Essay authored by N. Elizabeth Schlatter, curator
My first video piece, in collaboration with Ken Solomon, shows the biography of an apple. A photo with video vocation, a slow perception test. One photo, every ten minutes during 40 days, documenting apple skin micro mutations.
— Marco Maggi, interview with Becky Hunter, Whitehot Magazine, March 2009 1
For the first minute of the video Micro & Soft on Macintosh Apple, nothing seems to happen. The shriveled, amber-colored apple with its upright stem sits in the middle of the frame. Occasionally, the incised pattern on the skin moves slightly, which is only noticeable because of a tiny change in either the reflected light or the revealed sliver of flesh. The apple’s perimeter gradually nudges outward, but even that movement makes you wonder if you really saw anything or if you perhaps just blinked at the wrong time. But then, around two and a half minutes, the apple begins to blush, starting from the top and the bottom and then spreading into the middle. At three minutes, it’s a brilliant red that subtly darkens to crimson and then returns to the warm, lighter hue as the skin seems to regenerate. The change in size dominates the movement as the apple swells, threatening to burst as it reaches its original fullness. Meanwhile, the engraved lines simultaneously have grown and flattened as the fruit expands until they magically dissolve. The video ends with the image of a perfect, unblemished apple, quickly fading away.
The title of this video is as puzzling as the angular marks on the apple itself. Clearly Maggi and Solomon intended to refer to the corporate brands of Microsoft and Apple, although the meaning is obscure. Why are “micro” and “soft” separated? Maggi has mentioned in various interviews that he is interested in the connection between the macro and the micro. His “systems” incised on surfaces such as apples, photocopier paper, aluminum foil, and Plexiglas, can be read alternately as “a bird’s eye view of the urban fabric” or “micro computer intimacy.” 2 The “Macintosh Apple” in the title presents the company and product in reverse order [one typically hears of Apple’s Macintosh computer], and is a homonym of the actual type of apple in the video, a McIntosh. Ironically, when you Google search “apple” the company scores the first three hits; only after scrolling down does the Wikipedia entry for the fruit appear. 3
In an article about Maggi’s work, it was suggested that the artist incorporated apples harvested in New Paltz, New York, where he received his M.F.A. at SUNY and later taught. 4 Does this mean Micro & Soft on Macintosh Apple is an autobiographical video? Perhaps this attempt at analysis up to now puts too much emphasis on interpretation. After all, the artist said in a recent interview, “I am a supporter of polysemic titles and landscapes; words or signs that allow variable conclusions.” 5
But the concept of “the biography of an apple,” is too enticing to ignore. The word “biography” suggests a text that is read, or, at the very least, a story. Maggi, as well as critics and scholars, has referenced texts, symbols, and codes as sources or even as the subjects of his work, which is more commonly represented by drawing, printmaking, sculpture and installation, not video. Regarding drawing in particular, Maggi has said, “drawings are texts you cannot read.” 6
So let’s make the leap that this video is also a non-readable text. And let’s also employ our suspension of disbelief, because clearly, this is not the typical life cycle of the fruit. The progression is backwards, from a marred, desiccated form to a ripe, unspoiled specimen. What is happening? The story is up to the viewer to decide (a postmodern trope), so I’ll provide one version to consider, even though it is historically inaccurate.
In 2010, scientists decoded the apple genome, specifically the apple cultivar Golden Delicious. 7 An apple genome, located inside the nucleus of an apple cell, contains the genetic information for the apple to grow and develop. Scientists and farmers can use this information to develop apples that are better resistant to disease and more resilient in droughts. Interestingly, sequencing the genome proved that the Golden Delicious is related to the wild apple Malus sieversii, native to the region of present day Kazakhstan.
If we interpret the patterns carved into the apple’s skin in Micro & Soft on MacIntosh Apple as symbolizing the genetic coding of the fruit, then the video really is the biography of an apple, which is essentially reading itself, that is, reading the information it needs to fully mature. The code informs the growth, which we see before our eyes. The code also reveals an ancestral story. I’m not claiming that Maggi and Solomon were prescient in making this video in 2004, that they some how predicted that six years later the apple’s genome would be decoded. I’m merely telling the story backwards, and then forwards, like the video. The apple fades to black when it is complete, because once an apple is fully formed, we know the end of the story. It’s the beginning that provides the mystery.
Marco Maggi (Uruguayan, born 1957) received his MFA from the State University of New York, New Paltz. He has several solo exhibitions, including most recently at the Instituto Tomie Ohtake, Sao Paulo, Brazil; Galerie Xippas, Paris; the Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, California; Hosfelt Gallery in San Francisco; and Josée Bienvenu Gallery, New York. His work has been included in numerous group exhibitions at museums including Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Art and Design, both in New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and the CU Art Museum, University of Colorado, Boulder. His work is in the permanent collections of several museums, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.; Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, Sao Paulo, Brazil; Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporaneo, Mexico City; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Maggi currently lives and works in New York and Montevideo, Uruguay.
Ken Solomon (American, born 1971) studied at the University of Syracuse in Florence, Italy and recieved a BFA at the University of Wisconsin. Recent solo exhibitions have been held at Josée Bienvenu Gallery, New York (2005, 2008, 2010). Solomon’s work has been included in numerous group exhibitions, most recently at such venues as the Museum of Modern Art and the FLAG Art Foundation, both in New York; the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Judi Rotenberg Gallery, Boston; and the Nettie Horn Gallery, London. Solomon currently lives and works in Brooklyn.
Read more about Solomon and his work
- http://whitehotmagazine.com/articles/2009-interview-with-marco-maggi/1773 accessed January 13, 2013 ↩
- Ibid. This comes from a response to a question about Maggi’s interest in micro and macro. The full and following sentences read, “Looking at the same drawing we can see different things: is this a bird’s eye view of the urban fabric or micro computer intimacy? Is this texture, textile, or text? Is this archaeology or statistics?” ↩
- This Wikipedia entry is accompanied by a photograph of a perfectly round, ripe red apple, with the charming caption “A typical apple.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple#Production accessed January 13, 2013. ↩
- Maggi has also exhibited actual carved apples in addition to the video. See Raúl Zamudio, “Between Drawing and Withdrawing,” ArtNexus, No. 75, Vol. 8, 2009, p. 63. ↩
- Interview with Selene Preciado in the exhibition brochure for “Marco Maggi: No Idea,” at the Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, CA, January 21-April 29, 2012, accessed at http://www.molaa.org/pdf/MOLAAMarcoMaggiBrochure.pdf on January 13, 2013. ↩
- Op. cit. interview with Becky Hunter. ↩
- Riccardo Velasco, et. al., “The Genome of the Domesticated Apple (Malus x domestica Borkh.),” Nature Genetics, published online August 29, 2010, http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/v42/n10/full/ng.654.html accessed January 13, 2013. See a very helpful animation explaining what is an apple genome at The Apple Genomics Project, http://www.four-h.purdue.edu/apple_genomics/ accessed January 13, 2013. ↩