Beep Beep Gallery
696 Charles Allen Drive
Atlanta, GA 30308
Wednesday, Friday, Saturday 12 p.m. - 6 p.m.
Thursday 1 p.m. - 6 p.m.
Friday 12 p.m. - 6 p.m.
March 3 - March 3, 2012
“All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist.”- Kurt Vonnegut, SLAUGHTER HOUSE FIVE
A collection of artifacts has been assembled at BEEP GALLERY in a show called, “Bootstrap Paradox.” There are familiar faces and yellowing pages. There is list of names to decipher as well: Arnold Joseph Toynbee. Kurt Vonnegut, Pietro da Cortona, and Michelangelo. A time-traveler named Michael Germon assembled this mystery. And he’s selective about what he shares.
The Time Traveler
This is what we can gather from the historical record: Mike is an artist and a curator. He studied digital media at The University of Georgia where he earned his B.F.A. He is currently a gallery manager at the Mint Gallery in Atlanta.
Germon claims that he is, “currently obsessed with condensed fonts, vintage scientific illustration, religious iconography, NASA photography, classical sculpture, the exquisite corpse and art history textbooks.”
The statement attached to his exhibition, Bootstrap Paradox reads like this: “Time travel, alchemy and the Exquisite Corpse serve as thematic and stylistic underpinnings as Mike Germon's collage and installation work combine the visual elements of religious and scientific source materials. Both modern and vintage graphic design informs the minimalist compositions of his relatively small pieces.”
Germon’s process is his inspiration. He compulsively builds a library of clippings. He scours science books, art history books, vintage photographs. From these treasures he assembles new compositions. It’s useful to look at his previous collage to see the Germon formula in action.
See previous work here: www.streetela.com
Germon knows digital manipulation and has access to any image online. Instead he chooses physical manipulation of found objects. There is at least a coincidental connection to his undergraduate teacher, Laleh Mehran. Mehran mimics the appearance of laboratories for her art installations; this is continued in Germon’s work. They both have butterflies in past works, they both use books as props.
Germon departs from his teacher by obsessing over time travel rather than politics. The central conceit of his show is explained in the title: “The Bootstrap Paradox.” For those unfamiliar with the science-fiction concept, wikipedia offers this:
“The bootstrap paradox is a paradox of time travel in which information or objects can exist without having been created. After information or an object is sent back in time, it is recovered in the present and becomes the very object/information that was initially brought back in time in the first place. Numerous science fiction stories are based on this paradox, which has also been the subject of serious physics articles.
A bootstrap object exists without a creator. This is the crux of all Germon’s collages. The use of the Penrose Triangle and Michelangelo’s sculptures serve the same purpose for Germon as M.C. Esther’s drawing of two hands drawing each other. Michelangelo’s famously described his process of sculpture as simple matter of freeing the subject from the surrounding pieces of marble. Germon simply finds his “bootstraps” in thrift store books rather than marble.
Research as Time Travel
Comparing Germon’s earlier Zine work to his current installation reveals a dedication to narrative. He wants to find, "interesting ideas put together in cool ways." He generates his collages with “images that could be found in a yard sale."
Both religious figures and scientific imagery are disembodied material. The artist isn’t moved by holy ecstasy or inspired by secular enlightenment, but rather he indulges in the hobby of collecting.
The trope of time travel allows for the combination things that wouldn't combine. A trip to a library or the thrift store is something like time traveling. Jules Verne speaks in the same tense as Kurt Vonnegut. A current medical journal is as accessible as Toynbee’s dusty histories.
Hands on History
Arnold Toynbee reviewed past cultures after his subjects were already gone. Germon refuses to be “hands off.” He chooses to hand assemble his frames. He wants to construct his materials first hand, rather than manipulate approximations in a computer. In one notable example, he uses exposed nails to attach a page onto his canvas. This gesture is not one of violence but one of immediacy. Germon wants you to see how this object is created, its as if it just happened. The nails aren’t even completely hammered into the frame yet; they never will be hammered into frame.
Clipboards perform similar duties. These images are on display, but that doesn’t mean they are permanent. The time traveler might find other more important artifacts. He might find a different order to put them in.
Typewriters present another meaningful prop. This is an adventure story. Text is important. Sparse and enigmatic use of text guides the viewer’s. Titles like: "Foreword," "Mercury,” "Wonders of the Past", "The Obelisk," "Untitled Portals" are descriptive if impersonal. Other titles like "Saturn's Opus,” “Sci-fi religious thriller based on a dream,” or "& (serpentine)," are more fascinating but still propose a mystery.
Two pieces from “Bootstrap Paradox” are particularly memorable. "Adorned" is a collage that depicts a human skull decorated with daggers to form a Mohawk hairstyle. This type of imagery brings to mind punk rock band fliers or temporary tattoos, but it has a different weight within Germon’s installation. It suggests a more haunting presence; it implies this image is timeless.
"Mercury-the messenger" combines an excerpt from Pietro da Cortona’s “Rape of the Sabine Women” against the wood grain of the frame. This is not an oil painting of monumental size, but an image made from a mass produced print. What does Germon have in mind by ignoring the historical reference, and the art historical reference of the painting he quotes? He antagonizes people who should have the answers.
A Novikov Curator
There is a time travel concept related to the Bootstrap Paradox called the Novikov Self-Consistency Principle. An over-simplified version of the idea would be to say that a time travel event can only happen as long as doesn’t spoil the way things are supposed to be. You must not change past events or else time travel won’t work. Germon maintains a parallel code of conduct, in his role as gallery manager. As a curator one has an obligation, moral, legal, call it what you will. You must protect the sanctity and intention of the work in your gallery. He carries this responsibility in his own work. There are rules he obeys, although never explicitly stated in his collage work. There is a intergrity in how his source material is treated.
Back to the Future
What can be lost in all this conceptual dialogue is the fact that Mike Germon's collages are good. They are pieces of art that are pleasing and interesting to look at.
We can only wonder what the future will bring for Germon. How would this work differ if it were featured in the gold metallic frames popular in the seventies? Can he push his process in a direction devoid of classic motifs? Do Germon’s narratives work as video?
Only time will tell.
Germon's recent work:
Cargo Collective (Artist’s website):
Novikov Self-Consistency Principle:
The Collage Curator: