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Viewing Room

Mitch Kern - Wild Suburb


 February 3 – March 2, 2024


Opening Reception Saturday, February 10th

from 2 to 5 pm.


Artist in Attendance.

 

Wild Suburb, Artist Statement
Mitch Kern

Wild Suburb
Bi-coastal. Judeo-Christian. Dual citizen. These are all terms I’ve used to describe myself. I was born
in New York City and moved to Los Angeles when I was 11. I was raised in a Jewish family and
married a Christian (although we’re both agnostic). And I lived in the US for the first half of my life,
but now I’m also a Canadian citizen. I know what hybridity feels like.


I went for a run in the park the other day and a lady stopped me to warn me there was a coyote
nearby. I told her I’d seen lots of coyotes in the park. Bobcats, skunks and bunnies, too. And recently
one of my neighbours told me they saw a porcupine. I just shrugged and said, “it’s a wild suburb.”


I enjoy the playful nature of this work— the costume, the mask and the suburban playground. It’s
exciting to work in series, too, like writing a novel, where you know the character and the setting, but
the details have yet to be worked out.


I see the work as a series of dichotomies. The character himself is a dichotomy, half man, half deer.
I’ve chosen the deer as a symbol to represent myself. He’s stoic, noble, patient and cautious—all the
things I’m not! But he’s also wild, and represents nature in a larger sense. Because we’re all a part of
nature, and nature is a part of all of us.


Another dichotomy I see is how the character as a whole relates to the setting. I've chosen the
suburbs because, well, it’s where I live, and these are self-portraits after all. It’s my home, and for
many of us, it’s our home. So I think there is something universal here.


Each episode, situation or predicament is like a math problem I get to set up and the viewer gets to
solve, seeing what they see, but also what they want to see. Which is also true for me.


But it goes deeper, because these are not just any suburbs. This is Western Canada. This is
Southern Alberta. This is the Bow River Valley. These are the Foothills of the Rockies. And there is a
particular kind of sublime beauty here, in this unique place—this unique community.


One person told me they thought the character seemed like a time traveler from the past coming to
the present, surveying the land, and looking at all the changes that have occurred. Others have said
they see a quest for identity and belonging.


Something that fascinates me as an artist is the mask. Masks have been used cross culturally in art
and ritual since the dawn of civilization—which makes it a very powerful device for a contemporary
artist. As an apparatus it both reveals, and conceals, simultaneously.


What it reveals in my work is a stoic creature. What it conceals is a human face, most of the time
happy, sometimes sad or anxious.


We all wear masks, sometimes playfully, sometimes theatrically, sometimes for protection. And this
mask it seems, has brought me here, to this particular place, where, paradoxically, I get to be me,
and not be me, simultaneously. And not be me again, twice removed.


Because when I started this project it was always me behind the mask, physically (I made the mask
in my studio over several months and did my first performance with it at a scholarly conference
shortly thereafter).


But one day a friend came over and tried the mask on, which opened up a whole new world of
possibilities. That's when I enlisted him, and a cast of other actors, to play me.


To be me behind the camera directing myself as an actor playing me in front the camera, is a surreal
out of body experience.

Mitch Kern "Single Track"
Mitch Kern "Bar"
Mitch Kern "Taxidermy"
Mitch Kern "Picket Fence"
Mitch Kern "Meat"
Mitch Kern "Chicken"
Mitch Kern "Flags"
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