(LOS ANGELES - AUG. 23, 2017) — Fathomers is pleased to announce the launch of Twelve Earths, an extended collaboration with Michael Jones McKean, in which the artist asserts a contemporary mythos considering the earth as a single, unified body of parallel, crisscrossing narratives; a sculptural poem on time, being, becoming, and re-becoming. In its transcendence of boundary lines — both terrestrial and extraterrestrial, physical and nonphysical — the work encourages the earth to grow as a container of more infinite, robust, and wanton histories and realities. In totality, Twelve Earths will emerge as a sculpture scaled to the planet itself, revealing ambitions geologic, archaeologic, ecologic, folkloric, and humanistic.
Designed to unfurl over the course of a decade, the project takes the form of a terrestrial loop around the globe, a 25,000-mile great circle unifying 12 precisely geo-coordinated locations that embody and reflect the broadest spectrum of possibility: mineral deposits and nuclear fallout, alchemy and science, continents and continental drift, cities and primeval forests, architecture and geology, water birth clinics and animal sanctuaries. By building a dense meshwork of contact points with people, places, processes, objects, and events — establishing brief and long-form encounters where time/space distances can swirl, collapse, and dissolve — these sites aim to stimulate the recombinatory, transmutational, co-occurring realities ever-present within the world.
“Twelve Earths is a project born of deep, abiding curiosity about the full range of possible experience on this planet,” says Stacy Switzer, curator and executive director of Fathomers. “It insists that we think beyond ourselves and outside the myopia of the present to consider the past and future as tangible, affecting frames of reference.
“As an organization, Fathomers exists to carve space for the unfathomable, and to propose and test new models of earnest and generative collaboration between artists, scientists, institutions, and the public,” Switzer says. “We are incredibly fortunate to be working with Michael, whose vision for Twelve Earths is as generous as it is demanding in terms of re-thinking scope, scale, and support structures for artist-led projects.”
Twelve Earths’ opening stanza involves the Teignmouth Electron, an infamous sailing vessel commissioned for a solo attempt in the late 1960s to circle the earth without stopping; its journey ended in tragic failure for the amateur yachtsman at its helm. Beached for decades on the remote Caribbean island of Cayman Brac, the decaying trimaran has long been a muse of artists, inspiring literature, artworks, plays, performances, photographs, folklore, films, songs, and journalistic accounts. For McKean, who purchased the boat ten years ago, the vessel operates as a siren-like talisman — a ruin now morphed into relic.
“The designed purpose of this boat was to traverse the earth and to understand it — not in the abstract, as a map or data set, but as a complex, four-dimensional object,” says artist Michael Jones McKean. “The boat feels like a logical entry point, then, in imagining an artwork that considers the earth as a total object, its stories and intensities.”
In March 2017, McKean, Fathomers, and a team of researchers traveled to Cayman Brac to create an archaeological record of the Electron, an effort that culminated in the selection of a single wood fragment from the wreckage site. That fragment will next undergo a hyper-rapid aging process, racing through millions of years of molecular time in a matter of weeks to emerge as a fossil — one that maintains an anthro-record of contemporary existence, yet is encoded with all the markers of an object that has endured epochs. On a site identified by a titanium marker, this new fossil will be inserted deep in the earth’s geologic record, a small portal between timelines and realities, to serve as the first of 12 beacons in Twelve Earths.
The coordinates to come (an ordinary house harboring a 300-million-year-old atmosphere; a newly engineered tree species; an F1 engine grown in bone …) will be revealed as they manifest over time, encouraging a more empathic relationship to materials and bodies in the fullest, most speculative sense. In their extremeness, these loci build out a weird humanism composed of energies, evolutions, speeds, spaces, universes, planets, extinction, and regeneration — the very motions of life at all registers. As a linked set, they compress a physical narrative that can be understood in pieces and fragments, yet also endure as a single, cohesive unit.
An artwork framed within the here-and-now, Twelve Earths attempts to tell us about ourselves, within a structure that nods to a long history of humans attempting to understand our world. Within the project’s conceptual and material DNA, though, is a desire to commune with unknown and distant futures, with obscene geologic timescales — worlds remote and without us. As the project arcs toward completion, its earthbound circuit will be retraced from above by a satellite, circumnavigating the ring in concentric orbit from the void of space.
PUBLIC PROGRAMS: LOS ANGELES (FALL 2017)
As Twelve Earths seeks to link locations, so it does people and stories, expertise and experience, the sum total of which will define the limits of the project. Fathomers and McKean are pleased to be working with an extended team of scientists, technologists, engineers, and thinkers. A series of public programs beginning in October 2017 will in part facilitate early- and mid-stage collaborative research, informing and extending the technical and communicative possibilities of the project.
The collaboration also involves the production of a porous project website, where back-end activity — conversations, documentation, mock-ups, links, musings, and tangents — will be freely available to access and engage, to explore development of thought and depth of action in unusually permeable ways.
ABOUT MICHAEL JONES MCKEAN
Michael Jones McKean (b. 1976, Micronesia, lives / works New York City) is the recipient of numerous awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Nancy Graves Foundation Award and an Artadia Award. McKean has been awarded fellowships and residencies at the Core Program at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; MacDowell Colony; International Studio and Curatorial Program, New York; Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center; Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts; and Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program, New York.
McKean’s work has been exhibited extensively nationally and internationally. Recent exhibitions include the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA; Parc Saint Leger Centre d’art Contemporain, Nevers, France; Horton Gallery, New York, NY; Quebec Biennale, Quebec City; Gentili Apri, Berlin; the Art Foundation, Athens, Greece; Inman Gallery, Houston, TX; Parisian Laundry, Montreal; Project Gentili, Prato, Italy; Shenkar University, Tel Aviv; the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, NC; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, among many others.
McKean is currently an Associate Professor in the Sculpture + Extended Media Department at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he has taught since 2006, and co-director of ASMBLY, based in New York.
Twelve Earths is co-developed and produced by Fathomers, a creative research institute in Los Angeles dedicated to producing transformative sites and encounters at the intersections of science, technology, and contemporary art.
As the successor to Grand Arts — the influential project space in Kansas City, Mo., that operated from 1995 to 2015 — we commit to implausible sets of ideas shaped by urgent conditions and proceed with open minds, engaging expansive thinkers to resolve complex problems and documenting our experiments along the way. We do this because we value discoveries made absent predetermined outcomes, and we believe in the power of the realized dream as a test site and model for visionary change.