My work is a transdigital exploration of metamorphoses, multivalency, and anachronism. I aim to capture ambiguous moments of transcendence, hinting at a mythos that viewers must (re)create for themselves. My work originates with digital art techniques, but incorporates traditional mediums in a dynamic workflow that dances between computer and canvas, layering physical media over digital grounds or converting paints into digital textures. The result is work that transcends genre both in content and in technique.
My interest in destabilizing genre — both in terms of content and medium — draws heavily from my personal identity as a queer feminist. I'm interested in subtle ways to defy comfortable expectations by, for example, creating a canvas that cannot be easily identified as either a print or a painting. My subject matter is also liminal, featuring characters of uncertain biological identity, blurring the lines between genders and between humans, animals, and machines.
The following expanded artist statement was displayed in Oglesby Gallery to accompany MANDEM's 2012 Solo Show
I am a largely self-taught artist working under
the name MANDEM.
My work is an exercise in categorical violations.
I integrate traditional and digital techniques and mediums to create art that defies rigid classification; my workflow moves jaggedly between computer and canvas, layering physical media over digital grounds or converting paints into digital texturesand backgrounds. I intentionally set out to queer the artistic process, creating aberrant final products that are neither quite digital nor traditional. This work process is in part a metaphor for my
broader dedication to exploring and violating the
mythic boundaries between humans, animals,
and machines: I use anachronism, juxtaposition,
and magical realism to transgress or transcend the
perceived reality of history, social norms, gender,
and biological possibilities.
Both the theoretical and world-building aspects
of my work have been deeply informed by my
academic background in antiquities, mythography,
intellectual history, and literary theory;
I enjoy transmogrifying the foundational myths
and metaphors of Western culture to hint at a new
postmodern (and quite often post-apocalyptic
and post-human) mythos. There is a strong storytelling aspect to my work.
Much of the work in this current exhibition
diplays my interest in retro-futurism and alternative
On the one hand, these alternative histories are a playful imagining of a world of mythic characters, airship pirates, prehistoric beasts, and sentient clockwork dolls. On the other hand, this is an exploration of the academic equivalent of the physicist's Observer Effect -- the very act of studying the past will alter its existence; we inject ourselves and our own society into anything that we study, so that the past is no longer a virgin, sterile territory -- at the same time that the worlds of the past become part of the subconscious of the historian, the historian's subconscious shapes the valency and meaning of the past. We may not literally walk among prehistoric beasts, and yet they have colonized our consciousness as surely as we have defined and quantified their lives. (Godzilla lives!)
Despite this storytelling impulse, I insist that my work resist and subvert narrative dogmatism. I aim to evoke a sense of emotion and conflict, but I reflect exclusivity of meaning. For this reason,in many instances I will intentionally obscure fictive structures such as a character's location, intentions, gender, or even taxonomy. This is not a story I am telling to the audience -- rather it is a story that I hope we can create together, as the viewer engages their own imagination to (re)construct our mutual narrative. Of course, there are also a few pieces in this show, like the "Gift" series, that have very little to do with narrative and are far more interested in the symbolism of dreams and delusions.
The content of my work is often dark or violent.
I do not consider this a glorification of violence
or the macabre, but rather a sort of primal
honesty about the nature of the world. I work in
categorical violations not because of a dedication
to transgression for it's own sake, nor as a form of
perverted tribute to normalcy (as Bataille might
suggest), but rather for the sake of saving/creating/
archiving those beautiful and fragile things that
live and die right outside the boundaries that our
society places on reality.
Only through transgression can we really see the
truth, because so long as we follow the rules and
live by the demands and drives of our society, we
have limited our perceptions. A life dedicated to
awareness is in this way like natural childbirth
-- the sublime violently brings the beautiful into
existence, and it is the pain itself that releases the
body's intuitive waves of euphoria and love. So
too horror serves to make the fragile perfectness
of life visible.
To end with a quote from Andrew Eldritch: "I
know the world is cold, but if you hold on tight
to what you find, you might not mind so much,
though even this will pass away."