Interviewed by: Eliana Blechman
We asked Kristin McIver a few questions about "Love Piece", her installation at the West 10th Window, the importance of consumer participation and social media, and ideas of self-representation in the modern age. Read on for more...
Art-in-Buildings: How does a space like West 10th Window, which is only visible from the street, influence your work?
Kristin McIver: I enjoy creating artwork for spaces that engage the community in unexpected locations. Context becomes a large part of the work. The West 10th Window's street front exhibition space is located in the West Village, in a part of Manhattan filled with high end fashion boutiques and luxury townhouses. I wanted to work with this context, drawing the chosen materials and style of language from the desire inducing devices of consumer culture. The neon artwork sheds its pink hue onto the sidewalk, and its pink glow fills the entire space; in the absence of any 'products', the sign itself becomes the object of desire, highlighting the cyclical nature of desire within consumer culture. Desire, begets desire.
AiB: Love Piece features text from third party comments and reviews of your earlier artworks. What is the importance of public participation in your art?
KM: Public participation is integral to all of my works; without the viewer an artwork is simply an object. Viewer subjectivity forms the power of the work, as the artist's intent is only one aspect of how a work may be received. There is a strong tension between the artist, the artwork and the viewer. I often include the viewer as a medium within the work, as their participation with the work becomes central to the work's function; in a similar manner to a consumer within consumer culture, or a participant of social media. The viewer/participant relationship is becoming increasingly intertwined, with social media blurring the lines between content producer and consumer.
Within the context of the art market, the artwork can also be seen as a commodity and not immune from the same operations that can be observed of consumer culture. With Love Piece, I wanted to play with this idea, to create a sign which referenced itself, and the viewer's desire. The work refers to the process of seduction that is induced in the viewer (or consumer) by the glossy neon and acrylic object. It urges the viewer to question their desires, and whether they are genuine, or perhaps instilled. Love, need and want become inseparable through their confluence and repeated reflection within the box.
AiB: How does social media and consumer culture impact self-representation and identity?
KM: Social media, and the technologies that enable it, provide a platform whereby self- representation and identity are quantifiable. This has resulted in a culture of narcissism, and in some cases depression. The awareness of perpetual observation creates an ever performing self, with images, comments and opinions, friend networks and even 'likes' becoming a form of representation.
AiB: You noted that the title Love Piece should always be displayed in conjunction with the materialsof the work: Neon, Acrylic, Desire. What roles do the material (and immaterial) components of the work play?
KM: For me the artwork is an activator. The work exists to prompt something in the viewer, so I see the object as only party of the artwork. Many of my artworks include immaterial elements within their medium listing. For example View Piece, installed on an oceanfront cliff, reads 'Breathtaking'. The medium is listed as 'Neon, steel, ocean views', rendering its context as important as the art object. Or This Beautiful Day is a solar powered neon artwork installed in the natural environment, whose medium is 'Neon, steel, aluminum, solar panels, a beautiful day.' The work does not function without the power of the sun, so therefore it is listed in the materials.
With Love Piece, when a viewer interfaces with the work - by recognizing themselves as the 'I' addressed by the message - some form of desire (love/need/want) as referenced by the work, has been triggered. I am interested in pushing this concept into different contexts and situations.
AiB: What's next for you?
KM: I am working on a solo exhibition in Melbourne for 2016. This will include some Data Portraits, which translate face recognition data generated by social media into abstract portraits using various materials. The paintings lean toward geometric abstraction - but are actually a form of data visualization of online identity. I'm also working on a land art project in California (a botanical Data Portrait), and an ongoing educational workshop in a Brooklyn middle school that teaches students about social media, privacy and data footprints through artistic projects.
Learn more about Kristin McIver's work on her website at www.kristinmciver.com