Hengler, Michael Thomas
[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [May 2013]
This paper will explore the symbolic, cultural, and technical aspects of my thesis exhibition Still Flow, which was exhibited at the University of Hawaii-Manoa's (UH-Manoa) Commons Gallery from March 8-15, 2013. This thesis exhibition and paper are the culmination of six years of creative inquiry into how to utilize the earth's volcanic process and product as an artistic means of expression. This process and research was formed and adjusted over the years in response to the technical and cultural complications that arose around it. This paper will therefore also delve into the relevant topics that altered and directed the outcome of this thesis project in order to understand why an artwork dealing with the abovementioned subject matter is of any consequence and is worth the creator's making and the critics' contemplation. The artwork Still Flow is a multimedia installation that utilizes a video projection, sculpture, and commercially processed materials. It functions as an allegory for human effort and the complexity of nature (human, cultural, social, economic, ecologic, and geologic) that arises and has arisen through time. The major symbols used in this allegory-a boat made of cooled lava, commoditized (culturally revered) land, machines (helicopters), molten lava rivers, and a voyage-create an art-space that exists as a forum in which inquisitive viewers will consider how these symbols relate to their own efforts to exist in nature. The combination of the aforementioned symbols function as a corollary to the complexities of human existence and the eruptive volcanic continuum that shapes this earth: both rise from the earth, journey within and around this sphere, and return to it when that energy has been expended. Because of the remote location (the lava fields of the Big Island of Hawaii) and the material utilized (Hawaiian cinder), it is also a dialog about the native Hawaiian population and the non-natives who have moved to the islands. This interface between the Polynesian diaspora that originally settled on the islands of Hawaii, who self-identify as Hawaiians, and those who are not of the same genetic origin, has created conflicts of interest regarding topics of colonization, property rights, identity, exploitation, and ethical practices. The objective of this exhibition is multivalent in nature. It was not meant to solve the previously mentioned problems, but instead intended to bring them into a social forum so that those who wished to engage in these topics had an outlet to express their opinions. It was also intended to present those uninformed about this subject matter a setting in which they might question the intention of the artwork and begin a path towards seeking the information that could help them to understand some of the complexities of living on the Hawaiian Islands. Lastly, this was an artwork that responded to and was formed by my interaction with the people native to Hawaii, as well as the non-natives. This thesis exhibition began as a way to explore my fascination with the geothermal process that has formed and is still forming this sphere on which we walk. While searching for ways to create an artwork from the volcanism of Hawaii, my fascination was quickly encircled by the more contentious and perplexing cultural and economic perspectives that contribute to the underpinnings of this artwork's allegory. It is best to begin with a formal description of the thesis exhibition's video, sculpture, and commercial components to understand how this artwork functions on all of these levels.
M.F.A. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2013.
Includes bibliographical references.
Includes bibliographical references.
Theses for the degree of Master of Fine Arts (University of Hawaii at Manoa). Art.
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