In Search of the Present
In search of the present, one hovers in the chasm between two negations: the past and the future. The implication of this temporal paradox is more than just a philosophical proposition. It is political and it is libidinal, positioning us within the endlessly evasive nature of language, where our desire is simultaneously validated and negated.
As Octavio Paz put it in his acceptance of the Nobel Prize:
"Languages are born and grow from the native soil, nourished by a common history. The European languages were rooted out from their native soil and their own tradition, and then planted in an unknown and unnamed world: they took root in the new lands and, as they grew within the societies of America, they were transformed. They are the same plant yet also a different plant. Our literatures did not passively accept the changing fortunes of the transplanted languages: they participated in the process and even accelerated it. They very soon ceased to be mere transatlantic reflections: at times they have been the negation of the literatures of Europe; more often, they have been a reply.”
- Octavio Paz, “In Search of the Present”
Curated by Juli Carson and Daniel Joseph Martinez, the exhibition features artwork by James Barnes, Adrian Garcia, Garrett Hallman, Grigor Harutyunyan, Jenny Kim, Alicia McCarthy White, Phonnyta Seng, Sabrina Sharifi, Alyssa Sipin, John Velickovic, Moy Young, Susana Zhong
Love Object is about the oppressive nature of my mother’s domestic use of pattern and decoration and how I explored my own sexuality within the omnipresence of her aesthetic. Her flowery, overtly feminine furniture and decorative preferences served to block out my masculinity while simultaneously repressing her own sexuality. In fear of the outside world, I was kept inside the home my mother had constructed. My adolescent sexuality – having no outlet for its insatiable hunger – was directed to the furniture for sexual pleasure. The furniture then became anthropomorphized, existing as both my mother’s furniture and as my lovers. Through physically having sex with my mother’s objects I was suturing myself within her ideology, her aesthetics, and her repression. My attempt at self-exploration then twisted into self-repression and absorption of her maternal dogma. This work attempts to inspect and lay bare the cyclical nature of trauma and repression within normative family dynamics.
I never know what to watch these days – a take-away zine in three parts – is my response to a world inundated with images. Across five volumes, the work proposes questions that are pertinent to the current generation: What kind of consciousness is formed from being constantly situated in front of a screen from birth? How do we navigate life when we seem to only be moving from screen to screen? The photographs are created using 30-second long exposures of television screens. This photographic process collapses the images that we are regularly fed in order to create something new — a filtered image that oscillates between reality and abstraction — an image that has been twisted and pointed directly back to the one that the television emits.
Talking Twice is my attempt to aurally “visualize” the position of a translator who is of Korean descent and of a generation of multi-linguals. Many children of foreign families grow up in two or more cultures and adapt to each culture’s languages while. Often, they are given the responsibility of being the language bearer, serving as the linguistic bridge between the language of their residence and the language of their heritage. Talking Twice not only depicts my own difficulty of being an English-to-Korean translator (and vice versa) between my family and English-speakers, but also of difficulties of being a translator of Korean culture to the American world. The three channel audio piece is set up to create a somatic experience of two different languages that form a symphonic (or cacophonic) space, where the listener is torn over consciously attending to one form of understanding over another.
The truth of the matter always surfaces. Regardless of power or status in existence, the human volition for truth and happiness will fight on for justice. This year will mark the centennial commemoration for the Armenian Genocide. As the world advances, and past conflicts between nations resolve with acceptance, the Turkish government has still not been recognized the Armenian Genocide of 1915. In spite of the support and recognition of many countries in the world, the Turkish government still has made no efforts to sanction these terms. It is true that people do not forget. Why would they forget? The immensity of this genocide has left our people split and in disdain. Insofar as this vile act remains unrecognized, the Armenian people, with the United Nations, will strive for justice and a return, a return to the oneness of our people. Sakin Ol, as a text based artwork, will be part of that striving; willingly and hopefully it will contribute to the cause of the Armenian Genocide.
Stages is a performative installation of two or more bodies becoming one, as well as a contemplation on theatricality, physicality, movement, process, touch, precariousness, dependence, intimacy, bondage, and possible flirtation. The wooden block that is bound to the feet of the willing performer acts as a stage on which one performs. The performance is also enacted visually through a set of illustrated instructions that enact the piece as a process. The piece is articulated in both connotations of the word stage. The performance is also one of bondage and intertwining. This is done literally in the performer who chooses to have their feet bound as well as the interlacing of the two bodies that facilitate the performance. This interlacing of bound bodies is also an elaboration of dominance and submission, as the performer bound to the wooden block depends on the other performer to carry them. However, submission is never without its own ability to subvert dominance, as the weight of the performer being carried greatly hinders the carrier's ability to move through space as they would normally do unfettered. To become part of such a relation, communication – both physical and verbal – becomes crucial, and to do so, each participant must yield to another.
The concept of Who, What, Where is dislocation and identity. I went to four different locations, brought a piece of rectangle mirror, broke it in the site, held up a piece of the broken mirror, and took a pictures of it. I also recorded the process of my breaking the mirror in the four different locations. After I printed the eight photographs (two for each location) I cut out image of the mirror piece. I placed an actual mirror behind the cut out on four of them and placed Mylar sheet on the other four. The purpose of the mirror is to clearly place the viewers within those particular locations, while the Mylar sheet gives the site a blurry effect. The video that is in the center gives more details on the location and the performative aspect of the art piece.
“To Read” is a 5' x 4' oil painting on canvas that explores the writing of Aldous Huxley from the novel Brave New World. The full quote reads, “But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.” I intend the painting to engage with the images that are created when text is layered as well as what becomes of the text when it is broken and jumbled. The specific colors I chose were from four variants of the book’s cover in order to maintain some of the text’s original presence. Despite the layering, the ever present and legible “I WANT SIN” continues to keep the strength that text has when read properly, while the last layer – “but I don’t” – plays with the text’s presence by coming in and out of “I WANT SIN.”
The title of my piece is Disrobe and Disrupt, based upon the fact that, in Western culture, to disrobe in public is to disrupt. The series follows a day in the life of Sosa, an individual who has chosen to disregard the social construct of being clothed. While these images elicit a sense of humor and have a comedic aspect, they are also meant to represent the broader concept of our society’s established normativity. We are given rules and guidelines, and although these allow us to maintain structure and continuity in our lives, we often lose ourselves within them because of complacency. These images are a representation of the silent and invisible understanding that exists between us all in the everyday, and the subject metaphorically and literally removes that cloak and throws it away.
Industrial Wasteland is a series of work that investigates the relationship between artificial structures and nature in addition to the effects of industrialization. I have incorporated these themes into my work by exploring and documenting the composition and balance between the monolithic as well as intrusive and invasive appearance of the industrial against the regression of nature. Contrasting these dialectically opposed forces with the portrayal of encroachment on the behalf of machinery onto nature is one of my aesthetic goals for this body of work. Photography is the tool I use to create paintings that encompass a space between documentation and representation through pseudo deadpan composition of environments subject to mechanization. The evidence of increased urbanization and globalization is present through juxtaposition of natural landscapes in contrast to aggressive expansion of factories and power plants that showcase humanity’s vehement dominance over Earth.
Alicia McCarthy White
I grew up going to Saturday school and mass every weekend, and I now consider myself to be a “recovering catholic.” My work 6:16-19 explores that recovery as I consider how the original Seven Deadly Sins would operate in contemporary society, specifically around my generation. Stepping past the obvious contradictions the Bible makes, the poetic language that each sin was stylized in inspired my photographs. This biblical literature was written in 900 B.C. so by taking on this incredibly old language in 2015, I want to point towards this immense gap of time in which the human race has developed. Societal values have changed dramatically since 900 B.C. while the human condition has not (we still breathe, have sex, give birth, age, etc.). In between all of this remains the ever-present “God” to instill a specific line of morals and so in my work I question the need to suppress human nature while simultaneously pointing to the faults in this inquiry.
The series of paintings, Fanschy Substitutes, Orgy Faces and A-listers, focuses on issues in fashion imagery and libidinal desires, highlighting the fetishizing duality of luxury and lust. The employment of decadent colors express an inviting space where beheaded figures are confined in interplay of sexual discourse. The elaborate, embellished clothing and positioning of figures idealize upper-class society and vanity – highly accentuated in fashion magazines. The beheaded figures are symbolic of distorting one’s identity. Clothes act as an additional layer of beauty upon the mutilated gestalt figures, which internally trigger erotic pleas and superimpose boundaries between the mind and body. The fantasy-oriented environments produce a yearning for physical closeness and exemplify an awareness of a disembodied consciousness. The psychological narrative, through the juxtaposition of fragmented compositions and jarring images, explore collective desires in fashion advertising and consumption.
I began this work out of an exploration of myself and my connection to social media. It deals strongly with identity, the self, the image, erasure, presence, ego, and addiction, which I see as both obsession and consumption. Other influencing elements include the love-hate relationship I have with myself and the seemingly constant - perhaps primal - need many of us possess to assert a presence and represent ourselves in social media and online. With social media, we have considerable control over the representation and manipulation of our image. There is also a self-indulgent offering of ourselves to the public, feeding the consumerism in the viewer and the viewed. To consume is to love. To be consumed is to be loved. Devotion and idolization of images take on new dimensions as well, eliciting reconsiderations on what presence is and if our image serves as evidence of self, death of self, or both.