Review: Laura Mackin/Three Walls
By Tara Quell
Images flash by in an instant, zooming in on the random minutiae of a life. A cat playing on a fence, the scenic backdrop of a mountain range, a happy couple in wedded matrimony. Laura Mackins video Zoom (Dean 1962-2006) from her solo exhibition, 120 Years, splices, edits and reconfigures the personal home videos of a stranger named Dean. Mackin rearranges Deans films and edits in zoomed images, creating a disjunctive visual experience. However random or specific the scenes that Dean chooses to zoom in on, they are still oddly familiar. Moments from an anonymous life read like the images we keep in our own memory of blurred impressions, arbitrarily conjoined, resurfacing fleetingly.
In the video Driving (Dean 1946-2006), Mackin splices together scenes from Deans film taken from inside a car traveling down the highway. Again, the film creates sensations of nostalgia and déjà vu. Mackin alludes to the all-American experience of seeing the country from the back seat of a car.
Mrs. Ernest is Mackins second found object, her postcards from 1910-1968 recontextualized alongside a series of maps and grids. On a large roll of black paper laying flat on a table, the reproduced postcard images are arranged geographically according to where each was sent, creating a visual topography of a life overly simplified. Mrs. Ernests postcards are reconfigured as documentation of Americana.
120 Years launches private memories into the public sphere, as objects of speculation and scrutiny. Mackins work posits the experience of the individual as that of the greater whole, blurring the line between personal memories and public novelty.
By Lori Waxman
Paradoxically, the very medium that is meant to tell stories about real people home movies can also be the least revealing. At ThreeWalls, Laura Mackin has assembled an exhaustive body of work based on 60 years of found footage shot by a man named Dean. After sorting his 104 hours of ﬁlm and video by type, she combined these into sped-up videos and gridded stills. Dean recorded 24 sunsets. He drove endlessly and got nowhere. He zoomed in on everything from a cruise ship to an ice crevice to a bunny, but never quite arrived.
Mackin ﬂashes Dean's life before our eyes, and it is nothing but a life rendered into empty, dizzying visual data. It's a horror of a life, this life as she tells it. And it's exactly what life ought never be. That's our job as we picture it, live it and reimagine it. To never let it come down to 24 sunsets, 2 minutes of driving, and 21/2 minutes of looking through a zoom lens.
Laura Mackin: 120 Years at threewalls
By Pat Elifritz
On January 13th, Laura Mackin introduced a new exhibition entitled 120 Years at threewalls, the latest installment in the threewallsSOLO program. Upon arrival, those who traveled to the exhibition found themselves confronted with more terrain to navigate. A composite collection of disparate postcards organized according to their place of origin, an assemblage of home video footage of anonymous American highways shot from the passenger seat, an arrangement of small-scale photographic prints into a pseudo-skyline displayeach indicate the artists interest in tropes of travel, and these remain present throughout her archival practice.
Mackin navigates collections of accumulated imagery and ephemera, where she appropriates content and reconstructs otherwise inaccessible personal narratives. The material she collects is in itself readily accessible, often online. However her tedious examination into the lives of their original owners probes territory otherwise guarded from public display. The apparatuses of nostalgiaparticularly dated consumer-grade photographic and video technologyallow the artist to play interventionist-archivist with the material residue of others pasts.
While Mackins practice appears analogous to the style of selection-reassemblage found in blogging culture, her commitment to idiosyncratic methods of dissection and redisplay facilitates a more conflicted interpretation of her subjects. 120 Years presents two recomposed collections, each comprised of approximately 60 years of accumulated material. One half of the 120, assembled between 1910 and 1968, resides in a collection of destination-specific postcards addressed primarily to Mrs. Ernest. These are aligned to construct a loose memory-atlas exploring the locations and subjects selected by their anonymous sender. The next 60 years are found in video footage showcasing a character known only as Dean traversing the United States between 1946 and 2006, which is cut and compressed into two rapid-burn investigations into long-term changes within the American landscape. In addition to the videos, photographic stills pulled from Deans footage isolate the peculiar targets of his zoom lens. The stills and videos alike exalt Deans rather unique style of home video production. However, it is Deans handiwork on the interstate that echoes throughout Mackins 120 Yearsa certain common attraction to exploring the terrain of personal recollections by way of photographic documentation.
Review: Wish You Were Here/ADDS DONNA
By Bert Stabler
Cynic seems an unfair label for the uncompromising Diogenes, who carried a lantern during daylight in search of an honest man. At bottom, Dada was similarly nostalgic for art as a lost ideal, an end in itself rather than a vehicle for reflection. This starry-eyed hopelessness applies to an evolving exhibition now in its third iteration at ADDS DONNA, whose title, Wish You Were Here, underscores the theme of glibness thinly masking absence and loss. Jo Hormuths turning display, containing identical postcards of an expressionless Midwestern landscape, perched on a tall custom-made stool and not failing to resemble a shoe rack, neatly evokes two famous Duchamp readymades at once. Echoing this piece in Nearby cards from Berthas cards, Laura Mackin displays two columns of found postcards depicting various locations in Michigan, with one set showing the locations as they appeared in the 1930s, and the opposing set showing the same places in the 1960s and 1970sa visual taxonomy of a state for whom, like the art world, the twentieth century was a period of notoriously short and violent epochs. This fast-forwarding landscape motif carries over fairly literally in Mackins video, Zoom (Dean, 1962-2006), a rapid-fire montage of camera zooms culled from over a hundred movies. The cycling horizontality of this piece is counterpointed in Michael Milanos aspirationally vertical video Nearly, a seamless loop of a rocket blasting through the upper reaches of the atmosphere.
Wish You Were Here at ADDS DONNA: Laura Mackin, Gareth Long and other artists
By Lauren Weinberg
Christina Leungs cookies were staler, Jo Hormuths sculpture had shifted position and there were several new works on display, but the show that opened at ADDS DONNA earlier this month was the same Wish You Were Here that opened at the Garfield Park gallery in Octoberand in September. It was also different.
Wish You Were Here has evolved approximately ten times during its run, estimates Kaylee Rae Wyant, one of the six artists who direct ADDS DONNA. Some of the artworks, and the shows focus on time, movement and stasis, remain constant. But the cocurators added and removed works, holding receptions to commemorate big changes, such as the removal of a large-scale Lauren Carter sculpture that provided the gallerys only illumination when it was installed.
Wish You Were Here encompasses a clever variety of media, including a GIF on the gallerys website and a plaque on its water tower (pictured), and its ingenious premise enables viewers to enjoy the art on multiple levels. First-time visitors can appreciate Ama Saru and Hsiao Chens witty The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (2009), a set of 30 Champagne flutes. The glasses bent plastic straws form fragmented words from art-theory texts, so that drinkers sipping from disco and urse must find each other for the piece to make sense.
Repeat visitors can recall the absent pieces as they contemplate whats in front of them, and see what stayed take on new meanings. Only now can one view Hormuths found postcards of Illinoiss Lake Bloomington alongside Laura Mackins postcard installation tracing a few decades on Michigans Upper Peninsula. Allowing an exhibition to change over time isnt a new strategy, but I wish more galleries would try it.
Can Bigfoot Get You a Beer?
By Michelle Grabner
Exhibition curators Anthony Elms and Philip von Zweck plaintively write, Some of the artists in Can Bigfoot Get You a Beer? may be familiar. Or possibly the objects encountered only seem recognizable, a blur in the eyes and a thing in the mind. After all, when fools rush in, blobsquatches are known to run. And we are rooting for the fools. This dont-trust-what-you-see rhetoric is of a piece with the work of the mostly Chicago-based artists collected in a vast (by local standards) third-floor apartment gallery. The highlights are the three contributions by women in the show. Laura Mackins multifaceted Rabbit, squirrels, cartoons, etc., 2006, which features over an hour of amateurish video footage documenting a few rabbits in a field, plays on a monitor while an equally uneventful composite photo drawn from the video hangs on an adjacent wall. Rounding out this piece is a staple-bound collection of colored ink-jet prints, resting on top of the monitor, comprising yet more composites from the inelegant video of grazing rabbits. Specific digital date and time indicators grace the corner of each image frame, suggesting that this visual fodder is derived from an objective study. But the subject of this evidence remains inscrutable. The result is humorous and weird, not unlike the bird photographs by French artist Jean-Luc Mylayne. Danielle Gustafson-Sundell suspends a pair of cowboy boots from the ceiling. Each is pierced with a small hole and given a perching bar, transforming them into homes for nesting birds. Mindy Rose Schwartzs Column, 2008, also hanging from the gallerys exposed ceiling joist, is a macramé extravagance. This vertical composition, made by knotting lengths of white rope, holds incongruent treasures similar to that of a bowerbirds nest or an old spiderweb: Chunky beads, sticks, and ceramic heads are entangled within this towering Hobby Lobby nightmare. Gary Cannone, a Los Angelesbased artist, contributes The Clint Eastwood, 2007, a penciled list written directly onto the wall that maunders on in formal declaration: THE CLINT EASTWOOD OF POLITICS, THE CLINT EASTWOOD OF THIS GENERATION, THE CLINT EASTWOOD OF THE BIRD WORLD, THE CLINT EASTWOOD OF ISRAEL, and so on. Other concealed truths and intriguing deceits abound in the paintings and sculptures by Noah Rorem, John Arndt, David Schutter, and Tyler Britt.
Laura Mackin (review)
By Bert Stabler
From St. Pauls deprecation of human perception as through a glass, darkly, to Charles Fouriers claim, in true Gnostic fashion, that the universe was a mirror, and Jacques Lacans mirror as the site of primal alienation, the mirror is certainly a window fraught with all the anxiety of invisible flatness and infinite false depth.
The advent of electronic imaging offered a ready comparison to this cryptic oracle of a parallel world; the less certain we feel about our reality, the more we feel that the mirror watches us. In her project Davis, Laura Mackin has painstakingly cut out and aligned images reflected in the hundreds of mirrors proffered for sale on eBay by a single vendor, Davis, who always leans his/her wares against one particular tree for photographing. Through this process Mackin has assembled a panoramic photograph of an anonymous backyardlike outdoor area by puzzling these fragments together, in an inductive reversal of the modern fragmenting of time.
Her prints and artist book show the panorama as a Photoshop file at different levels of transparencywith an ethereal white background in the book, and a more sinister black background in the hanging prints. In the film Blade Runner theres a scene in which Harrison Ford analyzes a digital photo, and gives voice commands to a computer. The machine zooms, with SLR-type shutter clicks, into a mirror. Though it is a seemingly still picture, the mirror image shifts in enough to render a shadowy figure identifiable. Similarly, Mackins photos reveal, in their seeming banality, uncanny elementsa storage shed, a gravestonewhich, through the power lent by their subtle divination, quietly burn with secret menace.
Eye Exam: West Side DispatchArt Mirrors Life
By Jason Foumberg
In a retrofitted closet inside gescheidle gallery is giftshop project space (note the very hip all-lower case), and inside that is a small exhibition by Laura Mackin. Davis is the name of the show and also the name of the person who has unwittingly become Mackins art project. As an eBay Power Seller, Davis sells a lot of stuff, but mostly mirrors. Yet hes also an amateur, and when he photographs his mirrors, they tend to contain a reflection of his houseDavis virtual store is his home, and he places the mirrors against a tree in his back yard, thus reflecting his surrounds. Mackin, fascinated by this small glimpse into a strangers life, has created a map of Davis home from only the reflections in his mirrors for sale on eBay. She hasnt contacted Davis, and doesnt intend to, but feels a connection to him in the deceptively close way that the web connects many of us, providing myriad opportunities for lurking. While there may not be as much mystery as Mackin wishes there to be (she thinks she sees a tombstone in Davis yard), the mirror reflections act as an accidental portal within an intentional one; the mirrors come to reflect not merely Davis quiet suburban yard, but also Mackins quiet obsession.
"A Real Looker"
By Fred Camper
Laura Mackin's show at Contemporary Art Workshop is based on "imagery from strangers," she says. "When you find someone's videos or pictures, they seem mysterious at first, and then you wind up imagining the intentions of the people who made them." The origin of this exhibit is a home video she bought at a thrift store while she was an undergrad at the Maryland Institute College of Art. "Rabbits, squirrels, cartoons, etc." was scribbled on the box, and the time-stamping indicated the video had been taken over a 12-day period in 1992. The videographer panned animals in a backyard frenetically; these segments are interspersed with brief interludes, some showing cartoons on TV and others the anonymous video maker himself. She and her friends loved it. "We all thought it was his first day with the camera, his first video--it had that intensity of looking, that pleasure," she says. "He'll be hyperfocused on a particular animal, then cut to something else. He can't seem to hold the camera straight he's so excited."
Mackin returned to the video in 2005, three years after she bought it and shortly after receiving her MFA from the School of the Art Institute, making drawings from it. Then she copied the video's entire 90 minutes into her computer and began stitching together individual frames--10 to 100 at a time--to create her own "stills." Five of these are on display, plus the whole video on one monitor and an extracted three-minute loop of the video maker on another. Her panoramic composite images show the backyard or branches silhouetted against the sky. The allover textures produced by Mackin's technique create weird landscapes that are even more mysterious than the original video, heightening its fleeting beauty while underlining its inexplicability.
Mackin, who says she tends to be secretive, has been fascinated by anonymity for a while, even though her art-school projects included painting herself, her mother, and her boyfriend, now her husband. "My autobiographical work didn't actually show very much," she says. When she was an undergraduate, a professor prodded his students to become more original by assuming personas, thinking it might distract them from just painting. But Mackin chose to be a workaday artist painting animal portraits for a living. (The instructor was "kind of pissed off," she says.) In general she disliked the art world's quest for newness: "Students talked of trying to conceive of something they hadn't seen before, but the results rarely seemed original." In response she began collecting images from eBay. "I liked that they were trying to show objects for sale in the best way that they could," she says, even when the seller's home was obviously a mess. She became fascinated by the images of mirrors for sale because they showed both the room around the mirror and whatever was reflected in it, yet the spaces remained puzzling. She printed such images in two artist's books, the second of which, Old Mirror Auctions L@@K, is also in this show along with five individual prints of mirrors. Some reveal rooms, others landscapes; one reflects a gravestone, and others faces, a cat, or nude bodies.
Mackin is drawn to puzzles--but not so much to solving them. When she was in her midteens, her parents suspected that her older sister's boyfriend was living in the woods behind their house. Mackin and her father would take long walks, looking for his hideout, peering into a nearby mulch factory and farmers' sheds. But they never talked about the boyfriend or where he might be; instead Mackin's dad would identify trees for her or explain what a particular building or implement was used for. As in her current show, the simple act of looking was more important than achieving complete understanding.
Tip of the Week: Laura Mackin
By Michael Weinstein
Having stumbled upon a home video in which an elderly man explored his spacious and wooded backyard, Laura Mackin proceeded to take it apart in frames, turn some of them into dull color photographs and compose new images by superimposition and seaming, often retaining snippets of the date and time record from the film. The result is surrealism lite, in which we contemplate sights like a dresser sitting on a patch of sparse grass that is topped by a large mirror reflecting some trees with tangled branches soaring into the sky. The combination of studied banality and odd displacements and juxtapositions that mark Mackin's series provokes a meditative moodone that is persistently undercut by a mild eeriness that leads to a sense that we have gotten too close to the heavy meaninglessness and dreadful inertness that lurks behind the securities of a well ordered everyday life.
Carl Baratta and Laura Mackin
By John McKinnon
In the adjoining gallery, Laura Mackin has used found photos and videos as her source material. She has appropriated a video from the Salvation Army and recycled it as art. By doing so, Mackin has added a quiet, meditative beauty to the simple video of a man recording his own backyard. Making it her own, she has collaged elements of the narrative together to create digital photos with an assortment of Photoshop effects. These are not as successful as the video, because Mackin is at her best when she doesnt overmanipulate imagery. In a collection of photos from eBay that reveal mirror reflections of their sellers homes, curious snapshots taken from odd angles present delightful musings on the popular practice of selling ones used items online. As a whole, the collected imagery in her show becomes reminiscent of Found magazine, as it is filled with simple, everyday curiosities.