In Watermark Spaces

by Julian Lietzmann

Xavier Mcfarlin was born in Landstuhl (Germany) in 1994 and grew up in Okinawa (Japan) and, from the age of eighteen, in Texas (USA). Since then he has lived in California and New York. Mcfarlin got his artistic education at Parsons School of Design in New York, where he graduated with a BFA in Photography in 2019. Mcfarlin’s work has been presented in group exhibitions at BRIC Gallery, Brooklyn, New York; Aperture Gallery (New York); Vanderbilt University, Nashville (Tennessee); and recently at the Institute for Aesthetic Advocacy, Minneapolis (Minnesota). Currently he lives and works an hour north of the Mexican border in Marfa (Texas).

Still from “Lock-Down” (2021)

„I never understood the idea of a national state”

Most of Mcfarlin’s pieces deal with his own biography and negotiate themes of race, identity, and queerness. Growing up within and outside of various U.S. military bases around the world, he is also familiar with the practice of simulation. He describes the environment of his childhood as the staging of a quasi-America in which much looks and acts like America, yet it does not rise above the status of a scenery. At the same time, this simulation serves as a veritable reality for those who reside, grow up, and live in it. The use of bluescreen technology in Mcfarlin’s work references to this circumstances, and thus continuously challenges the idea of locality around territory in general. In his collages and videoclips Mcfarlin is exceptionally skillful in applying the tools of the absurd, creating a certain distance between the work and the viewer. One of these tools is the use of pigments (blue, silver, black) that he uses to make up the main characters of his installations, and thereby links associations with the racist practice of blackfacing to the aesthetics of science fiction films such as Avatar. In the end, it is precisely this well-tempered spacing that opens up spheres and thus enables a diversity in the social discourse on topics such as cultural appropriation, stereotyping, marginalization, sex, gender, globalization, posthumanism…

Still from “Chose Your Fighter” (2021)

„balancing in a boderline reality“

In his latest work, Mcfarlin is particularly concerned with the question of what he calls “the digital”. While our reality now mainly takes place in the non-local immateriality of digital space, non-physical as well as physical tools of exclusion are trending in the regions of the Western world in the form of entry regulations and border fences. Mcfarlin links these observations to the clichéd representations of the night and sex lives of gay/queer communities — cruising, red light, BDSM, role play, etc. — reflecting on the mechanisms of social taboo and exclusion in general. Flatness communicates here with three-dimensionality, gender theory with tiktok, just as geopolitics with meme culture. Mcfarlin’s ambiguous worlds irritate and reconcile in equal measure by presenting us with a version of the future that sometimes seems more real than the reality of our present, or to put it in the words of the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard: “hyperreal”.

Asked for his opinion on the development of NFT, the artist states his optimism. Tying the value of a work of art to that of a cryptocurrency bypasses traditional, highly elitist evaluation processes and thus, in the best case, creates the possibility of “simply letting art be art”. It’s an experiment he’s happy to get involved in, he says, and it also fits in with the material of his work. For portal, the artist now provides us with two of his works as NFTs Chose Your Fighter (2021) and Lock-Down (2021). When we finally asked how he gets all that stuff done, he answered “with the power of community” and almost melted our analog ❤ by saying so.

To watch all NFTs and discover our other artist vistit https://www.prtl.art/artists/xavier-mcfarlin

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An editorial for our artist-first platform, built to tokenize, discover and collect art leveraging the blockchain and Non-Fungible-Tokens