Sam is non-binary and uses they/them pronouns.
sam Mack’s work visually expands upon conversations about institutional critique within contemporary art and academia and its contradictions. conversations that question who dictates the boundaries between institutions and bodies: how divisions are made between them and who enacts or receives force. Mack’s work exploits the iconography of the gallery and museum and positions various methods of display to complicate the narrative of the gallery or museum as neutralized space. The pedestal, a form of display furniture often meant to disappear, is activated in Mack’s work, declaring importance or threatening destabilization of the art object it is intended to serve.
Mack’s installations provide a grammar of material and manifest an allegorical formalism that utilizes coded languages of institutional spaces, traditions of queer-coding, charged word-play. The ceramic vessel references the Ancient Greek pottery form of the hydria, a three-handled water jug. The three handles represent the alternative, the third option and a non-binary approach to hold an object. Mack reinterprets and remakes the hydria constructed with holes or bottomless forms, breaking the expectations for how a utilitarian vessel should function. They exploit an intentional wrongness of craft and material highlighting the form’s failure by breaking itself or causing breakage. The hydria serves multiple functions in their work as a stand in for the body, a marker of institutional influence, and as point of fragility.
Furniture of the gallery and of the museum attribute value toward objects that are displayed. Broken ceramic vessels are more likely to be shown in conjunction with the aforementioned furniture in a museum or as a part of an archive—a testament to a specific kind of care given to a broken object. Mack calls attention to how care and value operate for displayed art objects by forcing the viewer to provide a self-serving care toward objects in the gallery, respecting the boundaries of the objects and of the exhibition—no matter the severity or ridiculousness. As the viewer navigates the space of the exhibition, they are made aware of their body within the space and in relation to the work both physically and intellectually. As viewers of work, they participate through looking and moving about the space. As participants, Mack implores them to consider their positions in relation to the work and their body within the exhibition space.
The precariousness of Mack’s installations urges viewers of the work to be aware of their own physical and theoretical body and how they inhabit spaces—implicating them as well as the artist in the work.