Machine Dazzle: Ouroboros

Machine Dazzle: Ouroboros

University of Michigan Museum of Art

March 20, 2024
Machine Dazzle
An Exhibition in Three Acts
March 14–August 25, 2024
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University of Michigan Museum of Art
525 South State St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States
Hours: Tuesday–Wednesday 11am–5pm,
Thursday–Friday 10am–8pm,
Saturday–Sunday 11am–8pm

T +1 734 647 0395

On March 14, 2024, the University of Michigan Museum of Art opened Machine Dazzle: Ouroboros, a commission and site-specific installation from New York-based artist, designer, and multifaceted maker Machine Dazzle. Consisting of a gallery-filling sculpture of an ouroboros made from found objects, the installation will transform in increasing maximal iterations throughout its six-month run. A second unveiling will occur in May, and a third in June when the sculpture will become wearable and activated by twelve performers.

To support production of the work, UMMA is partnering with the U-M Stamps School of Art & Design, awarding the annual Roman J. Witt Residency to Dazzle for the 2024 season.

This is Machine Dazzle’s first museum installation commission and his first exhibition in the Midwest. It follows his performance commission by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a mid-career retrospective at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), Queer Maximalism x Machine Dazzle, both in New York, and Harbourfront Centre’s Art and Intention exhibition in Toronto.

“The Ouroboros is an ancient symbol, depicting a snake eating its own tail,” explained Dazzle, “Originating in ancient Egypt and the Greek magical tradition, it represents infinity, eternal life, and birth, death, and rebirth; I started Ouroboros by collecting and manipulating garbage from bodies of water. Evident throughout Ouroboros is repetition and reproduction, a never-ending cycle that this symbol represents. Discarded objects can also be heard throughout the space, captured in a soundscape made by manipulating pieces of the sculpture underwater like musical instruments.”

Ouroboros: Act One opened on Thursday, March 14 and was accompanied by Dazzle’s appearance as featured artist on the high-profile Penny Stamps Speaker Series for an audience of more than 1,000 at Ann Arbor’s Michigan Theater.

Ouroboros: Act Two opens on Wednesday, May 1, and will include gallery talks with the artist.

Ouroboros: Act Three will open on Friday, June 14, culminating in a performance activation of Ouroboros where the sculpture will be worn by twelve performers and promenaded beyond the gallery with a culminating soundscape. The June opening will also include a public capstone interview with the artist that explores his process and reflections on completing the installation.

The collaboration with the Roman J Witt Residency program, which Dazzle was awarded for this project, makes the production of new work possible and has seen Dazzle integrating collaborations with students into the project, using U-M studios and other facilities, and allowing the broader community to see the creative process in action.

Dazzle’s first visit to the U-M campus as part of the Witt Residency took place November 27 through December 15, 2023, during which he began work on the central frame of Ouroboros, spent time salvaging found materials that serve as the foundation for his installation, and engaged with students and faculty across the campus in preparation for the exhibition. 

“Machine Dazzle’s work is a glittering kaleidoscope of joyful creativity, where every color, shape, and sparkle is testament to the limitless possibilities of the queer imagination,” said Jim Leija, Deputy Director for Public Experience and Learning at UMMA and the co-producer of this project. “We are thrilled to bring Machine to U-M’s campus and to partner with him. The commission with Machine also continues UMMA’s commitment to supporting artists and fostering dialogues about contemporary social and political contexts. This also presents a new milestone in the ongoing evolution of Machine’s groundbreaking multidisciplinary practice.”

For nearly two decades, Machine Dazzle has been producing spectacular costumes, sets, and performances that transfix audiences with a maximalist kaleidoscope. In recent years, Dazzle has brought his vibrant vision, informed by queer culture and expressions of the queer body, to the creation of intricate wearable art pieces and bespoke installations.

Ouroboros continues UMMA’s vision to present artists, whose work reflects both formal breakthroughs and thoughtful engagement with the issues of our time. 

More About Machine Dazzle
Machine Dazzle has been providing dazzling costumes, sets, and performances since his arrival in New York in 1994. Describing himself as a “radical queer emotionally driven, instinct-based concept artist and thinker trapped in the role of costume designer, sometimes” he is the creator of intricate, unconventional, wearable art pieces and bespoke installations. His ongoing collaboration with Taylor Mac, including costumes and sets for his Pulitzer Prize-nominated A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, is now a documentary available on HBO, co-starring Machine Dazzle.

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University of Michigan Museum of Art
March 20, 2024

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