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IN WHAT DISTANT SKY : The Making of the Coal Bin Project

March 21 – April 26, 2014

The Coal Bin Project is new work by Megan and Murray McMillan. Commissioned by MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art), in North Adams, MA. The Coal Bin Project was filmed in August of 2013 on MASS MoCA’s campus, a former Industrial Revolution-era textile and later electronics factory. This project began with multiple stages of development, from initial extensive research to the development of the set pieces for the filmed performance, finally culminating as a video installation which will debut in the MASS MoCA exhibition Explode Everyday: A Philosophical Inquiry into the Phenomena of Wonder curated by Denise Markonish and Sean Foley, opening in March 2015.


For their show at Qbox, the McMillan present various iterations of the project, including research documents, photographs, drawings, construction plans, information on the set building process, sculptural and digital models, as well as an early version of the single-channel video.


The Coal Bin Project was filmed inside MASS MoCA’s Boiler Plant, a five-story building which was once used to heat the factory and now it sits as an industrial relic – all the machinery, including a massive coal bin is still intact but rusting and now open to the elements. The McMillan’s video takes place within the coal bin and stretches up to the roof of the building. The work begins with the set: nine constructed wooden boulders, each the size of a small car, which were craned into the coal bin and connected to pulley and crank systems operated by additional performers. 


Then, from inside the coal bin, a single vertical tracking shot follows the lead performer as she navigates a suspended rock garden, mounts a boulder, and rises to a Japanese teahouse built into the rafters of the space. Inside the teahouse, a woman strikes two stones together while a man listens. The performer disembarks from her boulder, walks through the teahouse and climbs a ladder to a platform on the roof, overlooking the factory and the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains. The final installation of The Coal Bin Project, which will premiere at MASS MoCA for Explode Everyday will include the finished video along with elements from the set. 


Since 2002, Megan and Murray McMillan have been collaborating to create multidisciplinary projects that are a hybrid of sculpture, performance, text, image, video and installation. Each project operates under a single title that encompasses its various manifestations: research is at the center of the work and each photograph, video, performance or text is an extension and exploration of that thesis.

Megan McMillan was born in Dallas in 1975 and she is a full time faculty member at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.


Murray McMillan was born in Dallas in 1973 and he is an associate professor at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island.


Solo shows include: When We Didn’t Touch the Ground, Cohen Gallery, Brown University (Providence, 2011); If Our Worlds Could Be One, Pell Chafee Performance Center (Rhode Island, 2011); What We Loved and Forgot and The Oldest Song We Know, Qbox Gallery (Athens, 2010 and 2007 respectively); Channelbone, White Flag Projects (St. Louis, 2007); Mountainside, Stewart Center Gallery (Indiana, 2005). Selection of group shows:  Character Study, deCordova Museum and Sculpture Park (Massachusetts, 2013); deCordova Biennial, deCordova Museum and Sculpture Park (Massachusetts, 2012); Wild Things, Kunsthallen Brandts (Odense, Denmark, 2010); Praxis: Art in Times of Uncertainty, 2nd Thessaloniki Biennale, State Museum of Contemporary Art (Thessaloniki, Greece, 2009); 10th Annual Istanbul Biennial: Nightcomers (Istanbul, 2007). Their work has been featured in film festivals in New York, London, Los Angeles, Switzerland, Austria, Croatia, Greece, Romania and Germany. Megan and Murray McMillan are the recipients of the Rhode Island State Council for the Arts [RISCA] New Genres Fellowship 2014 among others.

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