Pop Politics Power
Robert Boyd, Martha Rosler and Carolee Schneemann
September 8 – October 8, 2005
POP POLITICS POWER featuring the works of Robert Boyd, Martha Rosler and Carolee Schneemann brings together artists from different generations whose works seamlessly integrate socio-political dichotomies with personal, subjective observations. Incorporating divergent strains of popular culture such as music, fashion, consumerism and the media, the works of these artists reflect the pervasive influence that Pop, in all its aspects, has over our lives. The work in this exhibition also reflects on the history of mass media culture that has so influenced the perception and lives of the second half of the 20th and continues to do so in this century.
Robert Boyd will premier two new videos, Heaven’s Little Helper (from the series Xanadu) and a corresponding work, Exit Strategy, both 2005. The videos take infamous Doomsday cults of the past four decades such as the Manson Family, the People’s Temple, Heaven’s Gate and Aum Shinrikyo, as their subject. Incorporating archival footage culled from sources all over the world, Boyd’s videos tweak, condense and re-frame modern events into seconds-long image bites, re-presenting history as MTV-style music videos. Falling somewhere between parody and harbinger, the videos suggest that a culture permeated by a literal belief of the Apocalypse may unknowingly (or perhaps knowingly!) create a self-fulfilling prophecy, thereby fashioning its own demise.
Martha Rosler’s photomontages Bringing the War Home, 2004, are known to us from her seminal series of the same title, 1967–72, in which the artist inserted images of war, specifically the Vietnam War, into the windows and living rooms of suburban-perfect, post-modern homes. Much of her work addresses social issues which are manifested at sites as various as the kitchen, the television set, the streets and systems of transport. In her new series shown in this exhibition, Rosler again intermixes clashing images of “joyful consumerism” with those of ever-encroaching menace. For example in “Artwork,” four smiling girls on cellular phones are set before a background of nuclear explosions, and in “Back Garden,” a row of fashion models glacially stride through a landscaped garden where soldiers with pointed guns loom among the bushes.
Carolee Schneemann will present two works, Devour, 2003-4, a single-channel version of the artist’s multi-channel video installation of the same title, and a video transfer of her influential film Viet Flakes, 1965. Of Devour Schneemann writes that this work features, “a range of images edited to contrast evanescent, fragile elements with violent, concussive, speeding fragments… political disasters, domestic intimacy, and ambiguous menace.” A dense montage, the video reflects images that bombard us on a daily level. News clips of political and social tumult mix with sensuous images that are intended to seduce and attract—violence juxtaposed with the act of consumption—consumption as an act of denial, a negation of the world around us. Viet Flakes is composed from an obsessive collection of Vietnam War images, compiled over five years from foreign magazine and newspapers. Broken rhythms and visual fractures are heightened by a sound collage by James Tenney of Vietnamese religious chants, secular songs, fragments of Bach, 60s pop hits.