Markeith Chavous

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What Is My Work About?

My work in video, collaborative multimedia installation, and poetry are attempts to sift traces of an elusive, visceral ecstatic from the fringes of perception and language. Individual works are cues and fragments, pulled from personal story, historical narratives of religion, and mystic traditions, that emphasize an engaged awareness, empathy and reflection. Coursing beneath the encounters, oftentimes unspoken, are spiritual themes for the audience to intuit, such as forgiveness, compassion, relinquishment, transience, transcendence, death, rebirth. These are undercurrents, glimpsed again and again, of something indwelling, out-of-sight, and all-too-human.

 

Artist Statement

My current project, “Thousands”, is an elastic multimedia model of being. The title references the eighth chapter of the Buddhist text ‘The Dhammapada’ which, through numerous examples, illustrates the idea that each moment carries a latent potential of revelation beneath or beyond the flux of perceptual or emotive thresholds. A large-scale collaborative project bridging various disciplines, “Thousands” shapes micro-narrative ‘portraits in passing’ of various Los Angeles area neighborhoods, sifted through the remnants and echoes of religious texts and ever-shifting polarities: emerging and submerging, dissolution and becoming, movement and stasis, abstraction and clarity. The curved and sculpted interior of the installation becomes a site of personal and civic reflection, contemplation, acceptance and exchange.

“Thousands” consists of video, audio, textual, sculptural and architectural components. The video frame is vertical, and the scale parallels our own. Poetic painterly, gestural, semi-abstracted driving footage creates a nebulous and rhythmic timespace from which images of individuals or groups filmed in various Los Angeles neighborhoods—Downtown LA, Koreatown, South Central, Santa Clarita—periodically emerge: some no more than a blur of light, color and texture, others in the crystalline clarity of extreme slow motion. The audio consists of a series of recorded poems and a soundscape of various ambient recordings. The poems, composed by myself and poet/media artist Eve Luckring are a collaborative series of paired short form poems recalling freeverse tanka and haiku that references or echoes Christian or Buddhist texts. These punctuate and inform narrative interpretations of both the filmed imagery and the procession of bodies within the installation space. The poetry also exists as a small chapbook, somewhat reminiscent of a psalter, that serves as an interrelated, yet standalone work and a kind of personal documentation of the experience of the installation. The ambience, recorded, designed and mixed by myself and sound artist Andrew Thompson, is a subtle mix of numerous recordings: various Los Angeles neighborhoods; field recordings from Portland, Maine and other parts of New England; recordings from within a bunker on an island off of the Maine coast; expansive desert soundscapes with faint traces of a single human presence; a distant, muted foghorn. The sculptural and architectural elements, designed by myself and scenic designer Aubree Lynn, are site-responsive, and trace a pathway into and out of the space, shaping an experience that can alternate between the visceral and the contemplative.

The “Selected Poems”—some, additional excerpts from the ‘Thousands’ chapbook, others composed while hiking or location scouting—function as standalone works, sketches, and documents of works in-progress. Oftentimes an imagist impression is juxtaposed with an explicit excerpt from a religious text, emphasizing a process of attuning an internal landscape with an external one, as well a recontextualizing and internalization of religion-derived meaning and precedent. The poems, as fragmented and distilled as they are, play a crucial role in shaping the larger, more complex works, sometimes becoming echoes of video images or audio/textual components of installations.

“my heart trembles, winds do not last” is a filmic diptych that emphasizes an engaged awareness and shifts in consciousness and perception through time. The piece is durational. The simultaneity of the diptych form, and the fluctuating audio/visual perspectives of static and kinetic landscapes provides a slate for the viewer’s personal associations to arise and disperse amidst distended and contracted perceptions of time. Two poems, composed entirely of excerpts from Taoist, Hindu, Buddhist and Christian texts, punctuate the work, provide the slimmest trace of personal and historical narratives of spirituality, and underscore unspoken yet viscerally present allusions to disparity, reconciliation, and transience.

“Vessel-Self” is a silent visual poem that explores the fluctuating intersections of perception and subjectivity, and the dissolution and displacement of an elusive metaphoric ‘self’ through time. It is a meditation stirred by this passage from the Bhagavad Gita: “Death is inevitable for the the living; birth is inevitable for the dead.”

 

CV

EDUCATION

2014                MFA in Film and Video, California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA

2011                BFA magna cum laude in Studio Art/New Media, UMF Honors Program (2009-2011) University of Maine at Farmington, Farmington,

ME

2000-2001   Studies in Painting, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, ME

 

SOLO EXHIBITIONS

2014                MFA Thesis show, 1st iteration of “Thousands”, California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA (collaborated with poet Eve Luckring,

sound artist Andrew Thompson, and scenic designer Aubree Lynn)

2013                “my heart trembles, winds do not last”, California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA

2011                “That Instant Is”, Honors Thesis Show, University of Maine in Farmington, Farmington, ME

 

GROUP EXHIBITIONS AND SCREENINGS

2011                Short Video “Release/Excavation pt. 2”, screened at Lewiston/Augusta Film Festival, Augusta, ME

2010                “SHIFT”, New Studio A.D., Albuquerque, NM.

2010                “IN DECISION”, University of Maine in Farmington, Farmington, ME

 

COLLABORATIVE PROJECTS

2014                1st edition of “Thousands”, a book of collaborative freeverse tanka and haiku written with media artist and poet Eve Luckring.

Accompanies the installation of the same name and also exists as a standalone work.

 

PUBLICATIONS

2014                “a windless skin…”, The Heron’s Nest, Volume XIV, Issue 4, 2014

 

AWARDS AND FELLOWSHIPS

2014                CalArts Diversity Grant, CalArts Interdisciplinary Grant, CalArts Student Council Grant, CalArts School of Film/Video Dean’s Grant

2013                CalArts Interdisciplinary Grant

2011-2013      Skirball Foundation Scholarship

2011                Wilson Research Fellowship to complete video triptych That Instant Is

2010                Judges Award (Honorable Mention) and Audience Award, Pixel Hunter Animation Festival, for “Lifebeat”, Farmington, ME