More so than a narrative presentation, Andrew Norman Wilson’s SONE at London’s Project Native Informant is an assemblage of protective materials, a critique and an actionable framework. It is also the title of the video and performance artist’s New York-based production company distributing its work through stock image sites Getty, Pond5 and iStock, as well as in the PNI space and New York’s Untitled Gallery. Dealing in methods of image appropriation and dissemination, the SONE exhibition presents the artist’s multifaceted practice while reveling in the ridiculous. Visitor’s are greeted with an engraved private aircraft windshield titled ‘Risk Prevention Investment Object 3’ and a series of other found objects and 3D video loops. The pieces, evenly spaced throughout the room and close to the floor despite their gaudy pink plinths, resemble an exalted scrapyard.
Presumably, SONE serves as protection against an onslaught of consumer culture. Most of the objects on show are forms of protective gear, across the aforementioned windshield, a paintball mask and a luxury automotive headlight protected by a glass casing. There’s the added emphasis beyond their intended use, while being presented on top of platforms made from anti-static packing foam embedded with rim cylinder locks. Once the works are purchased from the gallery, they are ‘unlocked’ and embedded directly into the foam packaging, much in the same way that a watermarked online stock image might be released from its milky white logo when ‘checking out’.
One of Wilson’s better known video works, ‘Workers Leaving the Googleplex’, adopted a journalistic approach to capitalist infrastructures. As a former employee at Google, the work examined and criticised the shady working conditions of underpaid labourers. The videos at SONE, however, are more open-ended forms of institutional critique. ‘Invisibility-cloaked hand gestures in offshore financial centre jungle’ (2014) narrates a business agreement gone awry through camouflaged handshakes and pseudo-sign-language pointing to the cryptic nature of non-descript offshore transactions. According to Wilson, the gesticulations are “professional-social, then coercive, then oratorical, then a nervous breakdown,” while apparent relief comes in the form of mindfulness meditation music (a practice Wilson explored before with his ‘Body Deselect’ mix) comes in the form of the ubiquitous simulated helicopter sounds filling the exhibition space.
A second video piece ‘Chase ATM emitting blue smoke, Bank of America ATM emitting red smoke, TD Bank ATM emitting green smoke’ (2014) features cash machines spitting out billows of smoke corresponding to the colours of the bank they belong to; indicating the confusion (or, literally, smokescreen) brought about by financial transactions. What is it we are really gettting from an ATM after all?
Aside form the objects and video installations scattered across the PNI floor, there’s a poster/edition of ‘Image Concept Proposals’ downloadable from the Project Native Informant website detailing a variety of instructive proposals for future images, leaving its viewer to realise their own equally absurd stock photos to rival the likes of SONE’s ‘Sobbing Drunk CEO’. Meanwhile sonics play a key role in not only evoking the futility of finding peace in the mechanised sounds of a helicopter rotor system, but in establishing the interrelatedness and ultimate nonsense of all the above elements via Wilson’s first love in music. Because, beyond the seemingly random ‘DJ Norm’ set list performed at the Lexington the night of the exhibition opening -including OMC’s ‘How Bizarre‘ -there’s a humour to SONE that might be lost among the banal products and sleek aesthetic of Wilson’s corporate critique. But on closer inspection, they reveal a complex set of signifiers essentially pointing to their inherent emptiness. **