MANDEM
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Artist Statement


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 histories.

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."

-M. Arendsee


 

MANDEM is a symbiotic pair of transdigital -punk artists, Maize Arendsee and Moco Steinman, working in both digital art and traditional art mediums such as oil painting, mische technique, mixed media, and acrylics. Our themes include: mythpunk and mythology; steampunk and alternative history; cyberpunk and human-animal-machine hybrids; gothic, horror, and dark fantasy; monsters and chimeras; and queer feminist art. Important visual influences include German Expressionism; influential sci-fi fantasy artists such as Brom and Giger, and traditional painters such as Maxfield Parrish, John Atkins Grimshaw, and the surrealist and visionary movements. Other influences include James Barrie (Peter Pan), Lewis Carroll, Lovecraft and other Gothic Victorian writers; Bertolt Brecht and epic theater (also theater of cruelty and theater of the absurd); Robert Graves, Mircea Eliade, and the great mythographers of the Gilded Age; Jungian philosophy; the ancient Greek and Roman poets — especially Euripides and Ovid; and epic modern myth-makers such as Tolkein, Clive Barker, Guillermo del Toro, George Romero, and Neil Gaiman. Our work has appeared in gallery shows and we have designed album or book art for the Cruxshadows ("Dreamcypher" and "Ethernaut"), Michael Schulman ("Home"), Abney Park ("Airship Pirates" RPG), and we designed the promotional art for the Dragon*Con 2012 Horror/Dark Fantasy Track.


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