Bruce Connor, “Crossroads” 1975. Video, 37 minutes.
Editors note: As the year wraps up, imploding in the usual whorl of festive eats, drinks and electrostatic fog, we would like to take a look over our shoulder at the year just past by presenting what we found to be the best (most relevant and ominous) independently curated show of 2009. With our criteria being “ideas that might be useful to us in the coming year” our top pick is The Importance of Day Dreams, an exhibition that was on view at World Class Boxing, a space displaying work from the collection of Debra and Dennis Scholl, at the end of the summer (between July and August). Being among the first shows of the season it was perhaps largely overlooked, however we feel that it is well worth revisiting. The following text is by David Rohn, an artist and writer based in Miami…
Nightmares really. Curator Tyler Emerson Dorsch’s recent compilation at World Class Boxing featured, among other things, a breath-taking video of an atomic bomb explosion. This mostly black and white assemblage of images and objects from The Scholl Collection also included a beautiful photo construction by John Baldessari, a film by Charles and Ray Eames about IBM computers in the early ‘70’s, and a chopped-up image used for a Neil Young record album cover in the mid-‘70’s, all of which seemed to suggest a sense of disconnect.
The centrally placed atomic bomb footage, from a US government record, is the most striking, most toxic symbol of destruction and death. It’s always somehow mesmerizingly beautiful and in the context of the show seemed to not just dominate, but to define.
John Baldessari, “The Fallen Easel” 1988. 74″ x 95″
The John Baldessari, a series of amputated/reconstructed photos with a dot over the human faces, is a wonderful documentation of the way disingenuously-cheerful advertising is so violently mixed into our daily struggles, and of the disconnect it creates in our moment to moment experiences.
The Eames’ brothers inclusion in the show was questionable. As designers they are synonymous with idealism about the future. In The Importance of Daydreams however, their view of the corporate and political elites – perhaps more idealistic than many now can muster - suggests the contradiction of a society that makes (and drops) A-bombs while espousing a cheerfully forward-looking corporate culture.
Tim Davis “Rainbow Bread’ 81/2 x 10″
One of the few works to use color is a photo of an artificial looking tri-color cake. We’ve been exposed to more than enough ‘food’ that has been manipulated to look impossibly appealing; so the disconnect between what looks appealing (to a 5-year-old), and actually IS food, is a disconnect we also take for granted.
Chris Sauter, Empire
In an 8-hour video by Chris Sauter called ‘Empire’, we’re treated to a virtually still scene of a solitary rural tower-like structure with a gently fluttering flag. Even though the flag and a few clouds are all that move, we don’t at first even notice. Its as if the flags flying around us were as innocuous as the content of the ‘Pledge of Allegiance’ we all recited as kids without ever focusing on what we were saying.
Auschwitz in today’s Poland. Image credit.
I can’t help but mention that the tower structure also looks a lot like the entrance to Auschwitz – was that intentional or is it just me? Perhaps the point of ‘Daydreams’ is just that: due to an over familiarity with the things that surround us we automatically ascribe no meaning to innocuous images and experiences and zone out into a daydream instead of really consciously noticing them.
Natalia Benedetti, Let’s Go Get Lost. Video installation, Dimensions Variable.
Natalia Benedetti’s upside-down video of an arm dangling outside a car window is another image we see everyday as we drive without thinking twice about, but sometimes find ourselves emerging from a reverie while staring at. Like the Baldessari and Neil Young pieces, that solo arm is also subliminally about parts, disconnection, amputation.
In general, except for the Bruce Connor edition of US Government atomic bomb footage from an early test, the show bore a lazy southern feeling that settled easily into Miami’s summer marasma. The seductive and familiar mushroom form of the atomic explosion, unfolding at the center of a group of (mostly) black and white artworks about banality and missed messages, seemed a nearly subversive reminder that nuclear weapons, which continue to proliferate in as yet unseen (obscene) ways, have perhaps become a kind of banal, not-so-noticed aspect of our daily (planetary) political life.
Clearly we’re living in a time of disconnect and dissociation; where the serious issues (even to those who can’t agree on what these issues are exactly) seem somehow buried under a pile of side-show distractions. That mushroom cloud looked as ominous as it ever did, subtly snuck into Miami’s sleepy, sometimes self-absorbed art scene. Maybe the curator, who was pregnant when she put the show together, has a perspective worth waking up to.
This post was contributed by David Rohn.