Mike Shine latest show, Der Wilden Mann, will open on April 16, 2011 at Copro Gallery in Los Angeles. In Der Wilden Mann”Shine’s thematics are extended into the next phase in the life of Flotsam, the Faustian carney-trickster character who anchors and drives the philosophical tome as proposed by the artist. Set hundreds of years after the last installment, Flotsam’s Wonder World, at 941Geary in SF, Flotsam continues bargaining with the devil in order to ensure the continued survival of mankind.

Ahead of the opening, I connected with Shine over email to discuss his interest in the carnival and the importance of performance and audience interaction to his work.

Bergamot Station Arts Complex
2525 Michigan Ave, Unit T-5
Santa Monica, CA

A preview of Der Wilden Mann and our Q&A with Mike Shine comes after the jump. 

CR: When did you first get interested in the carnival?

MS: It happened 5 or 6 years ago, when I was painting on some driftwood pieces, I tried using an old paint crackling method learned from my days of building furniture, and it involved layers of colors. The finished pieces looked strangely familiar, and that’s when I realized that they looked like chunks of a carnival I remember from my youth. Then the whole Faustian narrative sort blew up in my mind- the Flotsam the Clown angle, etc.

CR: It seems in all your influences performance plays a central role in community building and story telling. There is also a good dynamic between individual act and interaction between a larger group. Does the community aspect of your influences play a roll in how you want your audiences to respond to the works?

MS: I am really obsessive about my passions and I really like to suck others in. Especially art. So I try to get people to participate, to stop looking at art with their hands behind their back. By touching it, playing with it, winning prizes, listening, watching a film or performance, learning the narrative behind the work- all that hopefully gives people a far deeper experience with the art. I want to demystify it, eliminate the jargony bullshit that surrounds so much art today. I like to do installations that are accessible yet still challenging, depending on how deeply involved an observer wants to get.

CR: What can we expect from “DER WILDEN MANN”?

MS: It’s another chapter of the Flotsam story- set well into the future, but in a primitive, post apocalyptic carnival. “Der Wilden Mann” or the Wild Man was, before Christianity took hold, a common part of carnival celebrations. He represented the close relationship that people, particularly northern Europeans, had with the wild. Hunting, fishing, even farming, were just never “givens”… maybe it’ll be a good year, maybe it won’t. There were often sacrifices involved, sometimes human, sometimes animals and valuables. Although each culture and era had their own variations, its amazing how consistent a presence the wild man was across almost all of them. So the installation setting is a rustic village, and Flotsam has arrived with his carnival, to help celebrate Der Wilden Mann once again. There are bigger questions to be asked, however. Like why would Flotsam bring back such a primitive, pagan tradition? How does that fit his bigger mission? If he is an incarnation of Mephistopheles, what is the darker meaning of this new character?

CR: Do you have any sideshow talents – fire eating or sword swallowing?

MS: Me personally? No. I find real carnivals creepy. I enjoy them on one level, but not enough to ever join up. If you were asking if we’ll have some hired sideshow talents at the opening, I’m not sure yet. Like I said, I want people to open up and participate, and sometimes sideshow acts can be intimidating and distracting….

CR: This show finds you in Los Angeles for the first time… will location have any impact on how you prepare? Did the city have any bearing on what you’ve produced for “Der Wilden Mann?”

MS: Its trickier logistically to get our crew and materials trucked down there, but otherwise the location didn’t have a huge influence one way or another. Although I do like the fact that the primitive purity of a rustic setting will contrast so sharply with the modernity of LA. I think of all the major modern cities in the world, LA is probably the youngest- meaning it was a wilderness not so long ago. That adds a nice layer I think.

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