Jaime Shearn Coan

This Form Is Just a Disguise
Multimedia installation (two answering machines with audio loops, found tables, letters, drawings, hair, mugwort, sage, sea glass, wood, rock, keys, candles, other found objects, and father's tin coin bank, photographs and wooden doll)
Dimensions variable
2010
Work in Exhibition:

This Form Is Just a Disguise
Multimedia installation (two answering machines with audio loops, found tables, letters, drawings, hair, mugwort, sage, sea glass, wood, rock, keys, candles, other found objects, and father's tin coin bank, photographs and wooden doll)
Dimensions variable
2010
(Close-up and gallery view)

Artist's Statement

What absences haunt us collectively? In this installation, I present reconstructed narratives of personal and collective queer history. Some of the narratives are fictional, some conjectural, some archival. My motivation in the creation of this project was to trace the impulse of my creative generation, in this case, a series of letters composed by a gay man in his late fifties to his deceased and estranged former best friend/unrequited love object. The letters start off casual, but soon start to give off the stink of denial—an inability to accept responsibility, reality, finality,. The last letter however, is a sort of utopic narrative—possibly in the past, possibly in an alternative present. This voice (named Richie) haunted me; after he left, and the piece was finished, I realized that he was about the same age as my father. My father died in 2002, a few months shy of his 50th birthday, from AIDS-related complications. We were estranged, and I knew hardly anything about his life, but he (vaguely) clued me in to his queerness before he passed. The voice of Lovemappings fits the standard of gay male life during the AIDS epidemic that has come to stand as one of the dominant narratives of queer history. It was perhaps a life my father might have led. I struggle to identify myself against the backdrop of both of these narratives: the one so public, the other so secret. Aside from my voice, my current identity and experience are not all that present in the piece. I am looking elsewhere, I am searching. I am recording. In it’s compositional structure of fracture and cut-up, this installation seeks to let the ghosts get messy in our ears, to let our loveletters surface in the silence, and to admit that it doesn’t make sense.

--Jamie Shearn Coan