Everyday surveillance inspires art exhibit

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Marc Mitchell

“iPhoneCasts” by Marc Mitchell. Photo courtesy of Marc Mitchell

Sam West

By Sam West | Staff Reporter

A collaboration between artists Marc Mitchell and Derek Larson, “[mon-i-ter]” grew out of an exchange of information between the two into an exploration of privacy, surveillance and data collection. The exhibit consists of paintings, sculptures and projected video.

“It’s more conceptual about this idea of surveillance and monitoring, monitoring yourself, others monitoring you, what you willingly give up, what you don’t give up, it’s more about those ideas,” 
Mitchell said.

The project draws inspiration from many sources. Surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency was an obvious influence on the project, but the artists also looked at other ways people track their own lives.

“We thought a lot about people wearing FitBits, and other tracking applications that someone would download on their phone,” Mitchell said.

The exhibit grew out of frequent collaboration between the two artists. Mitchell and Larson used to live in the same town, where they often worked together and visited each other’s studios. But when Mitchell moved away, the artists decided to continue working together by sending images back and forth to each other. Eventually, this grew into a very detailed monitoring of their daily lives.

“It became more and we started tracking things like how many miles we were walking and how many hours we were sleeping, and it got to a point where it was just obsessive and over the top,” 
Larson said.

Mitchell and Larson tracked many of their activities, such as how often they exercised or went on the Internet. This data was then used as the inspiration for the exhibit’s pieces.

A feature of “[mon-i-ter]” is that it features digital projections, a cutting edge form of artistic expression. These technological installations were mostly the vision of Larson, who said that he sought to use them in a way that paid tribute to traditional artistic methods as well.

“The way that it enters the work is always unique and different,” Larson said. “So for me, I’m trying to combine my formal interests in painting and sculpture into the software that I’m using.”

The collaborative element of “[mon-i-ter]” is one of its strongest themes. Larson said he enjoyed working with Mitchell because the two kept each other focused.

“Collaborating with a partner, I find, is motivating and it requires me to stay on point or to make deadlines,” he said. “If you’re working alone it can be easier to slack off or push a deadline off. But with working with somebody, he holds me accountable and I hold him accountable.”

Mitchell, on the other hand, said he found the synergy generated by working with another 
artist beneficial.

“I think that working in this type of collaborative environment, we are able to set up these boundaries, this sort of map for what we’re going to do, and there’s a back and forth which is really exciting,” he said.