MFA Student Exhibition 2011 | Ellen Mueller

“I say in speeches that a plausible mission of artists
is to make people appreciate being alive at least a little bit.
I am then asked if I know of any artists who pulled that off.
I reply, ‘The Beatles did.’”
~ Kurt Vonnegut

University of South Florida MFA Student, Ellen Mueller, shares her insight into the human experience through performance art and other traditional methods. In her artist statement she writes:

Recently, I have focused on humans relating to each other through the shared experience of passing time. Noticeably, some individuals have a distinct struggle with the passage of time. Their struggle seems to stem from a resistance to change, and a grasping for control. These are two very human qualities I focus on, and to which most viewers can relate.

The Waiting Room
In the MFA Starting Fires student exhibition you will find Ellen’s work just to the right after you walk into the front door. If you weren’t a savvy museum-goer, you might think “The Waiting Room” installation was actually a ‘waiting area’ and take a seat. It might take a moment to realize that you were a part of the art.

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I chose to focus on the aesthetics and apparatuses of waiting with my interactive installation, The Waiting Room, because it is an act that all humans have in common in this age of global capitalism. We wait for planes, buses, prescriptions, meetings, appointments, paperwork, jobs, degrees, and so on. The act of waiting seems to hold promise, as if we will be rewarded at the end of our wait, which we sometimes are.

Waiting can be a hopeful act; however, the act of waiting can also be disenchanting as it drags on to a point that feels unacceptable given preconceived expectations.

The presence of a waiting area triggers a number of intriguing reactions in passersby and participants. For example, some feel guilt as they assume they have cut in line while others feel an urgency to join as if they have arrived late. Some simply ignore the line and do not question its presence. All of these reactions are triggered by the presentation of the same situation, and are conditioned into humans by day-to-day activities and interactions. These reactions are products of a shared culture of delay we have come to accept.

Practical Preparedness Videos
In Ellen’s Practical Preparedness video series, she explores the concept of preparedness, resisting change, and issues of control.

Preparing for Bioterrorism from Ellen Mueller on Vimeo.

This series of videos explores preparedness in our society in addition to the everyday challenge of resisting change and maintaining control.
The series is about fear generated by a chaotic world as described above. I use humor and absurdist situations as a method for dealing with these challenging topics in an indirect way, resulting in an element of escapism.

My goal is to bring awareness of this resistance to change and fear of the unknown to the forefront of the participant’s mind, while actively engaging the individual’s personal experiences.

Book of Enid
Ellen’s Book of Enid drawings also focus on issues of control. The drawings are on display at USFCAM, but are also available in book form on Ellen’s website (see it here) if you’d like to invest in an up-and-coming artist.

Ellen Mueller | Book of Enid
Ellen Mueller | Book of Enid

This series of drawings focuses on narrative as a means of controlling one’s understanding of self, others, and events that may or may not be based in reality. It focuses on multiple facets of individual identity, both public and private. The arc of the narrative follows a time traveler as she attempts to stop a violent conflict after it has already occurred. While it has specific personal meaning and a dry sense of humor from my point of view, I invite participants to invent their own explanations of what the narrative means.

See work from Ellen Mueller and all our MFA Grads at the Starting Fires exhibition @USFCAM through May 7th!

Ellen Mueller’s website
Ellen Mueller’s blog

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