The press release includes a question posed by manuel abreau: “how can we consider the power of these images when we’re already under their influence?” (I don’t know).” The works brought together are assembled as a way to disrupt and consider “the violent intrusion of images and the assault of narrative structures on consciousness.”
Looking at contamination, cognitive immunity, studios films and other forms of media, the “narratives that have been fattened, suppressed, squeezed out, swelled, merged, overlaid, edited, hacked” will be addressed.
Dutch artist Jacqueline de Jong joined the Situationist International in 1960. Comprising a network of writers, artists and theorists, the collective synthesized traditional Marxist thought in various attempts to derail the expansion, and embrace of capitalism and Keynesian economic policies following World War II. The Situationists employed détournement (French-to-English translation: hijacking, misappropriation), a prominent technique used in anti-authoritarian disobedience in the mid-twentieth century where corporate logos and symbols were reworked as a means of capitalist parody and critique. Fifty years later, this tactic at its best might look like early 2010s obsession with 1990s posthumanist theory cloaked in sportswear and energy drink apparel. At its worst, Banksy’s trivial analysis of Disneyland in a ‘Dismaland’ theme park. This system has seemingly become really subsumed, reifying irony as sincerity, a self-effacing détournement of détournement.
Void of common brands and overly-legible contemporary referents, the works in Imaginary Disobedience at de Jong’s first solo show at Los Angeles’ Château Shatto, running from March 18 to May 6, understand the potential problems of weakened methodologies in world-making. Social and political action is often attenuated to performance and mere image-sharing on privately-owned public networks, allowing for flattened yet permissible standards of attention that ultimately mitigate paradigmatic change.This generates a phoney arsenal for disobedience, a profusion of weapons made with cheap metals that create a collective delirium after recoil. These tools and their affects leave us reincorporated into the institution and State, while feeling falsely accomplished in its disassemblage.
The left wall upon entering Château Shatto presents three acrylic paintings of the same format on separate shelves. Each one is composed of two wood panels (on the left are diaristic texts from de Jong, on the right are various illustrations of characters and events of the late 20th century) connected by a hinge in their center. Though impossible to make out a complete phrase, the painted internal dialogues are enticing enough to elicit curiosity by a rare, clearly-scripted word and the mention of names and places; the sentences are legible until they aren’t, history can maybe tell us how the complete texts might read. The right panel of ‘After four hours the beans are revealing themselves’ (1971) depicts (amongst scenes of nuclear weapons deployment, bondage and pastoral bike-riding) a doctor clad in a surgical mask, a possible reflection on the opening of the first legal abortion clinic in 1971 in the Netherlands, where de Jong was born.
The most engaging works in the exhibition express an analogous relation between animal subordination and the instruments of control (racialization, incarceration, revoking health insurance as eugenics) that Man indoctrinates to designate and reproduce others as non-human, prematurely dead, socially and materially regulated and disenfranchised. The foreground of ‘The Ultimate Kiss’ (2002-2012) shows a goat’s skull being licked clean after its fibrous muscle tissue and organs have been devoured. Its eyes are still intact so that it may bear witness to its own slaughter in sync with the tribe of goats in the background. Cameroonian philosopher Achille Mbembe writes that “in the logic of survival one’s horror at the sight of death turns into satisfaction that it is someone else who is dead. It is the death of the other, his or her physical presence as a corpse, that makes the survivor feel unique.” The separated living tribe don’t quietly watch death as much as they bask in their own libidinal affectability. ‘The Ultimate Kiss’ names a depraved psychosexual act wherein unilateral exertion of power and atrocities committed by the State, the war machine, the colonist, transmute horror into an erotics of survival and aliveness.
de Jong’s impressive body of work beginning in the 1960s does not (and should not) produce a litany for threadbare methods of insurgence. These resistance attempts indulge a timeline of the end of the world that is maintained with wicked quantum calculus, using constant recursion to insist the apocalypse always begins in the now. In not shying away from the manifold and historicized ways that pain and violence (real, sublimated, abstracted, law-maintaining) animate, vitalize and hide themselves, de Jong presents an archive contra Western sensibilities that are delayed in enunciating long-known axioms of turmoil for the first time. Imaginary Disobedience as a whole functions as a cruel aphorism not dissimilar from Biblical parable, wherein Man’s dissimulation of his own hideous origin are revealed to himself.**
From Discovery to Rediscovery is the titular theme of this year’s Art Brussels fair, which is on at the large former industrial building, Tours & Taxis, running April 22 – 24
This year the organisers have decreased the size of the fair by about 50 galleries, promising quality over quantity, and have opened up a strand titled ‘Rediscovery‘ —dedicated to art from the 20th century by artists who are either under-represented or have been forgotten about. In with the rediscovery will be the following, whose booths aqnb recommends to go and see if you are in the capital:
The heady buzz of Los Angeles’ fair weekend attracted a healthy crop of gallerists, artists, indie rock musicians, tumblr fans and European collectors to the front gallery of Château Shatto with Jean Baudrillard’s photography still adorning the walls. As this is the time when most of the contemporary art world descends on Los Angeles for Paramount Ranch and the more blue chip Art Los Angeles Contemporary, the evening crowd is chatty and especially eager to blow off some steam once Nguzunguzu takes over the basement with a night-long DJ set. A performance like James Ferraro’s ‘Burning Prius’ within such a trafficked weekend presents a kind of intervention. It’s the work of someone whose predominant medium has recently been the hypercapitalist detritus of West Hollywood, Mid-Wilshire and Santa Monica; places dubbed the ‘Miracle Mile’, that refer to pets as “companions” and characterize an evangelical gratitude to Lifestyle with slogans such as “Fortunate People in a Fortunate City”. The impulse to play on these signifiers is irresistible, and have been plucked before as elements of other LA-focused performances including Steven Warwick’s REENGINEERING VILLA AURORA.
Ferraro’s domain of absurdity can be somewhat opaque, if not completely indecipherable. Much of his more recent corporate muzak contrasts with his earlier tape work with The Skaters, where odd ecologies of loops are built toward random cacophonies, or simply droned along until their point of expiration. Since then, he’s ditched the rawness of analogue audio and produced under the monikers Bebetune$ and Bodyguard, as well as eponymously, morphing into a more recent phase riffing directly off of banal commercial MIDI arrangements. ‘Burning Prius’is unique amongst the pile of silica gel, iguanas, Dubai and the other references that Ferraro brings into his work, extending his focus onto an overlap between digital and classical arrangements, as well as opening up his work to performative composition.
On January 29, Ferraro is hidden amongst the crowd, acknowledged by a few close friends but largely clandestine. About fifteen minutes past 9pm a quartet of cellists in SWAT gear walk into the dull roar of conversation and take their places as a soundtrack of police sirens, surveillance helicopters and diffuse traffic patterns begin to roll off the speakers. Beginning with a police blotter and then proceeding into annunciations by a talking Prius computer, the performance builds up with the background drone for some minutes before the cellists play their first note. The sounds are angular, distinct and sharp, acting as punctuation as the babble of the cold, synthesized hybrid car voice recites phrases like ‘Destination’, ‘Traffic’ and ‘Los Angeles’. This uneasy pattern between the cellists and the Prius continues until the droning background Angeleno street ambience grows precipitously more unruly, leading to a crescendo that tastefully unifies the three strains of sound. Only the Prius is left audible at the end of the performance, naively and incessantly requesting destination input.
Ferraro’s performance obviously points toward the early ‘90s post-Rodney King tumult where both Los Angeles’ society and ecology were in crisis. Entire neighborhoods erupted over myriad social and economic inequities, followed two years later by the Northridge earthquake, all of which was then quite figuratively echoed by Hollywood’s depiction of volcanoes emerging out of the La Brea tar pits. As Mike Davis concludes of LA’s urban cauldron in Ecology of Fear, “Seen from space, the city that once hallucinated itself as an endless future without natural limits or social constraints now dazzles observers with the eerie beauty of an erupting volcano.” With Ferraro’s performance, this discord is reimagined, forcefully folded into the greater narrative of LA’s zenned-out lifestyle.
The hybrid link between society and ecology in Los Angeles encapsulates the very real day to day ubiquity of green juices, affirmation classes and tantric meditation overlaid with evening sunset Instagram filters. Ferraro’s method over the past few years has been to pick and choose from these varying lifestyle signifiers and present them raw, unfiltered and frustratingly naked. In a similar vein as Parker Ito’s painting, where torrents of symbols and internet imagery are spread across canvases with sprawling, complex layering, Ferraro’s nonlinearity presents social and consumerist signifiers absent of any comprehension. Ito characterized his work in Artforum as “like when people who don’t read Chinese get Chinese characters tattooed on their bodies”. Ferraro, too, doesn’t care about recontextualization. Instead he bankrupts his constituent symbols of any real narrative and, in the case of ‘Burning Prius’, shoves them all together in the foundry of Los Angeles’ ever-confused and displaced human and natural ecologies. **
A new exhibition titled Plagiarist of My Unconscious Mind! is opening up at LA’s Chateau Shatto on July 21 and running until August 29, with a proper opening reception on July 24.
The group exhibition combines works by Peggy Ahwesh, Cécile B. Evans and George Egerton-Warburton, with an extended installation of Rose Hobart (1936),artist Joseph Cornell’s 18-minute surrealist edit of the 1931 film East of Borneo, starringRose Hobart in the lead role (the idea for which he was later accused by the booming ego of Salvador Dalí as plagiarizing, somehow).
For Plagiarist of My Unconscious Mind!, Château Shatto revisits the first presentation of Cornell’s film, converting it back to black and white and projecting in through a piece of blue glass, accompanied by the soundtrack of 78 rpm records playing alongside the film.