“Mike Hack is a man who makes videos. He’s been making them for a long time. Over the years, they’ve seen shifts in technology, changes in culture, and different phases of Mike himself.
Mike is a man with autism. This influences the way that he lives, talks, behaves, thinks, and feels. It can be difficult for people without autism (neurotypicals) to understand Mike’s experience, however, through his videos, he provides an insightful visual memoir. I’ve worked with Mike to archive and present his videos for a wider audience.
When I was around ten years old, my mother received a VHS tape in the mail. Mike wrote his name on the front. I didn’t know who he was, but she told me he was her friend, and that he had autism. She also told me that he filmed himself inside an automatic car wash, except he wasn’t in a car. He only wore a bathing suit. I was enthralled by his commitment to something that didn’t make sense to me, at least on the surface. I don’t even remember asking why – I just thought Mike was so cool.
My mother met Mike in 1988 while she was studying music therapy at Arizona State University. Mike was five years old, my mother was twenty-one. They met weekly for therapy sessions, though for only a few months. At the time, Mike was nonverbal. Years later, Mike and his mother visited ASU again — Mike has fond memories (and an above-average memory) and wanted to reconnect with his former therapists. He asked for my mother by name. He called her and introduced himself. He’s an adult now, with varied interests, a passion for making videos, and a highly accurate recollection of the time he spent with my mother. This started an ongoing remote-friendship, and a small collection of tapes from Mike.
The artist Mark Leckey has said “…the internet has given people with autism the ability to communicate effectively. Someone even called the internet ‘braille for [Autistics].’ Autistic language is visual and tactile, and video, I think, satisfies both of those senses.” Mike’s videos are highly-tactile collages layered with different sources, media, and timelines. Videos playing on a screen are re-recorded, resulting in two timestamps. Audio plays from both the-video-being-re-filmed and the original footage, on top of which Mike adds meta-commentary. Other times he edits and archives his videos by connecting a digital camcorder to a TV, that then records to a VHS tape. The result is an idiosyncratic (and simultaneous) production/editing process that reveals Mike’s deliberate decision making, calls attention to the process itself, and builds a stacked montage of bygone pop-culture that Mike has filtered and digested for us.
Mike is also a performer, where his own voice and body are a constant presence. At times he is an actor, whether imitating a commercial for the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin or parodying Bill Nye The Science Guy as Mike Hack The Science Kid. Other times he is providing a voice over for movies and television. His commentary makes connections to other movies and television shows, or songs, or advertisements, or sometimes to things that only Mike can understand. Other times he is present through the subjective view of a handheld camera, where pointing at something adds it to the lexicon of Mike’s endless world of overwhelming associations.
It is important to note that another layer is added to these videos when I digitize them and show them in an art space. Mike has several months worth of video when played straight through, and I have selected only a small amount to show. The selected videos are ones where Mike has specifically interacted with the video itself. It is also important to note that these tapes have been affected by age and by the digitization process I used (which was low-cost). The videos contain technological artifacts that were added non-deliberately by both Mike and myself.”
-Max C Lee
Opening Reception: September 22, 6 – 9 p.m.
Artist and Curator Talk: October 1, 3 p.m.
September 20 - October 01, 2017