Mark Cooley’s work explores the intersections of art, activism and everyday life. Particular interests include: U.S. foreign policy, the fine art and popular culture industries, political economy of new technologies, art/ecology, and sustainable systems. Cooley’s work has appeared internationally in venues such as Exit Art, AC Institute (NYC), The Art Institute of Chicago, The World Social Forum (India) MediaLabMadrid (Madrid), and online at Rhizome.org, and Furtherield.org, as well as many other venues around the world. Cooley’s sporadic writings have been published in various journals and websites over the years, and most recently in the book accompanying the groundbreaking exhibition, “Green Acres: Artists Farming Fields, Greenhouses, and Abandoned Lots” Curated by Sue Spaid.
Cooley and his family inhabit a 1/2 acre lot located in an ever-shifting zone of VA that could as likely be called suburban as sub-rural. The conflicts arising from the waning of agrarian culture and the widening girth of suburbia’s unsustainable model of development are lightly glossed over in a nearby town’s motto, “Agriculture in a Business Friendly Community”. With a rising commuter and service industry culture, but the still recent memory of an agrarian past, Northern Virginia provides an interesting and challenging context for experimenting with domestic sustainability methods and technologies where they’re needed most, and yet least likely to be practiced – suburbia. Over the past 8 years, Cooley’s family and their animal and plant collaborators (including chickens, bees, rabbits, and a pig) have practiced with organic gardening, permaculture, herbalism, non-institutional schooling and other models which can offer more sustainable living options to suburban residents.
Cooley is also an Associate Professor and Coordinator of New Media Art in George Mason University’s School of Art, where he teaches new media, art theory and criticism, and eco-art among other classes. In 2010, Cooley helped found and continues to manage the SoA Green Studio which offers School of Art students a living studio in which to creatively explore the interdependence of biological and cultural systems. The Green studio exists, as any working art studio does, in constant flux, but with unique concerns. Unlike the modernist notion of the art studio, to which the artist is often expected to retreat from the world and worldly concerns, the SoA Green Studio is without walls, and its conceptual and physical parameters are recognized as contingent upon the complex interface of cultural and natural forces that have aligned and conspired in its creation. Being a radical break from institutional approaches to landscaping, The Green Studio owes its existence and growth to a specific alignment of complex biological, social, political and economic factors. These contingencies are acknowledged and embraced by the artists working in the space, and therefore the goal of work in the Green Studio is not to create in spite of the world, but rather in relation to it.
Cooley, who sometimes performs and records under the moniker GutHead, is also a musician whose output in recent years includes sporadic performances in experimental and electroacoustic music festivals throughout the U.S. and recording for Lux Eterna Records (Washington DC), Electroshock Records (Russia), and Sonic Circuits (Washington DC). Cooley has also written scores for documentary podcasts and films. Mark also performs with his daughter Celia as ThePopcornClub.