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Nested Worlds

Van McElwee started his artistic career as a painter and printmaker using both modes, for a theme-and-variation approach. Variation has continued to be a theme in McElwee’s work. Another constant element in his video pieces is the importance of sound, not as music, but as one aspect of an inherently audiovisual form. As McElwee has stated, “video should have the same freedom as painting or music; it should be something in itself; not just about something else.” McElwee’s exploration of dimensionality in the video led him to the new medium of Augmented Reality “AR turns our minds inside out. It can be aligned with ideas of alternate realities, something I’ve explored in the video for decades. I think of a world as a new unit of media, like frame, shot, and story. These worlds overlap and intrude on one another, creating a multiverse”.

“PAVILIONS: Nested Worlds” is one of the most representative works of McElwee’s augmented reality along with Many Worlds Theory. Its very form reflects the labyrinthine condition of digital culture: games, the Internet, the Rhizome. PAVILIONS employs augmented reality to imagine six alternate worlds, represented by six superimposed music pavilions. McElwee collaborated with Rich O’Donnell to performs a six-channel original composition that fills this multidimensional space. 

(Audiences in the exhibition of PAVILIONS)


McElwee develops his ideas first in his notebooks, sometimes over several years. McElwee works in numerous ways to expand the language of new media. For example, he is currently creating over a thousand hand-drawn images that will become a mutating musical score, resulting in sounds that flow into multiple streams of novelty and chaos. We look forward to his next breathtaking work. 


Van McElwee is a digital and media artist based in St.Louis, MO. His body of media art includes over one hundred single-channel video works, installations, and web projects. Grants and awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, The American Film Institute Independent Filmmaker Award, The National Endowment for the Arts Independent Production Fund (seven-time recipient), a Regional Arts Commission Individual Artist Fellowship, and a grant from the Government of India.