|My Artworks cross a line into a imaginary zone where the work is not so much the reality of its time- it is the reality of a time. The characters and situations that punctuate our live ultimately reveal more and more information about ourselves, to ourselves. To reconsider our own personal memories we must relate to the space and imagery, imaginatively embody the place or moment in which these memories were created. Inevitably they came from a moment, a memory, which is itself an embodiment of, or a receptacle for ourselves, raising questions of duality, and self identity. I am trying to work with ideas of transience, that can be communicated on the basis that we use mass culture information stored in our memory to interpret our own position in the present.
Intervention by friends and colleagues play a key role in the realization of my work. Allowing others to have input in my work reflects the desire to chaperone chance and circumstance. Photographs have soul, they absorb and retain energy, they have their own history and memories. The surfer image echoes and shadows a different time or place. Each time I approach this image, its colour and mood varies. The intensity differs while the same motif evolves revealing a window of that moment. The imagery of swimmers and surfers in the work and research questions the attraction sea and water have to humans. The junket of water, is much like a river and a metaphor for a trip through time, through our life. This raises questions with self-position; the space surrounding the individual, circumstances and chance. It would seem chance is the unpredictable element that shapes our existence in the first place. What is becoming apparent through my research and within my practice is my interest in this journey.
Dougi McMillan - 27th April, 2002.....11.35p.m.
The title Narcissus Narcosis frames new work by Scottish artist Douglas McMillan and signifies the artist’s marked interest in the universal nature of human existence. Narcissus, the handsome young man who, according to Greek legend, was punished and made to fall in love with his mirror image on the water surface. He became totally consumed by this insatiable love and moved into a state of stupor, insensible or unconscious of what happened around him. Douglas McMillan, who trained as an artist to MFA level at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee, concerns himself with the workings of human memory as the key to evolving and sustained identity, individually and collectively. His explorations of the complex relationship between memory, time and chance draw on Greek mythology, on 20th century themes and motifs of popular culture as well as on the banal yet cherished found traces of individual life such as the holiday snapshot photograph.
In formal terms he investigates and visualises the perception and interpretation of space through the human body. His response to the three-dimensional structure of a specific site may lead to the making of special corporeal objects, which are then positioned within this space to create palpable tensions with the built environment and the receptive beholder. Likewise, he inscribes his own body gesturally and performatively in a space and documents the result using lens-based media, photography and video. The images might also be exposed to some digital manipulation.
For the project at the Crawford Arts Centre, McMillan has brought together these two strands of aesthetic enquiry to form an intriguing installation. The centre piece consists of a large cubic box which contains ‘One hundred reasons not to look back’. It took its inspirations from the Orpheus theme. Orpheus, the son of the muse Calliope and the river god Oiagros, lost his beloved wife Eurydice to the poisonous bite of a snake. Inconsolable, the bard moved to the Under World. With his music moved the rulers of Hades so that they released Eurydice back to earth. Yet, when Orpheus broke the set rule and looked back to see Eurydice, who followed him, she had to return to the realm of the dead forever. It is in our memory that the dead and our love live on, and even if we forget, they are kept in the treasury of the human subconscious. Thus Hades can be understood as a symbol for our subconsciousness. According to Orphism, the ancient cult that developed from the Orpheus myth, she who wants to become conscious of oneself has to drink from the flowing sping on the right – Mnemosyne (memory) – and avoid the source on the left – Lethe, the water of forgetting. This reflects surprisingly accurately our present insights into the workings of the brain. It is the right side of our brain where images are stored and myths of the past – even though they are not frequently required in everyday live - are kept. The journey to the Netherworld can also be interpreted as journey into the past, where the forgotten figures and experiences from the reservoir of oneís own history reappear and ask for reintegration in ones present live. Yet, contemporary, urban existence – driven by the new information and communication technologies – increasingly demands that we life for the moment, neither looking back nor risk to glance at the future.
This contemplative work is flanked on the one side by the projection of randomly changing stills from the film The Swimmer, featuring Burt Lancaster moving through the water of several swimming pools. On the opposing side of the room a photograph captures the artist with a surfing board on St Andrews West Sand. The image functions as a paradoxical re-enactment of a seemingly arbitrary holiday snapshot of a young Australian surfer, taken on a sunny beach down under. For the owner of the photograph it may capture an emotionally charged encounter. The sitter may have intended this picture as a special token of friendship and a reminder against the waters of oblivion. The photograph may have reminded the artist of his own past experience and current life situation and desires.
It is water that provides the ‘connective tissue’ between McMillan’s works in the show. It never stands still and therefore symbolises the infinite rhythm and flow of life – life that is unthinkable without memory.
Dr. Kerstin Mey,
Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design,
University of Dundee