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[Nettime-bold] NY Arts Magazine Review of Dystopia + Identity Exhibition
cristine wang on 4 Jan 2001 10:32:36 -0000


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[Nettime-bold] NY Arts Magazine Review of Dystopia + Identity Exhibition by Christopher Stackhouse out on newsstands!>>


Congratulations to all the artists in the
exhibition; here is another testimony to their
participation: xoxo <cristine wang>
--------------------------------------------------
[NY Arts Magazine International
Features Vol.6 No.50, January 2001
by Christopher Stackhouse]

Tribes Gallery is notorious for its bacchanalian
wistfulness. It is as much a literary
establishment as a visual one, that so honors the
vestiges of its incumbent community’s bohemian
roots. Since the early days things have changed,
only ever so slightly. There is always art to be
found on its walls, reverberating the truths
striven for during its incipiency. Intellectual
rigor, political acumen, and strident humor
abound. “Dystopia and Identity in the Age of
Global Communications” curated by Cristine Wang,
underscores the above attributes with a
post-modern edge.
There are nearly sixty artists involved in the
project. Contributing work done in a multitude of
media- oil paint, video projection, rubber,
algae, photographic materials, cement, music, and
more- the oblation to politically laden art in
the global techno-mechanical age is an ambitious
ode to conceptual art. What better place to
extend, celebrate even, that discourse than a
multi-culti poets’ house on New York’s Lower East
Side? With a conspiratorial nod from the
gallery’s director Steve Canon, Wang manages to
bring together a wealth of talent and diverse
cultural representatives into relatively tight
quarters. 
The installation filled with sculptures,
paintings, monitors, digital prints, furniture
even, suggests manifestly an essay on the
machination of the human (terrestrial) spirit.
The din of several monitors palavering at once,
revel in counterpoint with silent cynicism
articulated in drawings, sculptures, photos and
paintings. The offered point of view is a
heterogeneous collection of intellectual,
post-mod artisans, rhetorically passionate, yet
pretentiously aloof producing objects that
embrace and eschew the ensuing obliteration of
the human touch. A feat presumably accomplished
by the human hand, as the mind attached asks-
Why? How? What would be the point of that,
exactly?
The show perhaps inappropriately titled
“Dystopia” meaning “anti-utopia,” doesn’t come
off so wretched and sad, as much as it does
analytical, cynical and playful. The most overtly
depressing work in the space is a video by artist
Christopher Draeger called “Oil”. Found footage
of documented oil spills where oceanic wildlife
is shown writhing and dying in the gunk is still,
today, abominable. Inter-cut with the oil spill
footage are movie scenes of exploding vessels,
and drilling rigs. Another impactful metaphor via
video is Draeger’s “Apocalypse Now”. The series
of clips features scenes from the Japanimation
“Akira”, the film classics “Ten Commandments”,
“Towering Inferno”, and “The Shining” in addition
to several others. Doll houses burn, people run,
panic, and battle. The piece seduces while it
bombards the viewer with a series of pyrotechnic
climaxes. Draeger evokes the voyeuristic
tendencies of the Hollywood moviegoer,
simultaneously revealing the discursive
projection of violent entertainment in the media.
A peaceful approach is taken by artist Gu Wenda,
whose work exhibited in the same room as a
Draeger’s oil, shows a large work on paper.
Wenda, the “hair calligraphist”, references
Chinese calligraphic character writing, creating
a vague dadaistic version of the formal
lettering. His large sheet covered with ink is
the most beautiful, nearly conventional object in
the show. Its aspiration toward undermining the
authority of the written and the spoken word is
reminiscent of the ink and paper drawings of
French writer/artist Henri Michaux.
Other autonomously strong efforts were: a plastic
sculpture called “Scumak” by Roxy Paine, a video
of breeding flies and moss shown on a monitor
mounted in a cement pedestal “Lacustrine
Landscape #2” by Mariah Corrigan and Jonathan
Herder, and a scroll length photo by Wang
Qingsong, “Night Revel of Lao’ Li.” Notables Mike
Bidlo and Jonas Mekas also made contributions.
However difficult it may have been to do, Wang
pulled off something rather marvelous. Her
curatorial acumen here revealed posits her a bit
of an artist herself. Whether or not she would
agree, I don’t know. “Post-modern”, “Conceptual”
whatever those terms mean (they seem to have so
much and yet so little meaning); whatever our
small world wants to call creative acts that make
you think about more than just aesthetic
relationships, many of those would-be-theoretical
gestures were made in “Dystopia”, and some right
adroitly. 

(--Reviewed by Christopher Stackhouse, NY Arts
Magazine International)

January 2001 issue available at newsstands
internationally US$5

or online:
http://nyartsmagazine.com

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++






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