McLean Fahnestock [Interview]




MHM: Why do you prefer new media art over painting or sculpture?

MF: I do still work sculpturally, but it is certainly not as prevalent in my work as it once was. Both of my degrees are in sculpture, and I turned to video while in graduate school because I needed something new. I was kinda stuck. Video allowed me to capture tension in a way that I had been struggling with in my sculptural work: the ability to play with time and stitch together images into new context throughout a sequence like a sentence.

“Changeless”  Still. McLean Fahnestock.

“Changeless” Still. McLean Fahnestock.

MHM: A lot of the pieces shared during your digital residency played with nature, space, abstractions, and miss information. Is the digital noise like in your piece “ Changless” seen as decay or growth?

MF: I see it less as an agent of change such as growth or decay but as a stand in. The digital noise is scrambled information or lost information. The shore here has been lost and so the sea laps up against no-place. The black plate behind it is an etching of the waves. This is an ocean without a shore. So the title refers to a flip that is occurring, like in many of my works, we take the knowledge of the land as what is absolute and the water as what is in flux, ebbing and flowing and ever in motion. Here the water is the absolute and the land is the change. They are displayed like a text and illustration.

MHM: New media artists by nature are always adapting to new tools. What were some hurdles you faced in becoming a new media artist? How did you overcome those and what advice do you have for artists who want to start utilizing different types of media?

MF: There have been two that I can think of immediately. One has been being one of the few media artists wherever I am. There are not that many of us so where we find each other, we talk a whole lot of shop. Building a network of other media artists is a good thing to do. The other has been just keeping up with the ever changing world of presentation technologies. It is exciting because you can really push your work into interesting directions depending on how you personally engage with the world of technologies.

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MHM: Do you shoot footage spontaneously or after careful planning? How does letting footage settle affect its meaning for you?

MF: Most of the time I use appropriated footage. Only recently I have begun shooting footage and incorporating that in my work. It has become more spontaneous. There are some sites, locations, and phenomena that I have to plan to capture because they are harder to get to or rarer. No matter what kind of footage I am using, I collect as much as possible. Much more than I ever use.

Letting footage settle, sit around for a while before I use it, allows me to see connections grow between things that may not have been there at the time of capture. It deepens the meaning and metaphor available by letting me come back to it with fresh eyes, write about it, and find other footage to pair it with in composition.

MHM: A lot of your work video work seems timeless and meditative the way it loops. Is this intentional?

MF: It is. This is part of the play with time as a construct. There are cycles that are at play in nature and our lives. Loops allow for an experience to be short and endless at the same time.

MHM: What is your relationship to VR?

MF: VR is new space. Undefined and exciting because it can be simulated reality or a new reality all together. I have not worked with any VR yet but with its connection to landscape I am excited to give it a try.

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MHM: What key tendencies have you adopted from institutions of knowledge to employ in showcasing your ideas of exploration and place?

MF: I am influenced a way of presenting work that refers to history museum displays. Using tableau, object mounts, interactivity, and making connection through image and text. Also an encyclopedic approach to problems. I don’t want to portray a shipwreck, but all of them. Not a sunset, but many examples. I prefer to show them all together to further that.

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MHM: Can you describe your process for selecting the display or exhibition methods you utilize for each piece when shown in a physical space? Do the methods of displaying particular works ever change?

MF: I like for videos to have a physical presence. For many of them, there is a specific way that they are displayed, projected on to an object for example. For others, like Hyperbole (the waterfalls) they are a meant to be modular and the waterfall arrangement built for the space it occupies. Sometimes things have to change because I am showing a work in a group show environment where a projection would not work very well. There are a few works that I am flexible with how they are shown and these are the ones that go out for juried exhibitions for example.

MHM: Do you have any “non-art” practices that you engage in specifically to inform your work? For example, travel, taking walks, etc.?

MF: I travel when I can and even if I am traveling for work or to see family I take cameras and do some research to see where I could check out something that may be inspiring for a new work. I also read a lot. Much of my work was about the South Pacific and a certain time in exploration so I watched movies from that time period and read books about that time and place. Now that I am shifting to different locales, I am looking closer to home and researching places and experiences in Tennessee to take day-trips.

MHM: What’s next for you? Any shows or upcoming projects we can watch for?

MF: I am currently showing video works at RomanSusan in Chicago and will soon be in the Every Woman Biennial in New York. I will be showing work at Art of the South at the Memphis College of Art in June.

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