Murray McMillan


Current Project

  • likes to show the process of the projects—”very physical in that way”
  • distracting dynamic windmills
  • currently working on a video piece cited at Mass MOCA (installed 2015), which is a video inside an installation
  • figuring howw to make the boulders (you need a lot of understructure to get a good looking bolder)
  • currently using the waterfire building to build the boulders


How does this thing start? What are the initial conversations? How far down the road are you?

  • was making really big stuff in undergrad
  • working with a lot of scaffolding because it’s actually quite cheap (companies don’t think to source it to students)
  • $400 for a large-scale project using scaffolding
  • loved the idea of just getting together with friends and making a big-old thing
  • went with a friend to a city with massive sheets of paper and spontaneously put on a paper cape parade
  • was on the line between design and fine art for a long time
  • working on a video game with robots and aliens
  • a big fan of one-day shows, since the audience really only shows up for the launch anyway
  • the scale kept getting larger and larger
  • appreciated compromising where you’re willing to do it but might not be able to do it perfectly but you keep on going
  • appreciated being blindly ambitious
  • the Museum School is very horizontal, while RISD is quite vertical in organization
  • everybody he know who’s just gone for it really just goes for it, rather than just committing some energy to the work they want to do and committing other energies to a backup plan (e.g. like begin a business minor)
  • being comfortable with things not being perfect
  • they love casting friends and fellow artists because they tend to just be more comfortable
  • when you work with theater people they tend to want it to be more about them
  • one of the major benefits to working in providence is the availability of cheap space
  • prefers to be very deadline oriented
  • one of the things that shocked him getting out of school was the lack of deadlines
  • in the beginning they had to apply for shows but now they’re in the position where a lot of the curators will contact them for creating shows
  • generally have shows and exhibitions and will design back from that
  • curator tells them there’s a show in two years and then they create a set of deadlines back from that point
  • very materials oriented, very resources oriented
  • “walks into space and sees there’s a gantry and then ask what can you do with a gantry; we’ve got some weird materials on craigslists for free, what do we do with that?”
  • a big trick with this stuff is that you work with an engineer
  • they have a small community with an engineer, a performer, musicians
  • like a small circus, a small cabal of friends


How does the economics work?

  • recently transitioned to a model that’s more sustainable
  • used to write grants for projects they didn’t fully develop (tended to be paper thin)
  • if you want one grant you write ten (they have 18 now)
  • gotta get used to getting rejected
  • the new style has projects that are two years down the road
  • get the horse before the cart
  • a lot of business happens at openings
  • it important to build a community and be part of a community
  • not a naturally social person, but realized it was important to get out there and socialize and build these communities and have people who can play these roles


The Suspended Room

  • elitism vs.socialism
  • ever heard a joke and didn’t feel the joke coming? if you don’t have the setup you can’t get to the moment where you can hopefully go someplace
  • likes the intersection between video art and sculpture
  • wanted work to survive past one night
  • it’s a bold thing to show a curator her own space and say “hey, you wanna do this” and sometimes it works
  • all sorts of people who have to sign off on these things, that’s why he builds 3-d models
  • the Mass MOCA project is first time they’ve been building off site
  • getting really specific and needed all the answers
  • taking the time to make models and the sketch models and all these things is really important. the further you get into this the better chance you have of it being accepted.



  • made a big mistake of not going to HD earlier
  • their rule is that no matter what they do they don’t go into debt
  • did calculations on how much they’ve spent on art projects in the past 14 years
  • most of their expenses were covered by grants
  • try to recycle materials
  • just getting to the point where they’re paying performers
  • teaching is what pays their bills


Do you see sculpture moving out of your work and video taking over?

  • their work is more dance oriented
  • doesn’t think he can compete with film (much larger scale)
  • it’s been hard to know what their scale is, what’s their media
  • doesn’t really care about his audience
  • appreciates the sleekness of the way his work looks when it gets on the lens
  • likes the one take, the building, the community of people involved
  • these are shot in one or two days
  • never asking people to do things that they technically can’t do themselves
  • knowing what their limits are
  • not really too pure though, as their work has a lot of intense editing
  • they push and pull videos in a way a purist would never, but at the same time their work is still very physical
  • “an awkward in between of accepting some limits while rolling their eyes at other limits”
  • he’s anti-loop because of his performance background since performances had to be in a loop, whereas he always like to arrive somewhere


Where does the Japanese influence come in (e.g. the Japanese tea house in the bolder project)?

  • “it just feels right and I don’t know”
  • his mentor from school is a Japanese man

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