McLean Fahnestock: Cut, Carve, Reconfigure

The Arts Council for Long Beach, in celebration of National Arts and Humanities Month, has created a Mobile Gallery Exibition. Work by five artists are installed inside trucks, and will be available for public viewing this weekend. On Saturday, from 4 to 7 PM, they’ll be at the Artist Co-Op open art studios on the corner of Gladys Avenue and Anaheim Street. On Sunday, they’ll be at A LOT [NORTH], located at Atlantic Avenue and Artesia Boulevard where, from 11AM to 5PM, there will be dance and music performances, and the first Taste of North Town

Artists featured in the Mobile Gallery Exhibition include Frau Fiber, Annette Heully, Vav Vavrek, and P. Williams. McLean Fahnestock, a video artist, will be presenting a work, titled “In The Offing,” a very personal work she created earlier this year. 

“I began this video as a study, of sorts. My Grandfather and Great Uncle were explorers. They sailed the South Pacific collecting specimens and music for the Museum of Natural History in New York. I have been wanting to work with my family history, the act of exploration, and the role of institutions in shaping and dissemination of the knowledge collected. I decided to start with the act of sailing, and the lure of the ocean.

“The video is comprised of footage taken from movies released between 1932 and 1965. So the earliest are scenes that he may have seen in the cinema up until his death. I mixed the soundtrack from the movies as well. The idea was to create the feeling of sailing with the motion of the clips and the overlay of opposing movement.

“I used Mutiny on the Bounty (two versions), South Pacific, Guadalcanal Diary, His Majesty O’Keefe, South Sea Woman, the list goes on… It was all appropriated, highly edited, and remixed.

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“I work with appropriation quite a bit, sometimes adding my own footage. My first completely self-shot video was actually just shown as part of the A LOT projects at the beginning of this month. It deals with the ocean as well but focuses, instead, on the waters around Long Beach. 

“This video, being a study, does not contain footage from their voyages but sets the stage. I never met my Grandfather, and I was looking for a reason why he would have wanted to tackle the voyage. What about the open ocean is just so appealing that it calls men from the land and captures the imagination? It has definitely captured me and provided inspiration. Since making this piece I have been to the Museum of Natural History in New York City, and the Library of Congress, to research and collect material. The act of exploring itself, discovery, being in the libraries and museums and exploring my family history, makes me feel like I am connecting with them. I can understand the rush.”

McLean’s interest in video as an art form arose during her final year of graduate school as an effort to bring more tension and politics into her work.

“I was creating objects with inherent physical tension, a chair made from bubbles, towers of glass. I started off by making videos from found television footage. I feel like I approach video in a sculptural way. Taking something and cutting it apart, reconfiguring it. Carving it.

“I started with cutting apart old interviews with poitical leaders and debates between pundits. I loved the adversarial roles that were present in the footage. It was something I had been wanting to bring to my sculptures but had not figured out how. From there I moved in to other television footage, sports journalism, presidential debates, and then ended up working with the space program for a bit. My video, Grand Finale, is on display at the California Science Center as part of the Endeavor exhibit. It is made of footage from all 135 space shuttle launches, synchronized. And now I move from Space Exploration to South Pacific Exploration.”

McLean has a solo show, titled “Islomania,” opening on October 26th at Monte Vista Projects in Highland Park.

“Islomania is the obsession with islands. I am incorporating sound and footage from my Grandfather and Great Uncle’s expedition along with commercial images of South Pacific Islands. After that, I will be screening “In the Offing” in Madrid as part of a festival in December, and ‘Grand Finale’ will be on display at a museum in Vienna.

“I don’t have anything past that on the books, but I will keep working. Keep researching. I am hoping to plan a trip to Australia to visit the Great Barrier Reef to do some shooting. My Grandfather’s ship wrecked on the reef, and I want to do some work around that.”

Like many video artists, McLean uses the ever present and ubiquitous familiarity of TV as a means to engage audiences, but is also mindful that viewing expectations can color the experience.

“Television has a very rigid structure: Narrative arcs, commercial breaks, and a place in which it resides. Video art can break away from those structures and locations. It can change shape, venue, and time in a way that television can’t.

“I am careful when I show things on monitors. On TVs. I try to consider the presentation with every piece. So sometimes I project a work on to a small screen. Sometimes a large wall or architectural space. How you show it is just as important, sometimes, as what you show.

“Which brings us back to the truck. The video will be projected very large in the truck and will envelope the viewer in an exciting way. The motion in the video, within the confined space of the truck, will be very nice.”

To learn more about McLean’s work, and her exhibition schedule, visit To learn more about Arts Month in Long Beach, and the Mobile Gallery Exhibition, visit You can stay connected with these and other Arts Council for Long Beach initiatives by visitng

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