The Shifting Space Around Us

The Shifting Space Around Us
Megan and Murray McMillan
curated by Sarah Rushford
August 27 — Sept 25, 2016

Ortega y Gasset Projects is proud to present The Shifting Space Around Us, a video installation by artist team Megan and Murray McMillan. Curated by Sarah Rushford, this monumental two-channel installation invites viewers to feel emotionally buoyed as the projections convey a filmic, richly illustrated mythic scene set in a locomotive roundhouse. Original sculpture made by the artist team, functioning as set and prop, perch atop the roundhouse’s gigantic mechanical turntable as this refreshingly expositionless story is shown and not told.

We won’t spoil it and tell you what happens, only that it prompts the viewer’s presence-of-mind to blossom, over one long take, into an engaged state of layered wonder. The slow and understated camera movements, enabled by the transformation of the turntable, by the building itself, not only carry the viewer’s attention but seem to embody the arching inward spectacle of the viewer’s emotional selfhood. They become the motions of one’s own consciousness. Though the work is filmic, the viewer of The Shifting Space Around Us is not tucked into their movie theater seat, they are standing in the dark gallery, there are two perspectives in play at once and the kinesthetic presence of the sculptural objects and the shifting of the roundhouse seem to merge with the gallery. The viewer is swept up and the volumes represented in the work become that of one’s own body and mind.

The Shifting Space Around Us gives a shout out to the legendary cinema historical film A Trip to the Moon. Both pieces convey, however outwardly or subtly intoned, a perilous trip to outerspace. The studio of Georges Méliès, where A Trip to the Moon was made was also mechanical. (The building transformed to use the sun and sky as studio lighting.) This film made at the birth of narrative cinema revealed the cast and crew’s creative camaraderie and that childlike vulnerability is essential to its emotional tone. Though strikingly ambitious and of the highest, most innovative level of craft, a tone of tenderness and vulnerability also pervades The Shifting Space Around Us and that pervasion is deeper than the acting or the set or any aesthetic choice. It’s tenderness rises from the passion of the community of people that worked on the project, at all levels. This power can be sensed in The Shifting Space Around Us and the McMillan’s entire body of work.

The action that unfolds is an incomplete, multivalent mythology (it also has elements of Orpheus and Eurydice and many more likenesses). While remarkably beautiful, it’s intentionally incomplete and calls on the viewer to fill in hulking narrative gaps. It gives a lot to the viewer and asks a lot in return. Instead of illustrating a myth the piece acknowledges the space that all of mythic narrative occupies in the emotional mind of the viewer and by viewing the piece, the viewer is allowed to feel that their experience is grand and mythological. They are traversing their lives, finding themselves in 2016 Brooklyn walking into a darkened gallery to be shown the self, one’s own tenuous state in a huge unknown. Here are these lives projected, and their own lives being lived bravely in the face of change and risk.

Megan and Murray McMillan (Providence, RI) have been collaborating since 2002. They make interdisciplinary projects that incorporate video, installation, performance, and photography. They often start their process by building large sets in their studio or on location. That set then becomes the stage for video and photographs with choreographed actors who activate the set in a filmed performance. The McMillan’s work is included in a concurrent exhibition at Mass MOCA entitled Explode Every Day An Inquiry into the Phenomenon of Wonder.

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