IOTA: Gallery Pop Up (Deux) - Anne MacMillan


IOTA: Gallery Pop Up (Deux) is a pop up gallery that featured twelve Nova Scotia and New Brunswick contemporary artists, and two Halifax commercial art galleries for an online sale and pop-up sale event. Artworks were available for pre-purchase from May 1st to June 17th, 2017. All artists were featured for an interview as part of the Six Questions series, released every few days starting the first week of May 2017, and leading up to the live pop up event: June 17th, 2017 at the Anna Leonowens Art Bar + Projects.

The below artworks are no longer available for purchase through IOTA.

Rocks are collected and digitally scanned in 3D. Their geometry is reduced and unfolded into a flat net. This pattern is then laser cut and scored. The "box" is hand folded and glued shut to enclose the original rock. Boxes are made to fit the individual rocks as accurately as possible. Gaps in the boxes are left as evidence of a limitation in the process of digitizing and unfolding the geometry. The nomenclature of each rock is comprised of the percentage of completion (how fully it was enclosed) the date of collection, and place it was collected from.


Anne Macmillan is an artist from Nova Scotia, Canada whose work looks at structures of knowing and the effects of observation upon both the subject and object under investigation. Working with digital moving image or data, she combines analytical methods that track, trace, sort and list subject matter, with more poetic or ambiguous approaches of knowing.

On a Fulbright scholarship she studied in the Graduate program of Art, Culture and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She completed her undergraduate studies at NSCAD University. She worked for five years at NSCAD as a multimedia technician.

She is the recipient of the inaugural Emerging Atlantic Artist in Residency award which includes a funded two month residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and a month long national speaking tour. This program is in partnership with the Hnatyshyn Foundation and funded through the support of the Harrison McCain Foundation. In 2016 she received the Canada Council International artist residency award to study at Cité Internationale Des Arts in Paris, France. Her work as been supported by creation grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, Arts Nova Scotia, and the Council for the Arts at MIT. Her work is reviewed in the Spring 2017 issue of Canadian Art Magazine.


Six Questions with Anne MacMillan

IOTA: Some of your works seem to be caught between what is hidden and a revelation that never quite comes. For example your video Open Seating in which an opened folding chair turns away from the viewer almost intuitively as the camera approaches. You follow this rumination in other works as well. Where does this tension come from for you?

Annie MacMillan: For me there is tension that emerges when I attend to subject matter using an analytical method (listing, tracking, circumnavigating, sorting, describing, tracing etc) for poetic ends. I want to think about, but also experience, how the method of attending to things changes what is seen and how it changes the person seeing. I would like the work to reflect a dynamic negotiation of knowing, a push-pull between an observer trying to align themselves to that which is under investigation while simultaneously adjusting the alignment of the object. So both object and subject are left changed without any true origin point for either. I am fascinated by certainty, concreteness, exactitude etc, because it makes for a great fiction, and for some time I was making work to consider the inevitable loss involved with intense or structured ways of seeing.

IOTA: For Boxes for Rocks you picked up rocks that you found on your route, to and from various destinations, without too much overthinking. The 45 rocks were then 3D-scanned to measure their shape, then reduced into manageable geometry for the making of cardboard boxes that would hold each one enclosed. Mapping, walking, and movement are recurring thematics in your works (most recently in your recent video Notes pt.1), all perpetual states that rely on progression and accumulation to arrive to an end. Can you explain how these ideas come together?

AM: Resisting “endings” by using continual processes goes hand-in-hand with other methods I use that arrest the subject matter. It is part of my exploration into ways of being and structured ways of knowing. I often choose subject matter that is inexhaustible, abundant and similar yet different (rocks, trees, asteroids, worms, twigs etc) and use a methodology that could be unending (looping, accumulation, etc) while simultaneously trying to pin down something about the subject matter: it’s edge, its' coordinates, it’s movement or other form of description.

Walking is an activity that conjures in me ideas of the inside/outside flicker between mind/body, of concrete contact and hovering above, of interruptions or distraction, of purposefulness and meandering, of trace, of predictability or automation. I use walking as a gesture to think of a negotiation between things (destinations, balance/symmetry in the body, the body up against (or in) the environment, the body and the mind etc).

In Notes pt.1 I combined mapmaking and language in an animation with the sounds of walking. All the elements (the borders of the compartments of the map, the words, and the sounds of steps against the floor) all attempt to define a space/place while they simultaneously undermine that task by continuously shifting; the walls move, subdivide or melt away, the words are hard to follow or are ambiguous, and the steps do not seem to lead anywhere. 

IOTA: You described the pieces Walking With Worms as “…a looping video installation that visualizes the positions of worms along an undefined length of sidewalk”, Lures as “…an attempt to control the conditions for unpredictable interpretation.” and Boxes for Rocks, as an attempt at protecting an object that its exterior ended up more fragile than the interior. Are you interested in the idea of performing futility?

AM: I am interested in the perceived virtue of effort, attention, endurance, and focus. I think these qualities are put into question when the rigour is weird, or when the attentiveness seems misguided. At one point I would have used the term futile, but I no longer think it is accurate since I don’t feel there is a real loss with a system that is unable to fulfill itself. A system unable to fulfill itself works (for me) to indirectly point to something other than itself, or it points to the intentions of the creator, and ultimately it is everything that lies just outside of a structure (but it is revealed by it) that is more interesting to me.   

IOTA: You approach the research development of a project like one would approach a deep meditation. Can you tell us who influences your research, and let us into your philosophical arc?

AM: I trust in the intelligence of unconscious and iterative processes, but this approach is constantly interrupted with an attempt to intellectualize the work. Research is an ongoing process of journaling, drawing, reading, making, day-dreaming and looking critically.

Some writings of those who have recently inspired me and my research are William James, Trinh T. Minh-ha, Wallace Stevens, Peter Schwenger, Gertrude Stein, Georges Perec, Vilém Flusser, Jorge Luis Borges and Ben Marcus.

These authors help me consider attention, observation, description, and perception by talking about or using ambiguity, poetics/analysis, nearness/distance, or direct/indirect methods. The heart of my interests are concerned with limited means of knowing, but also the power of the imaginary. 

IOTA: You spoke to me about wanting to create an alternative way of seeing. Are you interested in constructing a new reality or more so looking to find a sub-reality, one that takes place without our cognizance, and is this at all related to your recent research in the thematic of ‘daydreaming’?

AM: I think what I was expressing was a desire to conceptually pivot in my practice and make something new. Previous work was concerned with observation by looking at things in the world, motivated by understanding something else as a way to understand oneself. While I was on a recent month long speaking tour of my work, I became exhausted of hearing myself speak about work that was reflective of how I was seeing. I came home wanting to make work that was not inherently about knowing (the world as it is, or myself). I don’t need to reiterate the same issue of the “a sense of lack from what cannot be captured”, I want to skip that entire attempt of capturing what is. Instead I want to reverse the process and actually create something unknown.

IOTA: What’s next?

This new work involves multiples of paper mechanisms I am constructing that will be performed for video. In a separate work I am continuing with material I gathered while in residence at Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris this past Fall.