Jesse McLean

from Invisible Tracks


Magic Wand

Artist Statement

In these video pieces, a variety of recent images of Iraq are taken out of context, pulled apart, erased, delineated and reassembled. The images range from the disturbingly familiar scenes of military disaster, lesser-known scenes of home life, and a group of leisure photographs, with both soldiers and civilians enjoying themselves despite the overwhelming situation that surrounds them. The underlying structure of the application Adobe Photoshop, popular software used for retouching and manipulating photographic images, is revealed by the representation of several tools, such as the clone tool, the magic wand selector and the checkered backgrounds that connote transparency. Procedural tools are typically hidden from view, used to adjust the image prior to its final presentation, the final gesture of which is richly called “flattening.” Revealing the structure is a reminder that these images are capable of being altered continuously, from the photojournalist’s chosen composition, to the method used to deploy the images, to the hand of the artist, myself. More than a transgression, the way I disclose the manipulation performed upon images serves as an attempt to form a more active relationship with them. As the images are taken apart, a desire to see them reassembled arises, signifying an interest in connecting with the images. When reassembled, their latent power is emphasized. The variety of images is crucial in my attempt to avoid perpetuating a “standard” image of Iraq, i.e. the destroyed site. However, no matter how many of these iconic images we see, they are impossible to ignore. I believe that through the combination of familiar and unfamiliar imagery, the aftermath paired with the fragile present, a negotiation of the convoluted relationship between spectatorship and empathy can be explored.

Jesse McLean is a media artist whose research is motivated by a deep curiosity about human behavior and relationships, and is concerned with both the power and the failure of the mediated experience to bring people together. She has presented her work at museums, galleries, and film festivals worldwide, including the International Film Festival Rotterdam, The Netherlands; Rome Film Festival, Italy, Venice Film Festival, both Italy; Transmediale, Berlin; 25 FPS Festival, Zagreb, Croatia; European Media Arts Festival, Osnabrück, Germany; Impakt, Utrecht, The Netherlands; CPH:DOX, Copenhagen; Images Festival; Kassel Documentary Film and Video Festival, Kassel, Germany; Garage Center for Contemporary Culture, Moscow; BIOS, Athens, Greece; CCCB, Barcelona, Spain; Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis; Interstate Projects, PPOW Gallery, both New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit; Gallery 400, Three Walls, both Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago. She was the recipient of a Jury Prize (First Prize) in the International Competition at the 2013 Videoex Festival, Zürich, Switzerland, received the Ghostly Award for Best Sound Design at the 2012 Ann Arbor Film Festival, and the Overkill Award at the 2011 Images Festival and the Barbara Aronofsky Latham Award for Emerging Experimental Video Artist at the 2010 Ann Arbor Film Festival.