The Undaunted Project
Mixed Media Installations and Documentary Film, 2012 - Present
HOW THE UNDAUNTED PROJECT STARTED (WHAT WAS I THINKING OF):
I have always had a tremendous interest in sociology. The UNDAUNTED PROJECT was inspired by this interest and as a direct result of the severe polarization in political thought taking place in our country over the last decade.
Friendships of long standing broke up over differences in attitudes informed by the rantings of the rating - seeking “talking heads” associated with competing television or radio stations. Incredibly, people were unable to see how these sensationalized programs were filtering their thinking and destroying their own sense of well being along with the healthy spirit of our country.
This severe polarization goes beyond our country to the world - from religious, ethnic and political extremism. I also observed that the unique social mores of a particular community or place also contributed to this polarization. When they say "When in Rome do what the Romans do." this aptly describes the expectations of insular communities. In talking with people, associates, friends, I became acutely aware that most people are oblivious to how their thoughts and feelings about themselves and life are defined by their association with both a physical and social environment. So I wanted to explore this phenomena from an artistic point of view, study it, express it and present it in a way to create a different kind of discussion.
WHAT IS THE UNDAUNTED PROJECTS INTENTION:
My intent and indeed efforts since the beginning of 2012, is to create an artistic experience, that demonstrates the fundamentals of the “COLLECTIVE” impact, without taking a political or a particular social more point of view. To keep it as a study of the sociological aspects of these basic social and physical environmental influences that we struggle with to differentiate ourselves in life as we aspire for happiness and fulfillment. The social aspect I refer to as the "COLLECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS" and the environmental aspect I refer to as "COLLECTIVE SAMENESS".
The Project involves the creation and ultimate exhibition of two large Mixed Media Installations and a collaborative Documentary by Videographer, Ty Migota. The UNDAUNTED installations explore the superjacent power of both the “collective consciousness” from association with our social and group environments and “collective sameness” stemming from the influence of our physical environments. It is my hope that the two installations along with the film are presented together in one focused exhibition in a public format like a museum and become part of their permanent collection or are shared by multiple museums in a traveling exhibition.
Because of the process of exploring diverse views and the necessity of engaging contributors and supporters, I established the project as an audience participation "Project" verses just my own artistic singular vision. As a result, our own "Collective" understanding emerged, and that is that the idea is timely, as there is an overwhelming exhaustion with the polarization and hate speak pervasive in our current culture. Would the artistic presentation of UNDAUNTED arouse both a welcome and challenging discussion when presented within the auspices of a museum. We have had the involvement of over 50 individuals to date who have contributed greatly to this vision. Work on The UNDAUNTE PROJECT was launched in 2012 after raising $90,000 from participants and supporters, and currently is in the last stages of completion pending final funding of $65,000.
Both collective consciousness based on associations and collective sameness based on physical environment determine how we see ourselves and others, what we do and think and communicate, how we live and experience life. Together the two facets reveal the dynamics we struggle with, and thus, what is valuable to understand the challenges between individuality or conformity and how they affect our sense of personal well being and sense of community.
HOW WE CAME UP WITH THE TITLE "UNDAUNTED"
I became attracted to the word “Undaunted” as the title of the project, because of the nuances of its use. For example it can mean unshaken in your beliefs or it can mean having the courage to go in a different direction than traditional beliefs. Thus as a title for this body of work it draws attention to the dilemma created by the collective influence of environment and collective consciousness suggesting that it might take great courage to overcome these influences while it also implies the very nature of resoluteness in a belief associated with collective thinking or associated with a particular environment.
These apparent contradictions are explored in the installations, providing a visual experience that might open the discussion around the subject. While philosophically the discussion is challenging and interesting, through these installations I am attempting to distill the ideas down to a simplistic presentation that can be understood and contemplated by anyone, even a child.
SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT INSTALLATION - COLLECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS OR GROUP THINK
The first installation which is almost completed, deals with Collective consciousness or “group think.” It impacts us on a global level as well as a local level. Political, religious, national, or social structures, family, and groups all dominate and direct our thinking, creating filters for how we as individuals form opinions, perceive and experience life around us.
In a large space boxes covered in resin with imbedded photographs of faces of people (Undaunted participants) are stacked haphazardly one on the other. Crammed together, like the seeming inescapable power of collective thought.
On one side of each box is an image of a happy face of joy, laughter, contentment, or pleasure of a particular individual. On the reverse side is the same individual with a hateful, sad, disgusted, enraged or angry expression. At various points on each face are numbers corresponding to one of 60 defined emotional facial expressions typical of certain emotions. On the walls or floor are visible and changing projections of these expression descriptions.
The idea behind this first installation is to bring awareness to the impact of group think or collective consciousness. If you stand on one side of the faces looking at all happy people, how does that make you feel, or walk through to the other side of miserable people, what do you feel? If we become aware of how our feelings are a direct result of the attitudes of those we surround ourselves with. The question, distilled down in such a simple experiment, is how can awareness of the impact of collective attitudes affect us and can we transcend and or alter attitudes?
PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT INSTALLATION - COLLECTIVE SAMENESS
Our physical environments often define who we are and impact us on many subtle levels. The old saying “When in Rome, do what the Romans do” is at the heart of this idea that collective sameness is a product of environment. The second installation focuses on the impact of place. How are we as people impacted by a place, like the beauty of nature or a run down filthy environment or an extraordinary environment of some type. How do we individuate and develop because of, or despite, the impact of our environments and the sameness they drive us towards. What are our attitudes about caring for, honoring, valuing, changing or possibly improving these environments.
In this installation a large group of life-size figures are placed in 4 distinctly different environments. The reaction to these figures by onlookers along with the installation itself is captured in video by videographer Ty Migota. In the end the figures are installed in a public space like a museum where they fill a large room. Because of their unique construction they collectively allude to a city scape of architectural shapes, thereby as a group, ultimately becoming their own sense of environment. In the exhibition the film is projected on a wall or floating screen nearby.
The figures, like the faces, are two sided. One side has the person holding a sign or something with the single word “UNDAUNTED” written on it in bold letters. The other side, the figure is posed holding a personal artifact. The question is presented that the need for unique individuality separate from the environments we find ourselves in is a basic human need and to achieve that requires us to be Undaunted. Yet we are driven to adhere to the expectations a certain environment projects. This installation looks at cultures that make every effort to encourage sameness and questions how this impacts the human spirit. It also encourages us to look at the personal impact we have had by the environments we live or work in and/or what value we add to these environments.