Patrick Maun

The Genocide Project

April 15th, 2010

Never again. Throughout history, every country and every people has repeated this simple maxim. Yet genocide continues to happen with a surprising regularity. According to the organization Genocide Watch, the crime is currently occurring in over three dozen countries. While genocide spans human history, I am most interested in modern genocide. The term itself is of recent origin – coined by legal scholar and tireless crusader Raphael Lemkin in 1943.

According to the organization Genocide Watch, the crime is currently occurring in over three dozen countries.

The Genocide Project is a multi-part artistic exploration of modern violence begun in 2005. Several pieces have been completed including an installation (Neighbors), two photographic series (Loss and Weapons), a poster edition (Never Again) and a dual-channel video (Neighbors). Pieces under development include examinations of confession under duress, specific examinations of genocidal regimes including Cambodia and Darfur, and several new photographic exhibitions.

Posters

The Chair

The installation Neighbors from the Genocide Project contains two videos. View the 6 minute combined video in Flash format.To view the video, simply click on the image above to start playing. If the video doesn’t start playing when you click, you’ll need to download the latest free player.

Neighbors

March 14th, 2010

Genocide doesn’t happen here. Throughout history, every country and every people has repeated this to itself. Yet genocide continues to happen with a surprising regularity. The atrocity is always somewhere else, and we are far too civilized to let that happen here. Eventually, it seems, things change and people find themselves confronting the unimaginable, often in a state of denial. But afterward, even during, we hear ourselves saying “never again.” By re-contextualizing the tragedy of modern genocide and removing the idea of “the other”, I hope to illustrate the error of this assumption. Genocide, it seems, must be in our nature.

Neighbors is the first in a series of works I have been developing that examine genocide. While the conflict in Kosovo provided the initial inspiration for the piece, the characters represent archetypes in any genocidal conflict – aggressor and victim, soldier and citizen, majority and minority. By removing all sense of time and place the piece presents the face of genocide as universal and timeless.

Genocide doesn’t happen here. Throughout history, every country and every people has repeated this to itself.

Neighbors Detail

Genocide and genocidal regimes are always described in black and white – questions of good and evil easily explained, as there is always an apparent victim and a complicit people. The truth is never so easy and there exists a multiplicity of grays. With the piece Neighbors, I hope to reveal some of these subtleties.

Neighbors Detail

I have included on this site several items from the current exhibition including photos, video stills and press materials. I will continue to add photos and documentary video to the site as I gather it over the next few weeks.

Neighbors Detail

Neighbors Detail

The installation contains two videos. View the 6 minute combined video in Flash format.To view the video, simply click on the image above to start playing. If the video doesn’t start playing when you click, you’ll need to download the latest free player.

Several items are available for download including the exhibition resume (doc, pdf), the exhibition postcard (pdf). High resolution are available for the press by contacting me with a request. A DVD containing the videos found in the piece and a brief documentary are also available. If you are interested in other showing this piece or in learning about other works in the genocide series, please contact me.

I Am

March 13th, 2010

I Am is a video installation examining marketing, demographic segmentation, psychographics and identity in this, the age of the focus group. The installation consists of eight video monitors arranged in a circle. Each monitor faces outward and displays a close-up shot of ethnically diverse people. Each individual recites their various demographic, psychographic, lifestyle and brand affinities. These views offer a glimpse into a marketers perception of individuality. We see ourselves as individuals, yet in the end we are categorized, niched and reduced to our basic demographic makeup.

We see ourselves as individuals, yet in the end we are categorized, niched and reduced to our basic demographic makeup.

Monitor Closeup



Market segmentation conveniently breaks us up into groups, clusters, lifestyles and niches. Am I Patrick Maun, artist, or simply one of the VALS 2 Systems’ Actualizers (a healthy 8% of the U.S. population), which also pegs me as an APT High-Brow Puritan, psychographically speaking (a healthy 8.1%). All the while living in the #10 PRIZMS cluster, aptly called Bohemian Mix Neighborhood, much like the 1% of my demographically similar fellow Americans.
Monitor Closeup
For the past ten years, I have worked in both advertising and design. During this time, I have come to both admire and fear marketing. I have utilized targeted demographics to sell everything from luxury cars to cat litter. I have sat on the other side of the glass in countless focus groups, reviewed numerous systems of segmentation, and designed to “enhance brand equity”.

The eight videos were combined into a brief single-channel video. To view the video, simply click on the image above to start playing. If the video doesn’t start playing when you click, you’ll need to download the latest free player.

Effect & Essence

March 12th, 2010

Effect & Essence is an exploration in to the physical and the virtual — delving subtly into issues of authenticity, representation, technology and time.The installation consists of three rows of five large stones. Three of the stones are virtual and are represented by one large, and two small video, monitors. The large monitor displays a computer generated image of a suspended stone. The small monitors are also display stones, though these stones are video images of the physical stones. One monitor displays a live camera signal of a stone in the piece including the interactions and interruptions of the signal by viewers in the piece. The second small monitor displays a pre-recorded image of a stone and its manipulation by previous visitors to the piece.

Documentation plays an important role in the piece. A large frame hung on the wall and contains computer generated wireframe and rendered images, while text illuminates the idea of the creation process as ‘virtual’, that is, existing only as thoughts and ideas until they are manifested in physical space.

The Safety of Damocles

March 12th, 2010

In modern times, long-held beliefs about the “authenticity” or originality of the self have been challenged in many arenas, including art, science, and philosophy. The word authentic is often defined by its synonyms “real” and “genuine.” Though both these terms are abstract, the term “authentic” is meant to be the antithesis of abstraction: the “real” as in the “real me” or a “real experience.” Technological developments from the telephone to cyberspace seem to reproduce yet fundamentally change the self, deconstructing, encoding, remaking it in the very processes of using these technologies.

In 1876, when Alexander Graham Bell’s voice successfully reached Watson in another room, subjectivity itself was in effect altered — an alteration that is now so commonplace that we take little notice of it. When the first photographic portraits were made in the mid-nineteenth century, the results were often so startling that many of the images were ordered destroyed by the sitters. We also know that when Europeans took their cameras to other lands, they encountered people who felt the making of such an image of the self was tantamount to stealing a soul.

Maun’s The Safety of Damocles explores the acceleration of this vulnerability and malleability of identity in the present digital age. The piece presents three video monitors, one large and two small, suspended together from the ceiling. The large monitor displays body parts commonly and scientifically used in identification — teeth, eyes, hands and fingerprints. Superimposed over this image is text and visual data, such as graphs and statistics, that offer another form of identification.

The small LCD monitors, shielded by hand-crafted wooden casements, allow only one viewer to look at their images at a given moment. Upon looking in at one of these monitors, the viewer confronts an image of him/herself peering into the wooden shadow box. This image is produced by a surveillance camera mounted above the monitor. The second small monitor continuously, and confusingly, plays taped images of others looking into the first monitor. In the space, the viewer is surrounded by ambient sounds of technology, including modems connecting, low drones and clickings, and telephones dialing. This array of images, sounds, and experiences reveals the matrix that is identity in our age at once configured by so-called “original” experience, information, and technological reproduction.

This array of images, sounds, and experiences reveals the matrix that is identity in our age at once configured by so-called “original” experience, information, and technological reproduction.

Ultimately this work asks questions about the possibility of retaining a notion of authenticity in the face of such routine shifts in identity. The title, The Safety of Damocles, refers to an ancient contemplation of the precariousness of power and happiness — two elements certainly tied to identity. Damocles, a courtier of Dionysius the Elder (c. 430-367 BC) of Syracuse, Sicily, once remarked to his sovereign about the grandeur and happiness of rulers. Later, Dionysius placed Damocles beneath a sword suspended by a single horsehair, thus demonstrating the vulnerability of all identities and destinies.

For Maun, the question of the safety of our identities is neither new nor intrinsically connected to technologies. Rather, the new technologies he examines revivify stories like that of Damocles for us, highlighting, as Dionysius did, the need for heightened self consciousness about the very nature of our identities and the ever present instability of them.

The Safety of Damocles was made possible by a grant from Intermedia Arts and the Jerome Foundation. The piece was presented as part of Art in Space XI in 1997/98. Also featured in this exhibition were new works by Stephen Mohring and Ana Lois-Borzi.

Listen to Me

March 11th, 2010

Examining persuasion, power and control in this age of technological punditry, Listen to Me is a humorous interactive sculpture. Consisting of two small monitors mounted on the gallery wall, both monitors are playing footage of eyes. One monitor is framed in a rough metal and has a speaker suspended by metal cable several inches below it. The second monitor is framed in wood and also has a speaker suspended beneath it, but with hemp twine. On the floor several feet in front of each monitor is a rubber floor-mat. The floor-mat is pressure sensitive and when stepped upon triggers a voice from the corresponding speaker. The metal-framed eye barks in a male voice “Listen to me. Hey you, I’ve got what you need.” A female voice counters from the other monitor with “Don’t listen to him, I’ve got what you need right here.”

The Franconia Mound

March 6th, 2010

The public sculpture The Franconia Mound was a site specific piece situated at the Franconia Sculpture Park in rural Minnesota. The piece examined historical representations of authenticity and truth. The visitor to the park encountered a large earthen mound covered with astro-turf. The interior of the mound, a perfect white room with a soft shredded black rubber floor. Situated in the center of the room, a backlit image of water. On-site documentation (in the form of signage, buttons, stickers and brochures) present the mound as a historical landmark. The historical evidence is convincing and authentic whereas the mound itself obviously is not.

The presentation of history in the public landscape (national and state parks being one example of this) rings with an authentic, static truth that is misleading. Our interpretation of history is fluid and influenced by many factors, possibly the least important of which is the truth. The Franconia Mound sets out to expose this interpretational fallacy in an enjoyable, humorous way.

Fire in Place

March 5th, 2010

The installation piece Fire In Place is an exploration into our attempts to tame and control of fire and nature. The installation consists of a 40′ x 5′ x 6′ cave-like structure. After stooping down to enter the installation, the visitor is met with the strong, yet familiar and welcoming, smell of woodsmoke. The structure is filled with the sound of crackling fire inviting the visitor to explore further to the far end of the piece. At the end of the cave are two video monitors. The monitors are covered in gauze and surrounded by a rough circle of stones. The lower monitor reveals a close-up of a campfire, the upper displays that same fire, strangely warped and manipulated.

Fire has always played an important role in my art, both as inspiration and as medium. I have utilized fire visually in my still image and video work, and physically in my performance/sculpture pieces. Fire is recognized by many, if not most, cultures in the world as the original creator/destroyer. It is simultaneously viewed as purifier, life-giver, and the harbinger of evil. I find working with these dichotomies both interesting and challenging. As my work is primarily based in new technology, fire presents the thrill of pure, unadulterated chaos that I find lacking in much of the digital aesthetic.

In this piece, as in my earlier work with fire, I examine the inherent power in images of nature. How far can something be removed from the source and still retain the essence of that source? What is the importance, if any, in the physicality of an object or in the authenticity of an image? What is Benjamin’s aura and can it be distilled?

This piece was originally shown in 1996 at the now defunct International Gallery in Minneapolis. The piece was again shown as part of an artist in residency at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in 1998.

Hanging Ash & Text

March 4th, 2010

In an exploration of the juxtaposition of organic and inorganic materials, I developed the Hanging Ash with Text pieces. The original 18 pieces were created for a 1995 solo show at the now defunct International Gallery of Contemporary Art in Minneapolis. This piece was also shown as part of a residency with the School of Art and Design at the University of Michigan.

These pieces consist of stones suspended high above the viewer which lead down to bowls suspended just inches above the floor. The stones have been drilled and strung with steel aircraft cable. This cable runs up to the ceiling, through eyelets, and back down to where it braids into natural-fiber rope. The rope forms a triad which supports a metal bowl. The bowl is filled with rough ash interspersed with thinly cut strips of text.

The ash was obtained through personal items donated by close friends for the piece and subsequently immolated in a large bonfire. The interspersed text is cut from the pages of a 19th century book on the acquisition of the artistic sense.

Communication Revolution

March 3rd, 2010

The installation Communication Revolution was one of my early works and one of the first to deal with my now familiar issues of authenticity and perception. The piece was created and presented in 1994 for the group show Art Beyond the 3D at the Katherine Nash Gallery in Minneapolis. The following images were taken at a friends studio after the show.

The installation consists of two stations situated in opposite ends of the gallery. Each station is equipped with a monitor, video camera, microphone, and a computer. The participant at one station can see the image of the participant at the other. When communication is attempted between the two parties, instead of hearing each other’s voices, voice-triggered subtitles appear on the bottom of the monitors. The subtitles range from the poignant to the mundane. This confusion causes a breakdown of normal conversation leading instead to nonsensical rambling by both parties.

I started working on the internet in 1986 and saw it grow from a very small academic experiment to the global communications tool is has been become today. Early on, I was interested not so much in the technical aspects of communication using the internet, but of the actual communication taking place. The revolution was technologically stunning, but the words being written were banal and mundane – what’s the weather like where you are, how are the women?