Mark MacKillop: The Solitary Masterpiece

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You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet. ~ Franz Kafka

The empty room.

The sound of solitude.

The languorous shifting of light.

The art of being alone has produced works of staggering beauty. Only when faced with ourselves can we get to understand what we are really like. You have to be all right with being alone before you can be good company for anyone else. There’s a gorgeous irony in that, and it’s explored pictorially in Mark MacKillop’s coffee-table book ‘Room XIV.’ Released a few months ago, Mr. MacKillop has been making the book tour rounds and putting in appearances at bookstores to spread the pretty word. Reaction has been supportive and enthusiastic.

“I’ve been most surprised by people’s love of the book,” MacKillop explains. “It was a really fun project that when I started it had no real intention for it to become a book or continue like this. I love that people are interested in seeing my life touring with a musical depicted in hotel rooms. I don’t think anything really bothered me about this process because that’s all part of the learning curve of trying something new you haven’t done before, like publishing a book. It’s all been a really cool learning experience.”

You can get help from teachers, but you are going to have to learn a lot by yourself, sitting alone in a room. ~ Dr. Seuss

The book itself is a beautiful study on the human form, but also the human condition of solitude. There is a loneliness at work, but a contentment in that loneliness. There is also a sense of connection, or trying to make some connection. He reaches out with his gaze, seeking to impress with a pose, and the end result is a complex examination of the human condition, veiled in the gauze of beauty. According to MacKillop, it was an invitation: “Very rarely do people get a glimpse into the life of a touring actor’s day-to-day life.  I wanted to be able to share that with my friends who were across the Atlantic and any new friends that I met on the road. It was my way of being creative and letting people into my world.”

When you get into a hotel room, you lock the door, and you know there is a secrecy, there is a luxury, there is fantasy. There is comfort. There is reassurance. ~ Diane von Furstenberg

In a world of social media overload and online-only interactions, a physical book feels old-school and quaint. It lends a warmth and sturdiness to the experience, something that will never quite be matched by the cold glare of a computer screen. A photograph on paper somehow resonates more than an image on screen. It demands a bit more.

“I love the physical appeal of a heavy book,” MacKillop admits, offering insight into the technicalities of the creative process. “There’s something awesome about physically turning pages, feeling the texture of the paper. That was an important factor when I was choosing what textures went into my book. I chose a paper that had some weight and feeling to it. I didn’t want a high gloss page I wanted the book to feel like it was from a different time, the pages really soak up the ink of the image. That being said as much as I love traditional books the Internet has made it so incredibly easy to share new images instantly so there’s an appeal for both, my love for the physical and the instant.”

That juxtaposition has made the marketing for the book an interesting amalgamation of teasing shots, evocative video, and traditional in-person bookstore signings.

I used to live in a room full of mirrors; all I could see was me. I take my spirit and I crash my mirrors, now the whole world is here for me to see. ~ Jimi Hendrix

When confronted with the question of whether he is happier alone or surrounded by people, MacKillop straddles both states. “Everything in moderation,” he says. “Sometimes I crave the interaction and conversation of others. Although sometimes after a long day nothing is more nice than being alone. They say you can’t truly be happy with others till you are happy and content by yourself.”

All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone. ~ Blaise Pascal

Which brings us back to that room, where a man stands by himself, gazing out at the world, at the mirror, at the camera lens. It is a moment of reflection, of solitude, of seeking out some understanding of his place here. It is his way of connecting, through the portal of a look, a photograph, a book.

“Being alone was the premise of the project. The year on tour with ‘West Side Story’ was a demanding year both physically and emotionally. It was a big year of personal and artistic growth. I spent a lot of time alone thinking. People always comment, ‘Oh you look deep in thought in the photos.’ That’s what I wanted to capture, that moment.”


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