Selective Focus: Fishnetstockings at Joseph Nease Gallery

Across the globe, one discovers mermaid tales clinging like barnacles onto historic seaports, sharing themes of the cross-cultural outsider, environmental imbalance, and gender inequality. During the summer of 2021, see Fishnetstockings projections at Joseph Nease Gallery in Duluth during open gallery hours.

A gallery talk, featuring a discussion with the artists and some images of what went on behind the scenes as the projections were created happens Thursday, July 15, from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

Fishnetstockings is an interactive installation created by digital artist Joellyn Rock, computer scientists Logan Sales and Pete Willemsen, visual artist Alison Aune, and a crew of collaborators. The participatory space allows the audience to engage in new ways with a very old tale.

Digital projections include a mashup of historical references, folk patterns, and story fragments fished from the project text feed. The audience has multiple modes for participation. Move your body inside the projections and interact with hybrid sea creatures that float through the narrative. People can also throw their own words into the mix through the Google form and voice alternative endings to the bad bargains made by little mermaids.

The project morphs each time it’s been shown, and has been shared in Bergen, Norway; Aarhus, Denmark; and Winona, Minn., each time for different audiences.

The Nease Gallery will display these mysterious and evocative projections with the option of audience participation. The projections will be shown all summer during gallery hours (Wednesday to Friday, noon to 6 p.m.; Saturday, noon to 5 p.m).

Joellyn Rock, the originator of the project, says that the piece was done in response to a call for works by an electronic literature show in Bergen, Norway.

“I wanted to do something that tied us together as seaports, with all that implies,” she said. “I love working with fairytales, and these hybrid beings — mermaids — are associated with stories from around the world.”

Rock notes that when she told her friend and fellow art professor Alison Aune about the project, she brought up the Hans Christian Anderson — he of The Little Mermaid — practice of doing live papercuts as he told stories.

Anderson Papercut

One of Hans Christian Anderson’s papercuts, which he would make while telling stories.

Aune has done similar papercuts as part of the image flow, and her sister Kirsten Aune also contributed to this design aspect.

This relatively new artform has some stellar practitioners in Duluth: Daniel Benoit, Jonathan Thunder and Moira Villiard have all created amazing works in this medium.

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