Megan and Murray McMillan make large scale installation and performance projects that result in short videos, installations and photography series.
Their process starts as they construct a complex, architectural set in their studio or site-specifically on location. That set becomes the stage for a short video and series of photographs consisting of choreographed actors who activate the movable set pieces for a performance. The video and the photographs become the viewer’s window into a seemingly impossibly constructed situation which could only exist for a short time and in a specific place. Each element of the work –– set, performance, video, photographs–– contains evolving iterations of the project’s concept and is designed to both stand on its own and work in concert with the others.
Their intention is to find a connective thread between the temporality of video and the observational distance of photographs to situate the viewer directly inside a metaphorical, visceral, fabricated environment, which is usually completely inaccessible to an audience — in the coal bin of a decommissioned power plant or on a small boat circling a small island in the Gulf of Finland. The McMillans employ a varied lexicon of elements throughout their work: vessels that transport passengers from one place to another; theatrical stages; bridges, passageways, rooms; and performers. In their videos, these performers transition from one space to another. They make small journeys. They inhabit a place in flux.
The people that they invite to perform in their work often, through their own life stories, drive their concept. They select performers with rich histories and personal resources. They invite them to “be themselves in this space” and engage in behaviors and movements that they intimately understand: a group of friends at a dinner party, a married couple folding sheets, an art historian engaged in research or a cook in the kitchen making soup. These unchoreographed performers work side-by-side the performers who are choreographed. This second group acts as the “operators” within this system: moving lamps, constructing flowers, manipulating spotlights. This way, they hope the distinction between “real” performance and “staged” performance becomes slippery.
The McMillans have exhibited large scale video installations at Mass MoCA in Massachusetts, the Kunsthallen Brandts Museum in Odense, Denmark, The State Museum of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki, Greece, The RISD Museum in Rhode Island and the deCordova Museum in Massachusetts. Their work has been included in 2014 Nuit Blanche in Toronto 2012 deCordova Biennial, the 2nd Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art, the 10th International Istanbul Biennial and was featured in a 2013 internationally broadcast video art festival in a solo exhibition curated by Paolo Colombo during the Ikono On-Air Festival in Berlin. They’ve received grants from the Harpo Foundation and the Kittredge Fund and have been reviewed in Art in America. The McMillans have been artists in residence in Barcelona, Los Angeles, Athens, and Turku, Finland. Their work has been featured in film festivals in New York, London, Los Angeles, Switzerland, Austria, Croatia, Greece and Romania.
Megan McMillan (born 1975, Dallas, TX) is a professor of practice at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts in Boston. Murray McMillan (born 1973, Dallas, TX) is an associate professor at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island. The McMillans have been married since 1997.