In the OPEN SPACE section of Art Cologne 2009, Galerie Thomas Zander presents Mark Thompson’s video installation Immersion (1974-76). Immersion was also the topic of a talk that was held at the OPEN SPACE Lounge. This video documents the conversation between Mark Thompson and Los Angeles-based art critic David Pagel.”¨Mark Thompson (born in Fort Still, Oklahoma in 1950) is an installation artist whose experimental, sculptural environments and performances explore the relationship between the processes of nature and human action. The artist came to art after studying engineering and has worked with bees since the 1970s. He sees the honeybees as a metaphor of communication systems and the complex, intricate workings of life.”¨The film “Immersion”, produced between 1974 and 1976 and presented as a digital projection at this year’s OPEN SPACE exhibition, documents a swarm of bees gradually and almost completey covering the artist’s head, neck and bare chest. The artist, who has been a hobbyist beekeeper for many years, demonstrates his meditative skills as he puts the queen bee on his head and stands immobile while thousands of bees follow their queen. Set against the bright blue Califonia sky, the sculpturesque, opaque bee helmet resembles a magic cap under which the artist disappears little by little.
It is the human who penetrates the space of the animals or rather “immerses” himself in their space – as the title of the work conveys – thus subordniating himself to the processes of nature. Thompson is not concerned with a romanticized representation of the honeybee, a cute character familiar from children’s films that stands for industriousness and chasteness; instead his performance focusses on the encounter, almost a fusion as it were, of human and animal. The artist becomes one of them, “one animal among many” as Thompson put it in an interview. The artist’s bold action is unsettling, it provokes discomfort, yet also inspires admiration. His work tests the limits of the viewers’ imagination and promotes an extended concept of art realized in an alliance of human being and animal.
This video shows an excerpt of the conversation. There’s a full-length version available below.
Art Cologne 2009, April 22, 2009.
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Mark Thompson in conversation with David Pagel at OPEN SPACE, Art Cologne 2009. Complete conversation (49:30 Min.):