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Allan McCollum in "Systems"

What new grammars and logics do artists invent in today’s supercharged, information-based society? Why do we find comfort in some systems while rebelling against others? The Art in the Twenty-First Century documentary Systems explores these questions in the work of the artists Julie Mehretu, John Baldessari, Kimsooja, and Allan McCollum.

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Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Allan McCollum

Applying strategies of mass production to handmade objects, Allan McCollum’s labor-intensive practice questions the intrinsic value of the unique work of art. McCollum’s installations—fields of vast numbers of small-scale works, systematically arranged—are the product of many tiny gestures, built up over time. Viewing his work often produces a sublime effect—as one slowly realizes that the dizzying array of thousands of identical-looking shapes is, in fact, composed of subtly different, distinct things. Economical in form, yet curious in function, his work and mechanical-looking processes are infused with humor and humility.

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What prompted Allan McCollum to become an artist? In this interview, conducted in 2009 at his New York City studio, McCollum reflects on his path and the many different influences along the way, from his famous uncle to post-war mass production to science fiction.