21st-century archetypes

Printmaker Abelman’s project spans media

avatar1Last December, printmaker Maurice Abelman asked me to put on a swimsuit and be covered with wheatpaste, plastic and paper to try out an idea he had about applying collaged trademarks and brands to the human form. The process took hours and I nearly froze upstairs at The Art Studio.

That beta trial eventually sparked a bigger idea — “Avatar Archetypes.”

Abelman had previewed performance art in Southeast Texas with the Estonian art group Non Grata at Habitat for Humanity’s warehouse show last November, but with this project he wanted to reach out to more people in the community and tap into the potential of having a concept span multiple media.

When he reached out to me earlier this year about participating, I immediately accepted because of both the originality of the project as well as the potential to collaborate with multiple artists.

During March, Abelman developed the concept sketches for each of the avatars’ costumes as well as the graphics that will be used for each individual character and the graphic combining all of the avatars’ symbols.

At the beginning of April, Abelman cast the “avatars”. These are characters that represent universal archetypes as described by psychiatrist Carl Jung. The actors cast in these roles work closely with Abelman to develop their costume and character which will culminate in a performance taking place later this year. The roles include the trickster, Monte Crisco; the knight, Wal-Mart; creator/destroyer, Mother Nature; the athlete, the Olympian; and the crime-fighter, Vitamin-D.

At a fundamental level, the avatars are characters that appear in various forms throughout art and literature, and continue to manifest themselves in post-modern, capitalist society. The bulk of Abelman’s work has political undertones and this project is no exception. It calls on viewers to think about the ways we interact with both people and commercial enterprises in our consumer culture.

The avatar “skins” as Abelman calls them will be formed by pasting layers of both the trademarks and brands he used in previous experiments at both the Non Grata performance and on me, as well as prints from his own carved woodblocks. 

avatararchetypes.MayIssue.graphicThe “skins” are layered in a way to bring attention to the way that us as consumers use brands as a means of expressing our individuality.

Throughout the year, the avatars will be featured in their own photoshoots and films as a way to familiarize spectators with the character, as well as the bigger picture of how these characters fit into our everyday lives. These projects will call on local photographers and filmmakers to lend their talents in documenting the avatars and will also be featured in their own gallery show during the final performance.

Abelman is also working with 3C Comics to develop zines to further develop each avatar’s story.

Art is a lonely process. An artist can spend hours working into the early morning on a project and may not share the work until it is completed. What makes this project unique is both the performative aspect and the collaborative aspect throughout the duration of the project. While Abelman is a director of sorts, this project truly is the work of many people who believe in the power of the arts to create solidarity in the community.

Check out Avatar Archetype’s progress and more information about upcoming performances on the Facebook page, Avatar Archetypes.