​While the conceptual apparatus of the work is apparent, and obviously intended to be so, the very human quality of the artists’ project is seductive.

Image: Ms&Mr, Videodromes For The Alone: Frame Drag (installation view), 1988/2009/2024, 3 channel video installation, sculptural elements, wood, foil, electrical cords, paint

nova Milne (formerly Ms&Mr)

Stephanie nova Milne, born 1980 Sydney, Australia
Richard nova Milne, born 1977 Toronto, Canada

The art and life of Richard and Stephanie nova Milne, also known as Ms&Mr, more latterly known as nova Milne, is romantic. Not just the upper case capitalisation of Romanticism, but in the pure and unadulterated splendour of romantic love. The duo creates art that memorialises their lives, unhindered by time and space, as they extend the conceptual architecture of their art project into a kind of time travel.

Much of their work to date has used a catalogue of home movies. Richard’s family were inveterate documenters using Super 8 and video to capture scenes of domestic idyll and fragmented narratives of play–acting and movieland simulacra. Stephanie’s early life, perhaps less documented than Richard, has surrendered visual fragments to their work, such as a video recording of Stephanie’s high school talent quest dance performance. Even the couple’s very first meeting at a picnic was fortuitously captured by a friend with a Super 8 camera and their subsequent wedding was recorded on VHS.

All of this material has been mixed and edited, spliced and overlaid with material from the present day (whenever that day might be) and, using an array of post production techniques, Ms&Mr create fantastic narratives where past, present and the future exist together. Videodromes For The Alone: Breaking The 4th Wall 1987 / 2008 – part of an ongoing series – is a good example: a snippet of home video of Richard as a boy sitting at a table, looks to camera, and then pretend–screams. Ghosting his movements is adult Stephanie, who joins in with the scream. The sequence then loops. Exhibited on a TV screen in a gallery, a poster copy of Munch’s The Scream lays on the floor. Through simple juxtapositions achieved by an almost invisible technique, the artists conflate time and space into memory, which is both individual and art historical, and romantic, as Stephanie joins her partner’s ‘pain’.

Recent projects such as Xerox Missive 1977/2011 and Videodromes For The Alone: Amputee of the Neurotic Future 1988/2012 have explored the narratives of Science Fiction authors Philip K. Dick and J.G. Ballard, reconfiguring well known aspects of the writer’s personal lives and public personas into alternative histories that add the presence of the nova Milnes into the public record. The romance of Ms&Mr’s work is perhaps its most beguiling aspect. While the conceptual apparatus of the work is apparent, and obviously intended to be so, the very human quality of the artists’ project is seductive. Time travel narratives are obviously metaphoric: we imagine revisiting our lives, changing the tragedies, averting the pain, altering the present into a more happy aspect. In Ms&Mr’s work, this fantasy comes to life.

Text by Andrew Frost, a Sydney based art critic, writer, academic and broadcaster, who contributes to a variety of national and international publications.

2012 Australia Council for the Arts' and Anne & Gordon Samstag ISCP Residency (New York, USA)
2010 (Collaborative) Master Fine Arts School of Art, College of Fine Arts, UNSW, Sydney
2004 BFA (Honours Class1) School of Art, College of Fine Arts, UNSW, Sydney

Artist's website: www.novamilne.net


Samstag Museum of Art, University of South Australia, acknowledges the Kaurna people as traditional custodians of the land upon which the Museum stands.