P a u l M. N i c h o l s o n

Permission Structures, 2018









click here to see the 15 minute screen loop







Permission Structures *, 2018

46 x 74 x 16" Wood, roll out hobby turf/grass, monitor, 15 minute video

Video: rotating quotes excerpted from television, film, literature, comic and video game narratives, intercut with slow motion moving water.

The billboard rising above screens quotes from authoritative sounding sources. Each excerpt of prudent
prose is culled from characters culled from film, television, literature and video games. Meditations on the
militarization of police, the nature of democracy and broader body politic are interspersed with slow motion
video of flowing water, and are screened on a billboard above. The base is a kind of topographic map,
fashioned out of three dimensional pixels. This arrangement is meant to evoke something between an IRL
Minecraft environment, and a model railroad diorama.

With this work I am interested in exploring how we absorb moral lessons and guidance from fictional
characters, which we cannot seem to take in when offered by our very real and mortal worldly leaders. The
reputations of fictional characters are inherently locked, frozen, and fixed owing to that they are creations of
the original authors. While real and fictional heroes can suffer misinterpretation, they never make mistakes
or exhibit foibles unintended of their creator. Much like beloved historical figures, we can only make our
assessment of a fictional character from the limited information that we are given.

With this power and liberation, fictional characters have a magnified influence and potential for propaganda,
since potential questionable motivations and ad hominem attack is not possible owing to the preexisting
architecture of their construction within a fixed fictional universe. It is from these trustworthy avatars that
we are uniquely able to take advice and guidance, much akin to how a previous generation believed in the
endorsement from a physician in 1950’s advertising the health and safety of Camel Cigarettes. By situating
the monitor on a replica billboard structure, we are reminded, but not overwhelmed, by the potential
propagandistic nature of the display.

Taking the notion of the model universe as a point of departure, I insert the not so subtle guidance of
fictional leaders, interspersed with slow motion flowing water. Partly an intuitive decision, the water stands
in for the vast amount of knowledge rushing past us. By slowing it down, we are given the opportunity to
contemplate its volume and immensity, if not its relevance. Images depicting the sublime are a longstanding
trope of religious scripture and occasionally on motivational posters. In this case, the slow motion water has
inclusions, digital artifacts from the file compression, making it unclear whether this is a low fidelity image or
computer simulation, echoing the questionable authenticity of the interspersed quotes.

*The Term “Permission Structures” comes from advertising, and is essentially a rhetorical, logical, or
cognitive device [/structure] that would allow someone to make a particular purchasing decision. i.e. ‘you’ve
worked hard this year, and you and your family deserve a nice vacation to Orlando’. The term was also
popularized by the Obama Administration, when the President and his surrogates used the term to describe
arguments and rationalizations that someone might be receptive to in order to come around to your position.


Permission Structures 2018 (artwork), full quotes and attributions


There's a reason you separate military and the police. One fights the enemies of the state, the other serves and protects the people.
When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people.

- Commander William Adama

Battlestar Galactica, 2004 - 2009 (television) starring Edward James Almos, Created by Glenn Larson and Ronald Moore



A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.

- Young Lord Jojen Reed

A Dance With Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire #5), 2013 (novel) by George R.R. Martin



You the people have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness. You the people have the power to
make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then, in the name of democracy, let us use that power,
let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give you the future and
old age and security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power, but they lie. They do not fulfill their promise,
they never will. Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people. Now let us fight to fulfill that promise. Let us fight to free
the world, to do away with national barriers, to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of
reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men's happiness. … In the name of democracy: let us all unite!

- Hynkel Leader of Tomania

The Great Dictator, 1940 (film) Writer/Director/Starring Charles Chaplin



When I was a young man, I had liberty, but I did not see it…I had time, but I did not know it…and I had love, but I did not feel it.
Many decades would pass before I understood the meaning of all three…And now, the twilight of my life, this understanding has
passed into contentment. Love, liberty, and time - once so disposable are the fuels that drive me forward.

- Ezio Auditore de Firenze

Assassin's Creed 2007 – 2017 [most recent], (video game series) Ubisoft



What we perceive as God is the by-product of our search for God. It may simply be an appreciation of the light… pure and
unblemished… not understanding that it comes from us. Sometimes we stand in front of the light and assume that we are the
center of the universe – God looks astonishingly like we do – or we turn to look at our shadow and assume that all is darkness.
If we allow ourselves to get in the way, we defeat the purpose, which is to use the light of our search to illuminate the wall in all
its beauty and in all its flaws; and in so doing, better understand the world around us.

- Ambassador G'Kar

Babylon 5, 1994 – 1998, (television), from the story originally developed by Gene Roddenberry [Star Trek 1966 - 1969]



It is possible to make no mistakes and lose. That is not failure; that is life.

- Cpt. Jean-Luc Picard

Star Trek The Next Generation, 1987 – 1994,television, Jean-Luc Picard played by by Sir Patrick Stewart, from the story
originally developed by Gene Roddenberry [Star Trek 1966 - 1969]



Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope.

- Nick Carraway, WWI Veteran

The Great Gatsby, 1925, (novel) by F. Scott Fitzgerald



Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. It's knowing you're [beaten] before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it
through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.

- Atticus Finch J.D.

To Kill a Mockingbird, 1960, (novel) by Harper Lee



The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to
live humbly for one.

- Mr. Antolini, English Professor .Elkton Hills Prep School

Catcher in the Rye , 1945/6, 1951 (novel) by JD Salinger



People should not be afraid of their governments.
Governments should be afraid of their people.

- Anonymous political dissident, UK

V for Vendetta, (comic 1988-89, film 2005) by Alan Moore



Students will rise to the level of expectation

Jaime Escalante, Distinguished Educator, South Central Los Angeles

Stand and Deliver, 1988, (film) starring Edward James Almos, written and directed by Ramón Menéndez









This work was first shown in June 2018 as part of the exhibition, Permission Structures

Click here to see all works in the the Permission Structures Exhibition

click here to view or download the Permission Structures Catalog

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