Over the past year or so, Mike Marcus has been pasting up countless copies of one image. His gas mask wearing mannequin can be found across London. Sometimes, she is hidden and just a few inches tall, other times, she is larger-than-life and in your face.
This Thursday marks the opening of Isolitude at Jealous Gallery, Marcus’ joint installation with sound artist Amie Slavin, which centers on his photograph. I spoke with Marcus recently about photography, street art, and Isolitude.
Marcus was born in London, and moved he to Tel Aviv as an adult. He’s worked in photography for over a decade making both the fine art and commercial work.
Though he still does some work in film, he is done with advertising. “If you work in the advertising world, it’s just f***ing s***ty,” Marcus said.
Originally, Marcus kept his fine art photography and his street work separate, but recently they have been merging closer together. Isolitude is the first show where Marcus is exhibiting his work for the street in a gallery setting. The installation will be full of larger-than-life cutouts of his gasmask mannequin.
In addition to Marcus’ visual part of the show, Slavin will be contributing a soundtrack to the installation. Slavin and Marcus met earlier this year at SightSonic, a digital arts festival, and they discussed doing collaborating at some point. That opportunity came just a few weeks ago when the Jealous Gallery let Marcus know that the same time they were releasing a print by him, he could do an installation in the gallery.
“I literally had a lunch hour to figure out what I wanted to do.” Marcus said.
Obviously, Marcus agreed to do the show, and he asked Slavin if she was interested in doing it with him. Since then, he’s been working practically non-stop to get everything ready in time for the opening.
Although Marcus is primarily a fine artist, he has strong ties to the Tel Aviv street art community where he is well known for his controversial work on the street dealing with the occupation.
Marcus was raised in a heavily Zionist household, but now he is against the Israeli occupation, and he feels that the Palestinians are regularly mistreated. “I realized the history I was taught was totally wrong.” Marcus said.
Marcus says that Israel is “a country where as long as you’re Jewish, you can speak your mind,” but adding, “It’s not acceptable to stand up against the occupation.”
In response to the occupation and the lack of what he saw as open debate on the issue in Israeli, Marcus started putting very political work on the street. He made a stencil, both in Hebrew and English, which said “create beautiful children, marry an Arab.”
He also wheat pasted posters with a photograph of himself after being subjected to tear gas with a small bit of text attached which explained the photograph and how tear gas is used against Palestinians. People literally chiseled his posters off the walls with stones, damaging the walls themselves. “You can’t get a better compliment than that.” Marcus said.
When he moved to London, Marcus felt like there was not much to say socially. He didn’t have the same political messages to put on the street that he’d had in Tel Aviv.
When he started pasting his gas mask photograph, he didn’t understand exactly what it meant to him, and he intended it to be a short-term project. Now though, it has become an important body of work for him, and he is reexamining it and finding the subconscious meanings that he did not notice at the start of the project.
Marcus says he finds London to be extremely alienating, with everybody in his or her own world. In Tel Aviv, Marcus would take a photo or put up a stencil, and people would ask him about it. In London, Marcus thinks people just pretend not to see what he is doing and they leave him alone. Now that he looks back, the gas-masked mannequin has come to represent the alienation Marcus feels in London.
Isolitude will run 06/11/2008 to 16/11/2008, open 10am – 6pm, closed Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, entrance is free. Please feel free to contact Ellie Phillips on firstname.lastname@example.org.