RENDER A new installation by Mel Chin
February 19 - March 29, 2003
One approaches RENDER finding the way into a space wrapped in white muslin. A condition resides within the enshrouded room. A portrait, framed in steel, tearfully eyes the exit encrusted with shattered particles of painted abstractions. The visage, painted in oils Venetian style, is 'clown compromised' and 'terrorized' by an overt 'masking' leaving only sad eyes and a down-turned mouth on classic kitsch black velvet. The portrait reviews encaustic-coated fragments of wood and fabric (shredded kuffiyeh, Palestinian scarves) explosively imbedded in the walls. All the painted bits collectively constitute the calibrated physical mass of a twenty-three year old woman.
The seemingly unrelated subjects, rendered through the mediums of art, are utilized to create a tool to expand the spectrum of understanding. Chin considers this work an effort to 'make a space' combining disparate events to further articulate the unspeakable and unknowable circumstances of tragedy.
"Selected fragments of extremes constitute a picture of reality. In RENDER, an impression of a heartfelt moment of emotional weakness and the horrific aftermath of a suicide bomber co-exist to expose a pervasive condition in which we all live. A comfortable world, muddled by excessive sentimentality, removes a connection to the source of tears and mutes the cries of despair and desperation. RENDER does not intend to critique a world inundated with consumption, entertainment, soothing diversions, stereotypes, generalizations and obsessive forensics. RENDER seeks to understand the current destructive reality, which may require spaces that aggressively activate the desire to question its causes. RENDER is a space intended as a catalytic structure to provoke critical engagement in the waves of modern war, to challenge its sorrowful vocabulary and the events it continues to unleash." _____________Notes on Render by Mel Chin.
Chin offers two quotations that suggest the subject and content of RENDER. One is taken from Bernard Henri Lévy's book, Réflexions sur la Guerre, le Mal et la Fin: "Ne se trouvera-t-il pas, parmi ces damnés qui nous ont entendus declarer close la cérémonie de l'Histoire, d'autres kamikazes pour venir dire aux nations : vous nous avez ignorés vivants, nous voici morts ; vous n'avez, de cette mort, rien voulu savoir tant qu'elle se produisait chez nous, nous la jetons à vos pieds, dans le brasier qui vous consume ; nous étions des vivants invisibles, nous deviendrons des suicidés visibles." ("And among those wretches who heard us declare that the ritual of History was at an end, might there not be other suicide bombers who will come to tell the nations: "you ignored us while we were alive, well, here we are, dead; our death didn't interest you as long as it occurred on our own territory, well, now we throw it at your feet in the fire that consumes you; though we were invisible as long as we lived, visible suicides is what we will become.")
The other quote from James Baldwin's Notes of a Native Son: "Sentimentality, the ostentatious parading of excessive and spurious emotion, is the mark of dishonesty, the inability to feel; the wet eyes of the sentimentalist betray his aversion to experience, his fear of life, his arid heart; and it is always, therefore, the signal of a secret and violent inhumanity, the mask of cruelty. "
Mel Chin is a conceptual artist known for the broad range of approaches in his art, including works that require multi-disciplinary, collaborative teamwork and works that conjoin cross-cultural aesthetics with complex ideas. His last presentation at the Frederieke Taylor gallery was KNOWMAD an installation of a video game designed by Chin that featured an interactive drive through oriental carpets digitally rewoven into challenging 3D worlds.
His body of work also includes installations that serve as critical investigations and observations into social and political matters. Formally spare, with carefully considered material choices, works such as RENDER are spaces where focused meditation can occur. Other works, such as Revival Field (1989-ongoing), a project using plants to remove toxic, heavy metals from the soil, and In the Name of the Place, a conceptual public art project conducted on prime-time television's Melrose Place, are projects that reflect the diversity of his approach to art.
He is the lead artist for the first joint university/public library in the United States in San Jose, California, which will be completed in 2003. Chin was one of 16 artists included in the PBS Series Art of the 21st Century, which aired nationally in the Fall of 2001.