your friend Alexa, who came on the
tour. I'm afraid the tour never made it very far south. A rather
bedraggled bunch trouped through the rain, but gave up about a third of the
way through the tour route at about Union Square. It was actually a very
peculiar & increasingly funny tour because at each stop we found only
traces or signs of art that had once been there, but had been removed.

I went down today, though, to look at the Y, and it was really spectacular.
I was moved by the tender little pompoms, fragile as wishes, blown around
but still there. I watched a guy try to dig one out of a sidewalk crack
with his toe & I asked him what he thought. "I don't know what they are!"
he said, "but they're everywhere. They're multiplying!" I took lots of
pictures -- a few are attached. I imagine you documented things well, but I
though perhaps I could add the element of time and fate. I think it would
be interesting to also go back in a week, and two weeks and see what was
still there. I'd be happy to put the pics I took on a cd and hand them over
or send them.

I would be really interested to know what your experience has been with this
piece -- how it felt to do something so large and so ephemeral. I've been
thinking alot about this because it is also characteristic of the biennial
as a whole.>>