I was trained and work as a painter and I’ve also collaborated on some robotic video installations. Three-dimensional modeling has been a recent passion—I like to joke that I’m playing hooky! It gives me the freedom of a hobby without the weighty history of painting.
If you were to ask my kids or my mom what I did for a living, they’d tell you I’m a professor, but I think of myself as an artist first.
My most memorable caffeine is hard to pick because I’m a caffeine junky. I’m trying to limit myself to four cups a day—which is a dramatic drop from the eight I used to have.
One caffeine episode that comes to mind was the time I had to drive by myself from Michigan to Philadelphia. I went to Caribou Coffee and got the largest coffee they had with an extra four shots of espresso.
It hit me like I was on another planet! My entire journey ended up being a series of driving and stopping to deal with the crash of being on that much caffeine.
My current caffeine of choice is the darkest of the dark—I like it to taste bitter and almost burnt and I have it with a little cream. I don’t like sweets and drink way too much coffee.
My favorite place for caffeine is home. We have a little café corner in our kitchen and I like to sit there and converse with my wife. If I had to pick someplace other than my house, it would be any café in Florence, or, really, any café in Italy. There’s such a beautiful culture around coffee in Italy. You don’t have it in a paper cup. You stand at the counter and the coffee’s good even if you’re having it at a gas station.
I also like coffee in Italy because it’s fast. My least favorite coffee drink is a pour over in Soho—I love the alchemy of a great cup of coffee, but I don’t want to talk about it!
The people I’d love to share a cup of caffeine with are Walter Benjamin, a philosopher and theorist, and the Samuel Beckett, the writer. I’d mostly like to speak to each of them separately—maybe with a 20-minute overlap!
Benjamin was the greatest thinker of the 20th century and wrote his pinnacle essays between the two World Wars. He was the father of material studies—which is my area of interest—and is especially well known for The Arcades Project, which was about the spaces between buildings that were closed in to create shopping areas in Paris.
Benjamin was Jewish, fled the Nazis and ended up killing himself to avoid going to a concentration camp. At the time of his death he was supposed to be carrying a briefcase that’s never been found and there’s always been a lot of speculation about what might have been in it.
I’d enjoy meeting with Beckett because I think he’s the most influential artist of the 20th century. And because I’m Irish/Welsh/Scottish—and Beckett was Irish—I feel a kinship to his thinking.
World problem that could be solved with the right amount of caffeine: our ability to deal with the impact of technology. In the 21st century, technology has gotten out in front of us and is changing us in ways we don’t even know. Walter Benjamin spent a lot of time examining the material world and asking how the smallest things, things that we take for granted—like door handles and doors—impact the way we think and act. Just imagine what today’s technology is doing. I’m fascinated by these issues and find them wonderfully dangerous.