Jonn HerschendAmerican (Branson, Missouri, 1967)
Stories from the Evacuation
Jonn Herschend investigates emotional truth, confusion, and absurdity in everyday life through video, film, installation, and performance. His work questions the ways we interpret the validity of information, often through corporate communications tools like PowerPoint and informational videos. He has addressed the institutional messaging of arts organizations in several works, filming reenactments of museum visitors' mundane experiences and installing fictional "disorientation" videos at exhibition entrances. His work often employs the literary device of the unreliable narrator, a technique that turns his self-described "site-specific fictions" into personal and confused dramas that reveal multiple interpretations of a given situation. With deadpan humor, his films and videos speak to the poetics of failure and the ambiguity inherent to life.
Stories from the Evacuation (2013), shot on location at SFMOMA in spring 2013, uses the building's closure for expansion as the point of departure for a behind-the-scenes look at the museum's temporary art and administrative relocation. The artist interviews several key staff involved with this undertaking. Exploring narratives of risk and personal transition, the film investigates the disjuncture between public- and private-facing identities. The camera moves through spaces typically inaccessible to visitors and in a state of transition: the offices, the basement woodshop and library, and the fifth-floor galleries, used as a temporary storage space for paintings and sculptures being packed. Herschend's narrative begins with the tremendous collaborative effort involved in this transition and becomes increasingly focused on one interview subject's personal backstory. "With all stories, there is a front of the house and a back of the house," the artist says. "There are stories we present to the world, and there is the complicated and sometimes messy reality of how these things happen."