Happening a while back but one not to be overlooked, Camden’s Rowing in London presented a nine-strong exhibition of artists inspired by the 1988 teen cult-classic and would-be mass murder movie, Heathers, running September 19 to October 25. Curated by New York’s Alex Ross and crossing generations born before and beyond the 80s, the exhibition rides on the inescapable cycle of contemporary art co-option in popular culture via its “impulse to vampirise levity as a cipher for criticality and de-subjectivisation”.
It takes the Michael Lehmann film’s quiet nods to artworks – obtusely referred to in a list of timings appearing on the Rowing exhibition page in lieu of a press release – across 11 pivotal scenes underscored by their appearance in the background. The Heathers exhibition in turn takes this idea of appropriation and depoliticisation of a post-Pop Art space further, by presenting works that reintegrate popular, or more specifically, commodity culture back into the artwork, begging the question, ‘what’s the difference anyway?’ Hence there’s May Hands‘, ‘Endless Euphoria (Calvin Klein)’ (2014) – a minimal white netted canvas dotted with the fashion house’s perfume cards – next to ‘Guilty, (Gucci)’ (2014) and Deanna Havas‘s ‘Regrind (4)’, a papier mâché plaque on foam crudely painted with brands, a browser window and fragments of text including, “Brand Name: Famous”.
Bradford Kessler‘s ‘Mistletoe (3,2,1)’ (2014) hangs from the ceiling at the Rowing entrance – tasteful snow-white head harnesses fitted with crisp new tennis ball gags – while Daniele Milvio’s glazed raw clay scallop bowls are mounted across four walls. That’s where Kait Mooney‘s titanium negative ion necklace for the athlete in ‘third initial’ (2014) lies scattered in a scrawl on the floor. It’s tubing and brass fittings lead away from Erika Ceruzzi‘s tumbling wall hung, ‘Ribbons (Electrobank)’ (2014), across from Rachel Maclean‘s ‘LolCats’ (2012) 15-minute video, on the floor in the corner. The latter artist performs famous cultural moments throughout history – from a Katy Perry interview (“I wanted them to be, like, Britney Spears-white.”) to a scene from The Wizard of Oz (“But, I don’t understand”) – as the ‘LOLCat’ meme personified in a hyper-stylised fantasy landscape.
Where the art and the curatorial concept comes to bear most succinctly, is in Lisa Holzer‘s framed painting of ‘Nude monochrome’s naked dream with Ei passing under spaghetti (blushing orange)’ (2014), where the Tiqqun-inspired framed pigment print behind glass reacts as much as it mediates in an interface between person and projection (“girly-like shy rather than ashamed“). Anime stickers are stuck across from frame to transparent screen in the paler ‘It’s my hair and I can do what I want with it!’ (2014) print, confusing where the image ends and the ‘reality’ begins. The causality dilemma is extended to video game culture, high school shootings and the socialised violence, misogyny and alienation of conventional masculinity in Andrea Crespo‘s empty Playstation 3 game disc boxes. The Complex Cases feature blurbs taken from existing blog posts left behind by soon-to-be teen mass murderers in what’s becoming a growing trend building up on copy-cat actions by the likes of Jeff Weise and Elliot Rodger, with Jokela High School student Eric-Pekka Auvinen insisting, “HUMANITY IS OVERRATED!” **