THE MORE THAT IS TAKEN AWAY
Mass graves indicate a society in major crisis. Modern history has many examples and new instances can be found in several parts of the world today. Although killers sometimes hide evidence of their crimes, mass graves as spectacle are common. From Wounded Knee photographs to Islamic State videos, perpetrator visuals advertise and reinforce narratives of relentless purpose and control. Some sites become memorials, presenting commemoration, carefully edited histories, and warnings. Even unmarked sites in a nominally post-conflict state can signify the continuing power of perpetrator factions.
The More That Is Taken Away takes the mass grave as its central image in a multiple-year meditation on the intractable collective histories that shape our contemporary world. By protracted manual labor in a constantly crumbling excavation in my own back yard, together with performance and obsessive documentation, I hope to avoid moral certitudes, attempting an open and personal engagement.
The work is loosely divided into three Acts. In the first I dig the earthwork with hand tools. Complex geometric shapes develop but devolve into a simple pit. Weathering deforms the site; I make repeated repairs and modifications. I lose weight and my clothes become ragged. I build a crude watchtower with reclaimed lumber. In Act 2, I record myself as multiple victims, on video and with photographs, using the full length of the site. Life-size cotton-fabric prints of the resulting photographs are placed in the pit and buried for Act 3; the site is then filled and landscaped.
The project may be presented in a number of ways. The Earthwork photographs and the Performance photographs can be exhibited separately or together and with or without limited video. The entire project is an installation; the complete video documentation shows on a large number of screens, together with the photographs and shorter videos. It may also include interactive elements and hand-made artist books. In the large video installation, unedited takes from various stages of the work show simultaneously on the different monitors and the audio tracks blend into a background of weather and rural sounds with a texture of rhythmic work.
The More That Is Taken Away is a fiscally sponsored project of NYFA Fiscal Sponsorship, a program of the New York Foundation for the Arts. The project is also made possible in part with funds from the New York State Council on the Arts' Electronic Media and Film Finishing Funds grant program, administered by The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes (www.NYSCSA.org, www.eARTS.org).