MICHAEL JONES MCKEAN / RIVERS
The Drift is pleased to announce Rivers, a newly commissioned project by New York and Virginia based artist Michael Jones McKean beginning August 1st, 2016, and concluding August 9th, 2016.
The culmination of over two years of research and development, Rivers is a durational sculpture composed of nine precisely determined actions engaging specific locations, objects and people in defined temporal and spatial proximity within Pittsburgh’s three river system. In the work, ‘river’ exists both as a literal manifestation, but also as a spectre, framing each action inside a set of cascading mythological, archaeological, historical and geological circumstances. Here, ‘river’ exists expansively as both a subject weighted with associations, use-values and politics, but also an object wholly unknowable to us - a form of alien complexity vastly superseding our limits of understanding.
All actions of Rivers were enacted in public, some without notice and others with invitation to the public. Each action was preceded by a brief announcement, some containing precise details of when and where the actions were to take place.
The summary is as follows:
001 a human bone inserted inside a boulder on the banks of the Allegheny
002 an arrangement of cut flowers delivered to the PA Bureau of Topographic and Geological Survey
003 a human hand making contact with the 30” Thaw Refractor telescope at the Allegheny Observatory of the University of Pittsburgh
004 a human hand making contact with the JEOL JSM 6335F Field Emission Scanning Electron Microscope at the Center for Biologic Imaging
005 a small bonfire on the banks of the Allegheny with driftwood compiled from around the world
006 the 1818 book The Navigator, gifted and entered into the collection of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh - Mt. Washington Branch
007 a rainbow produced over the Allegheny River for 500 seconds
008 a piece of lead recovered from a sunken 17th century sailing vessel, melted and cast into a handrail on an abandoned speedboat on the Monongahela
009 a text message sent from a remote location to a satellite phone at the confluence of the Ohio River
Spaced over consecutive days, McKean’s choreographed actions are concerned not only with the outward optics produced by an event, but in their hidden from view, realist and materialist ramifications: the hyperbolic release of energy and carbon into the atmosphere produced from burning a chunk of wood, or sunlight racing toward the earth in precise syncopation with an individual’s gaze toward water droplets momentarily dissolving into pure prismatic color, or a book added to a public library’s collection displacing a small but real amount of space from the building’s internal volume.
Rivers is devised as an artwork, but more broadly as an ‘ethic’ or ‘technology’ for developing more sensitized interactions with objects, in the process endowing them with newfound capacities and agency. The form of Rivers builds a dense, at times kaleidoscopic meshwork of contact points with people, places, things and events, honing a set of brief encounters where time-space distances can swirl, stagger, collapse within the fortified space of the artwork. For McKean, the work encourages a process with emancipatory ambitions through which a more empathic approach to bodies in the fullest, most diverse and most speculative sense of the term can be explored.
McKean, speaking of the process: