They Told You So
THEY TOLD YOU SO
Curated by Mireille Bourgeois and Anaïs Lellouche
July 16 – August 14, 2009
bitforms gallery is pleased to announce They Told You So, an exhibition curated by Mireille Bourgeois and Anaïs Lellouche. The exhibition will run Thursday, July 16th through August 14th, 2009.
The group exhibition They Told You So gathers work by international artists: Jon Thomson and Alison Craighead, John Menick, Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay, Roee Rosen, and Brina Thurston. The works selected in the exhibition share a process akin to what the Situationists International have referred to as détournement; a term that implies a reuse of well known media to deliver a message opposed to the original. The artworks gathered have studied a very specific form of rhetoric, one shaped and disseminated as a tool for the political and economic industries. The artworks in the exhibition They Told You So invert, expand, and parody the rhetoric of power.
The artworks reveal the tropes of rhetoric by deconstructing its cliché yet widely spread mechanical apparatus, from lie detectors to surveillance cameras, and investigate some of its psychological methods, such as brainwashing and the use of subliminal messages. They present an industrious tension of skepticism and cognitive desire to mimic and channel the numerous forms of language manipulations that we endure from political and corporate powers daily. The works, via video, sound installation and printed text, capture the successes and shortcomings of linguistics and its means of interpretation.
Evaluating the authenticity of the recorded voice as a mechanical source of reliable knowledge, artists Thomson & Craighead have subjected a series of telephone speaking clocks to lie detector tests. In Five lie detector reports (2000-2005) most of the speaking clocks are deemed suspect or untruthful, highlighting the absurdity of these two examples of authoritative technologies.
Embedded within multiple layers, language also takes on secret meanings in John Menick‘s specially commissioned work, Subliminal Projection Company (2009). This series of audio CDs uses various soothing sounds of nature to lure the listener into a state of relaxation. Experimenting with subliminal techniques, Menick aims to translate a selection of his most intimate memories into the unconscious of the listener. The artist will also exhibit a single drawing from a series entitled How to Tell a Story (2009) based on a writing manuals often used for screenplays and novels. The drawing points to an ostensibly systematic creativity shaped by the guidance of an emotionless and uncritical tool.
In Live to Tell (2002) Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay exposes his private performance of the musical hit by Madonna, the queen of pop and gay icon, and positions the viewer as voyeur. Replicating the action in multiple locations, the performances are synchronized in a compilation of security camera footage that inverts the psychological associations of security cameras as tools of repression into ones of free expression and identity politics.
In Confessions Coming Soon (2007) by Roee Rosen, a child is subjected to deliver messages in a language he does not understand. He announces an upcoming work, the terrible confessions by the “famously depraved artist Roee Rosen”. The video is composed as a satirical movie trailer and represents a child whose candor has been affected by the culture industry.
In the multimedia sound-sculpture Dark Pump (2008) Brina Thurston with DJ Private Time plays with our perception of “home” by using a domestic object, a vacuum, as a vehicle for an audio piece that allows the listener to peek into an absurd sexual fantasy in which the vacuum hose is the main object of desire. Thurston’s video Harm (2007) also toys with social conventions by delivering a steady flow of verbal insults onto a poodle, making the viewer uncomfortable and somewhat abused, as the animal remains undisturbed.
Power relations between the speaker and the receiver remain illusive, navigating a space that lies outside conversation, narration, and a true state of being. The works can be read as monologues of personal experiences that operate in a neo-confessional mode that is both ambiguously intimate and anonymous for there is no human or personalized return. In some artworks, the miscommunication is transformed into role-play with no means of proving the validity of their claims or whether the experience belongs to the person ventriloquizing it. The works construct situations where technological media – from the video camera, to the computer, to sound pieces – is caught in a form of communication that is peculiarly unilateral.