Whitney Biennial 2014: Dave McKenzie

May 15, 2014

For the run of the exhibition, SVA Close Up is highlighting members of the SVA community selected for the 2014 Whitney Biennial (March 7 – May 25). This is the sixth installment in the series.

2014 has been a seminal year for MFA Fine Arts faculty member and multimedia artist Dave McKenzie, who is a 2014 Whitney Biennial artist and was recently selected as a 2014 – 15 recipient of the prestigious Rome Prize.

dave2Mckenzie’s video installation The Beautiful One Has Come is featured on the second floor of this year’s Biennial, curated by Anthony Elms. Here McKenzie juxtaposes two recordings: one depicting the famous Nefertiti bust during visiting hours at the Neues Museum in Berlin, and the other showing an abandoned, decrepit building, with pieces of furniture and other artifacts abandoned and left to decay. Much of his previous work has included himself as subject matter, but this time McKenzie steps out of the frame (though his presence is evinced in the handheld video of Nefertiti), focusing instead on inanimate objects in a living environment. In a February interview with the Studio Museum in Harlem, McKenzie says of the Biennial videos, “they are notably different from other videos that I have made, in that, my presence behind the camera is more important than my presence in front of it. Beyond all that I am just incredibly happy with them…”

Dave1The second floor of the Biennial has been noted for its inclusion of literary and archival material, such as Joseph Grigley’s presentation of The Gregory Battcock Archive, and Public Collectors’ installation of artifacts from the life of music recorder and activist Malachi Ritscher. In this vein, McKenzie’s installation invites reflection on what is lost and retained over time—what is saved and what slips by, and the tension between irreversible ruin and meticulous preservation. As an artist who works in multiple mediums, including video, sculpture and performance, McKenzie creatively manipulates material to explore ideas. On the significance of concept, McKenzie reflects in his interview with the Studio Museum on a lecture given by performance artist Vito Acconci, “His lecture is probably the only one from that period in time that I still have an after image of. In talking about his own history he said something along these lines, ‘I knew I could be an artist because I knew I could think.’ That for me was confirmation of something that I had started to believe and still to this day believe. It is not that I don’t value the hand and eye in making but to think is already a form of participation and creation.”

Images: Dave McKenzie, production stills from The Beautiful One Has Come, 2012. Video, color, sound; 5:48 min. Collection of the artist. Courtesy the artist. Copyright Dave McKenzie. Photograph by Dave McKenzie.

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