Stephen George Alexander Mueller: Starting Over

Fri Sep 13 - Sat Oct 19

Exhibition Runs: September 13th to October 19th, 2013
Opening Reception: September 13th @ 8PM - 11PM

Starting Over is a physical and digital record of a solitary durational performance that took place in Windsor, Ontario over an uninterrupted 55-hour, 16-minute and 39-second span of time (Friday, June 17, 2011 10:34:34 EDT – Sunday, June 19, 2011 17:51:13 EDT). During that period, I manually extracted every beard hair from my face, one hair at a time, using a pair of surgical tweezers. Each hair was then placed directly into a specimen jar. Immediately following, two photographs were taken remotely: one of the front of my head and one of the back. The actual time length of the overall process determined the duration of the performance. The resulting sets of photographs were stitched together to produce time-lapse digital video loops, for projection onto two translucent suspended screens, eternally gazing at one another. The isopropanol-filled specimen jar stands between them,
housed securely in a minimal white museum case.

Just as clothing and other quotidian objects become encrusted in memories of the places they’ve been worn, the events they’ve been a part of, or the people who have come into contact with them, human hair becomes a cemetery, filled with the living gravestones of our past relationships and experiences. However, unlike an old and tattered pair of shoes, which can be easily removed and placed on the top shelf of a dark closet for future reminiscence or disposal, hair stays with us. Dyed, cut, or shaven, the roots remain hidden beneath our skin, sheltered by their follicles. Therefore, it is only through their meticulous and complete removal that one may physically extricate oneself from the past and begin anew.

In Edward Yang’s 2000 film, Yi Yi: A One and a Two, eight-year-old Yang-Yang inquires of his father, NJ, about the nature of truth and human perception. Can any of us realistically hope to see more than half of our relative truths, he wonders. After all, our eyes can only ever perceive that which is in front of us, never what is behind. Following his own youthful, uninhibited logic, Yang-Yang proceeds to document the backs of the heads of his friends and family members, eventually offering to them the ‘missing halves’ of their overall truths, in the form of Polaroid photographs. In Starting Over, the past and the future are forced to
confront one another in an endless loop of self-dissection, with the seemingly futile belief that, through repetition of a cathartic act, fear and regret may prove themselves tangible and, thus, more easily defined, organized and conceivably overcome. Yet, in truth, it is the conception, execution and successful achievement of the formidable goal itself, which serves as an architect of self-confidence and, consequently, a suppressor of the greater, more encompassing unconscious terrors of perceived human failure and encroaching quiescence.

About the Artist
A native of Windsor, Stephen George Alexander Mueller lives and works in London, Ontario. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Visual Arts from the University of Windsor (2004) and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Visual Arts from the University of Calgary (2006). A former Member of the Board of Directors and the Programming Committee at The New Gallery in Calgary, Mueller is currently a project-based PhD student in Art and Visual Culture at The University of Western Ontario. His performance-based installation work has been exhibited across Canada, with upcoming exhibitions programmed for 2013–14 in St. John,
NB (Third Space Gallery), Edmonton, AB (Latitude 53) and Victoria, BC (Open Space), among others.