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Colin McMullan

Hartford, CT

My work begins with collaborative social/public actions using devised architectural structures and anachronistic vehicles, and reflects on these experiences through printed matter, films, and installations. In an early work MOBILIZE (2004-2008), I rode a large tricycle around Manhattan, projecting 16mm Chaplin films on my back and inspiring spontaneous parades of viewers. In Pulling Together the Legends of Willimantic (2006-10), a collaborator and I organized 100 people to build a wooden boat, using it for public actions, videos, and exhibitions about the misuse of local waterways and alternative histories of downtrodden cities.

My current creative research involves wild foods, indigeneity, environmental justice, and critical perspectives on policies of land management. In 2017, I did a 26-mile Decolonization Walk performance counterclockwise around Boston’s Mission Church, mapping the influence of the church bells’ sound on the surrounding neighborhoods. Another current work, The Tree Spa for Urban Forest Healing (2016-2019) operates at Keney Park Sustainability Project, a Black-led urban farm within a neglected city park in Hartford, CT. The steam produced by evaporating maple syrup is repurposed in a functional steam room. This situation brings people together for conversation, healing, and reconnection with the land, by immersion in an important indigenous essence of the local forest, the steam of maple sap boiled on a wood fire.

In 2018, I began a new body of work producing darkly humorous short films, on location in contested political border zones. I call this series Experimental Research on the Nonexistence of Borders. I perform as a field research scientist character, who is obstinately trying to prove that political borders do not actually exist. The first work is shot in the border zone between Armenia and Turkey, at the foot of Mount Ararat / Ağrı Dağı, and involves a comparative analysis of soil, flora, and fauna from both sides of a border fence.

Currently in production are two additional projects, situated at the U.S./Canada border, and the U.S./Mexico border. The northern border project will investigate border grey zones, ambiguous spaces where the two nations have overlapping claims. The work will include scuba diving with lobsters around Machias Seal Island, as well as a public library straddling the border between Vermont and Quebec, which families impacted by the U.S. Muslim travel ban use as a meeting point. By contrast, the tense militarized atmosphere and humanitarian crisis unfolding at the southern border will be explored through a relationally antagonistic project. I envision homing pigeons carrying messages across the border used for target practice at a Texas gun range. These projects will result in video works for a multi-channel installation, along with related objects, texts, and live performances, interrogating the national relationship of the U.S. to its two primary neighboring states.

Finally, I have begun a new body of work in collaboration with Namulen Bayarsaihan, based in Mongolia. This work involves reflections on contrasting historical eras of imperial dominance and subjecthood, and relationships to land among nomadic communities in contemporary life. We created a video/performance, Rumination Service (2019) in collaboration with a group of Mongolia-based contemporary artists, while visiting a nomadic herding family on common grazing lands. We bought a piece of turf from a sod grower in the city, brought it to the nomadic family’s home, and borrowed their table in order to ceremoniously offer the grass to the family’s grazing animals. Another project under production currently is an animated film about traffic congestion in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, based on visually merging the contemporary urban built environment with imagined/remembered histories of rural, land-based, nomadic lifestyles.