The Video Art of Jillian Mayer

‘comedic satirical sci-fi pop-musical,’” perhaps the only compound-genre name apt to label a film based largely on transhumanist theory….a hobnob between the New Aesthetic movement and an inimitable hyperreal gusto, pilfering imagery from the Internet and the IRL world… datamoshing cultural memes and readying them for a full cognitive digestive cycle, often born from an angst that feels suburban in nature.“ – Miami Rail

“” is a faux web page and collaborative video project that leads users to liberate themselves by fictitiously erasing the Internet, one website at a time. It’s an exercise in parsing out irrelevance and sensory overload akin to choosing clothes for a Goodwill drop. And while the project’s overall tone is jovial, there’s still something deeply unnerving about even having a digital identity to proactively manage. The Internet is a judgmental realm where a person’s future, as Mayer puts it, “can be slighted by repercussions from their actions or exploitation of self.

When asked about how this piece encapsulated Mayer’s evolution as an artist, Fortin says that it’s a matter of confidence. “She always had the intelligence and the awareness of what mattered, of things shifting culturally. Now she has the courage.” The piece debates sexual politics and rights of representation and privacy in an era defined by the lack thereof, but looks to the history of the nude—ourselves, in our most basic state.

The piece broke new ground for Mayer. By that point, she had already entered both video production (her short Scenic Jogging—also Borscht produced—was shown at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, as part of “YouTube Play. A Biennial of Creative Video”) and Miami’s gallery scene. In fact, her first solo show at the David Castillo Gallery in Wynwood had closed the day before Grandma went live on May 8, 2011. The video could be purchased as part of an edition of five from Castillo or seen online for free. To some, this seems counterintuitive, and Mayer concedes that “it takes a certain type of collector to collect video work,” but it’s not that much of a departure. “Many famous artworks become posters that are sold at the mall. It doesn’t make the original worth any less,” she says.

The next year, Mayer’s face would appear in a very different context. Fortin had recently left Art Papers and taken a position directing the Montreal Biennale, which was being organized around ideas of the future; Mayer was an obvious choice. Together, they worked to develop Mayer’s most controversial yet universal piece—400 Nudes.

The details of its technology-driven debut are in perfect step with its conceptual territory. It plays role games with popular media, the public, and the art world. Reception is central to the work: its fate the layers of interpretation it accrues as it crosses channels and institutions are almost as relevant as its message.” – Art Papers

Mayer’s deeper foray into postmodernism is marked by subversions of the human experience. Take the nauseating “Giving Birth to Myself” , which along with “Grandma” was featured in her Family Matters solo show at the David Castillo Gallery. “Birth” depicts a sweat-drenched Mayer doing precisely what the title implies, birthing herself as a phlegm-green infant. “‘Giving Birth to Myself’ wasn’t about separating life stages, but the opposite,” said Mayer. “It is about combining them as one metanarrative. The creator becomes the object, identities merge and it’s presentational.” The result is an event that strikes both pleasure and anxiety in the viewer, inducing a sensation Kant described as “mathematically sublime.”


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