Improving Everyday Life for the Majority at Christopher Miro
Improving Everyday Life for the Majority installation view. Image courtesy of Christopher Miro Gallery.
Anyone walking into Improving Everyday Life for the Majority at Christopher Miro, a new gallery in Downtown Miami, will be immediately struck by a sense of familiarity. That’s not to say that they know the artist, newcomer Nicholas Arehart or the work he makes, but rather that they have a connection with the nature of the materials he is working with. Even if someone has managed to never hear of IKEA, the Swedish furniture superstore, they no doubt own end tables, bookcases, beds, and lamps – the basic building blocks of the show.
The sculptural works in the main area of the gallery of course intentionally relate to one another. They are all founded upon the same core idea of taking mundane, everyday, and iconic items and manipulating them into something unique. In addition, they retain some of their original properties as furniture and therefore they have an aesthetic relationship with each other in the same way that any furniture placed in a room together has.
Two video pieces, on the other hand, are the exceptions to this rule and appear not to relate to the IKEA objects or even each other. However, as can be expected, the by product of the curatorial process has resulted in certain probably unavoidable connections.
Improving Everyday Life for the Majority installation view featuring Autonomy, 2010. Image courtesy of Christopher Miro Gallery.
Autonomy is about the ways in which mundane, routine tasks become a way of life, leaving little importance or need for the unique desires and wants of the individual. Hung in the space, it and the IKEA Objects are two different tangents of the same conversation. Both address, and are critical, of the contemporary Western lifestyle. However, where the IKEA Objects focus on the consumption end of consumerism, Autonomy is more concerned with the lack of individuality that comes with the positions that are needed to perpetuate this way of life.
This lack of individuality is also addressed in An Illegally Downloaded Film, a piece through which Arehart explores appropriation without credit and rebels against the perpetuation of artificial dams of knowledge that exist despite or in spite of the Internet.
An Illegally Downloaded Film, 2010. Image courtesy of Christopher Miro Gallery.
In this video piece, which is projected in the back room of the gallery, angular and colorful shapes dance in and out of existence accompanied by what sounds like a robotic symphony warming up. People, objects and motions of the camera can sometimes be made out, but nothing is concrete. These ephemeral moments suggest the foundation of this piece.
The basis of An Illegally Downloaded Film is a major Hollywood motion picture, that Arehart acquired through the popular file sharing protocol BitTorrent. After exporting the film into a series of stills and running them through a custom filter setting in Photoshop the manipulated stills were then reassembled into a video and reunited with the original audio track, only distorted through filters.
This process mimics encryption technology, but instead of protecting sensitive information from potential theft, here the artist protects himself as he passes on information in an unauthorized manner. An Illegally Downloaded Film is a message: in a world that is connected by near instantaneous channels of communication, information cannot be contained.
Image courtesy of Christopher Miro Gallery.
The title of the show, Improving Everyday Life for the Majority, comes from an actual IKEA slogan presumably used postulate that the company is improving lives by offering cheap, affordable designer furniture. By appropriating their slogan and placing it with this body of work, Arehart suggests that they are in fact doing the opposite. In addition, the title acts almost as a mission statement for this work; by making people au courant to the fallacy of a better way of living through the mass produced, the artist may somehow improve their lives.
IKEA Object 6, 2010. Image courtesy of Christopher Miro Gallery.
IKEA Object 6 sits at the far-end, right-hand corner of the main room of the gallery. It consists of an IKEA bed frame, mattress, box spring, pillows, comforter and bedding. The length of the frame has been reduced to nearly half its size and the mattress and box spring have been crushed to fit within their new confines. According to the Arehart the inception of this idea and the execution of its creation were both born of struggle.
“When I moved to Miami to be with [my girlfriend]” Arehart explains, “we both made sacrifices. I left the comfort of a town in which I had many friends and a well paying job to move to a city with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country where I knew nobody. [My girlfriend] was also going through a transitional phase. This combination, along with the infancy of our relationship, led to many tensions. The concept for this piece came to me in those difficult times.”
The relevance of IKEA Object 6, is found not only in its IKEA based materials, but also in the dialogue it engages the viewer in. These are sculptures, yes, but they are also domestic paraphernalia. More than any other piece, IKEA Object 6 embodies this.
Image courtesy of Christopher Miro Gallery.
When asked to discuss what could be improved about the show, Arehart candidly stated he felt the show went was well as possible with the limitations set before himself and the gallery, but that in the future he would like to improve his use of the space, working more closely with it to integrate it into the show instead of treating it as a stage. I am inclined to agree, but regardless, of the fact that what is being said in this show about consumerism, mass production, and identity in the age of mechanical reproduction have been commented on before, this kind of dialogue is too important to start and stop with one individual artist or one body of work. These conversations are still relevant and there are questions here that people are still asking. And if the work can answer at least one of these questions for at least one individual, then this show has found its need.
Although I cannot speak directly for either the gallery or the artist it feels as though there are similarities between them that make the show a good fit. Like the gallery, Arehart is newly emerging into the Miami art scene. There is a certain freedom that comes along with that and I am excited by the potential of this relationship to do things that other artists/galleries couldn’t or wouldn’t do. With no expectations, they are free to forge their path into the “new frontier” as Christopher would say[.]
Improving Everyday Life for the Majority by Nicholas Arehart is on view at Christopher Miro Gallery until November 30th.
For more information please visit www.christophermirogallery.com
This post was contributed by Thomas Hollingworth.