Combine Studios is nestled within ASU’s Art Museum Project Space and part of their International Artist Residency program. The gallery currently houses a continuous preview series called xJumpcuts which includes artists such as Euan Macdonald and others whose work the museum showcases in order to cultivate prospective collaborations. ASU Art Museum will also host Macdonald’s upcoming fall 2018 show End Pages.
The Scottish born artist uses sculpture and installations, drawing and video to comment on topics like the viability of today’s ever growing appetite for change and has shown his work in a multitude of solo shows internationally. Macdonald’s 5:33 minute long HD video “9000 Pieces” showcases his adept yet gentle handling of society’s frequent disregard for routine items through the oversimplification of these objects.
By presenting such seemingly benign pieces in a disjointed manner, the viewer is without other environmental influences to provide distraction. In this way, Macdonald succeeds in drawing attention to these unnoticed processes that silently propel society forward from behind the scenes. With these distractions removed, one is able to view with new eyes a process that likely previously held little importance. Yet as each frame progresses, a sense of solidarity begins to unfold, reminding the viewer that he is a small piece of a very large puzzle.
Accompanying the piece is a haunting yet strangely beautiful soundtrack of notes and hammers, intertwining and fighting for prominence as a device constructed for the sole purpose of calculated destruction pushes the instrument to the brink of its capacity. Today’s cultural inclination towards the new and improved often leaves little room for more traditional methods, but the artist’s deft portrayal submits that the viewer pause in order to fully appreciate how 9,000 pieces of machinery can move with such symbiotic grace.
The cacophony sustains for a full five minute testing period, interspersed with images of the test being administered. The melodic voice of this initial clamor of tones is not immediately discernable. Yet as the viewer settles into the experience of Macdonald’s offering, the two come together in an unexpected marriage that wafts across the auditory palate and takes on a life of its own.
This marriage creates a rhythmic eddy for the senses; the observer cannot extract himself and becomes entranced. Witnessing the process of intense examination of the simulated lifespan of a piano, estimated at about 100 years, gives the audience a sense of time falling away before their eyes. By the completion of the piece, it is the silence that seems deafening rather than the noise.
Macdonald’s simplistic presentation of otherwise ordinary processes and equipment is anything but elementary; the imagery and raw quality of the components themselves bring an elegance to the work. It is reminiscent of a multitude of dancers, intent on conveying their message through movement. Through this work, the artist compels his audience to reexamine many cursory places within their own lives and what that signifies on a broader scale.