Max Dean

By Mark, Lisa Gabrielle | Artforum International, November 2000 | Go to article overview

Max Dean


Mark, Lisa Gabrielle, Artforum International


SUSAN HOBBS GALLERY

Since the '70s, Max Dean's interactive installations have solicited the active participation of viewers, calling. on them to perform (or refrain from performing) particular actions that will determine the outcome of a changing work Those who take part assume a level of responsibility for how the piece plays out; for example, in As Yet Untitled, 1992-95, viewers could temporarily stop a robot from shredding old photographs. Dean's recent installation, Sneeze, 2000, continued in this vein but thwarted the viewer's control once it had been established.

Sneeze bears all of Dean's trademarks: cutting-edge technology, interactivity, and elegant design. An aluminum lectern with two microphones stood near a large pane of glass; viewers could sit in chairs on one side of the "window" or stand at the lectern on the other side. Speaking into the microphones caused a series of six stillimages to appear consecutively on the glass, which was specially engineered so that they appeared clearly on both sides of the pane at once. Each microphone triggered its own sequence of images: Using the right microphone called forth images of a man photographed from the back in an interior; he is seen walking to a desk drawer and pulling our some files. The still images are then replaced by a moving DVD image, in which the camera closes in eerily on the back of the man's neck. Speaking into the left microphone initiated a still sequence in which the same man, hand over face and apparently in distress, is walking outside; the DVD then shows the man falling to the ground and lapsing i nto a seizure. Though the viewer might continue to speak into the microphones after the sequence of still scenes has given way to the moving image, this DVD segment is not voice activated. Dean sets it up so that, in both sequences, the viewer loses control of the work at the moment of greatest vulnerability for the subject.

Though no sneeze occurs in Sneeze, the work revolves around just such a sudden loss of control--and, perhaps unintentionally, the possibility for pleasure in this suspended state. …

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