People

TOM SCANLAN & COLIN SCHOSTAK

Colin and Tom are seniors at The Pennington School. They recently held an art show at their school, in which they presented their photography and other works. Jamaica and I met with them the other day to discuss the content of show and their art in general. (Scroll down for more photos.)


Tell us a little bit about yourselves.

T: I like a lot of things. I like music—anything but country. I like drama. I do technical theater, and I act, and then of course there’s art, [which] comes in many different forms, including [music and drama]. I try and blend [different kinds of art] whenever I get the chance.


“The Medium is the Message.”

 

Let’s talk specifically about the show you just did. Can you tell us about the premise, the inspiration behind it, etc.?

C: It was “The Medium is the Message.” It was an ideology by Marshall McLuhan, a theorist and philosopher. Basically, he had the idea that the medium that you portray your work on is more important than—

T: Well, the thing is, it’s not necessarily about art, but [rather] delivering some kind of message or content. The way that that’s delivered is just as important as what you’re trying to say. The example that I use [to explain it to] people is [this]: If someone is going to deliver a presidential speech, the way that you see it on your phone might be different from if you listen to it through headphones or watch it on a computer or a TV screen, or read a transcript. The medium [through] which you absorb content has an effect on what’s trying to be said. That’s kind of what Marshall was saying.

C: We tried to do that a lot through how, when you walk into the gallery, it’s really just a visual experience. We have the old CRT TVs [as] one of the first things you probably [see, and] animations and some text that I made to show on the TVs as one of the mediums. We also had digital images printed out, and we had a projector, that’s another medium. We had a radio just to have a historical context. We also had lights going around the entire thing that kind of moved to the music, and that was kind of like a medium in itself.

“What are these crazy kids trying to do here?”


What, of all the mediums, were your favorites, or which do you think were the most impactuful?

C: I thought the TVs were most impactful because it wasn’t that it was really complicated, but I think [they acted as] a real punch when you first walked in, like “Oh, what is this? Let me think about why they would just use TVs.” Most people at our school wouldn’t think about that, but we were hoping that people would see that as “What are these crazy kids trying to do here, and why are they just putting TVs in the middle of a room?” but it was really just to go along with the theme that the medium is very important when you’re putting it on a screen, and those [CRT] TVs specifically provide a historical timeline to go along with the rest of the show.

C: We also kind of used Marshall McLuhan. i We heard about this guy—Tom found him— and we were like, “This is the perfect guy [and] the perfect idea to use. We can kind of just use anything that we’ve shot before and put it into its own theme.” We didn’t have to come up with a singular theme [under which] all the work was coherent; rather, having his idea [allowed] us to mix different themes. I had underwater photography and landscapes, along with portraits and things like that, so none of it really connected besides the idea [on which the whole show was based].

T: I guess that with that, it’s important to note that our thing was kind of a double entendre, ish. The whole title was “The Medium is the Message,” which was coined by Marshall, and there was a subtitle which was “The Exploration to the Minds of Two, Young, Knavish Artists.” We were going to write “idiotic.” [“Knavish” tends to have] negative connotations. We were fine with it though.

C: I thought it went well; I liked it.

“We can’t sit there and beg people to take us too seriously…”

 

T: The whole point is that we were the first kids to ever fully take control over our school’s gallery, so we were like, “We can’t sit there and beg people to take us too seriously, you know? So why don’t we just embrace our immaturity and our youthfulness, and [express] what it’s like to be a teenager.”

C: We went crazy with that stuff. When I first got those lights, when I put them up, I was like, “Tom, we’re gonna have these lights move to the music. It’ll be like a European nightclub, and it’s gonna be awesome.”

J: You and your EUROPOP!

C: It ended up being coherent with everything, too, because that’s just another form of expression.

“Ideas are a weird thing.”


What is the thought process behind your photography?

C: I think first and foremost is the story. I think of having a story because I think in a cinematic light because I always film, too. When I’m taking a picture, I really want to think about a story, like what happened to this person or this scene that [I’m capturing]. After that, I want to know about objects in the foreground, background, basically all throughout the image, and how do I arrange those to [manipulate] what a person sees first. [I also consider] how I would light it, to see how a person is going to view that object or person, like in a harsh light or in a soft light to make it more angelic. [My process consists of] thinking about an idea, finding the space and props, the lighting that goes behind it, and then the composition within it.

T: Colin’s work is so definitive. He says [I] like everything that [he does], and I don’t, but I can look at his photos and be like, “Oh that’s Colin.” His work either has—and I guess this is the filmmaker in [him], but [he has] a very cinematic feel to [his] photos, but then again, [his] sense of humor is also very present in a lot of the photos. With me, I feel like my work as a whole isn’t totally coherent, and [neither are the sources from which] I get my ideas. I don’t know, ideas are a weird thing.

I think David Lynch describes ideas in the best way—he’s my favorite; I love David Lynch. He was like, “Ideas are like catching fish” or something like that. Ideas can come from anywhere, honestly. One of the funniest things is like, there was one time when we were having a conversation with one of Scott’s brother’s friends, and he was sitting there, talking to us about black holes. He was just like talking about math, and I was totally lost, but he was like “this, and this and this,” and then he [suddenly turned around], and then he came back and he started talking, but why he looked over that way— it was so strange, but it’s like that’s the type of thing. A strange mannerism can get me and I’ll be like “Oh!” and I’ll start thinking about something and I’ll start thinking about something else, and then somehow that will be a photo idea. That’s like how [Colin and I] come up with ideas too. We’re very stream of consciousness-driven, and we’ll be like “Dude, how cool would it be if we did this?” and [Colin’s] like “No no no, how cool would it be if we did that, and then did this?”

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