Posts Tagged ‘Vincent Meessen’

Now at MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) is the exhibit “Age of You”. Part of the show is “The Extreme Self” based on a forthcoming book by Shuman Basar, Douglas Coupland, and Hans Ulrich Obrist, of the same name.   Large panels covering two floors of MOCA, lead the viewer through the storyline using graphics, pictures, and a lot of words.  Other works by other artists can be seen among the panels but the panels definitely dominate the space.

Why the title “Age of You”?  What is that all about?  As we increase are use of technology and our dependence on it, our data seems to have become important.   Information about our habits, likes & dislikes, online behaviour, etc. is now a valuable resource.  Our profiles and data can be used to create a model of  ‘you’.   Google knows where you’ve been if you have a smartphone.  They also have an advertising profile for you ostensibly so they can target their ads.  (Check the ads that they insert into these blog posts).  This technology advances faster than our ability to adapt to both it and its consequences.

below: “You’re now becoming your extreme self… and it’s happening to you as you read these words.

large panels hanging in an art gallery, MOCA, three panels. In the miiddle is a large picture of a woman's face with a single tear. Also some words. On the right is Too stupid to fail. On the left

Technology and its effects on people, individually and collectively, has been discussed since the advent of technology.  Often it is the negative effects that are discussed the most.  Today, we use the word “disruptive” to describe companies such as Amazon and Uber, companies that use technology to change the way we do business, and the way we interact with other people, and the way we go about our daily lives.

As I was thinking about technology and its effects, I remembered the Marshall McLuhan quote, “Every technology necessitates a new war”. When I looked up that quote (to make sure my memory was correct), I found this as well: “‘Any form of continued and accelerated innovation is, in effect, a declaration of war on one’s own civilian population.”

below: “We’re now deep into the terminal phase of democracy.  This phase involves voting in leaders whose primary goal is to dismantle democracy.”

large panels hanging in an art gallery, MOCA, Too stupid to fail,

below: Four panels. Four ideas in words in pictures.  “Groups of people make dreadful decisions.” “The majority can no longer be trusted.” “Democracy needs morning after pills.” and finally, on the right, a few sentences on the breakdown of reality-based consensus.

large panels hanging in an art gallery, MOCA, four in black and white

The exhibit references a quote by Isaac Asimov : “Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’   But, can’t this be extended to ‘my scribbles are just as good as your fine art?’ And then along comes social media with its anonymity and global reach …. 

So what does all this mean for the future?

Is it art?

One can’t deny that it is thought provoking but part of the reason I asked, “Is it art?” is because of the heavy reliance on words and text.  It’s a book hung from the ceiling.  It also relies on quotes and ideas that originated elsewhere, words that that the artists have collected, not created.

Text is considered to be a design element but words have the added quality of conveying meaning.  Some images carry symbolism but only words can be manipulated into phrases and sentences with different meanings.   There seems to be a trend that involves the use of more text in art.  Art is now a “teaching moment”, like an essay (or book) laid out in a format that suits a gallery.  It’s not enough to be just looked at but it has to be educational too.

The next few pictures are from Vincent Meessen’s exhibit “Blues Klair” now on the Power Plant gallery.  It doesn’t deal with future like Coupland et al. above, instead it’s more a link to the past; it’s a history project.   This is the first paragraph of the words on the wall at the entrance to the exhibit:

words on the wall accompanying an exhibit by Vincent Meessen

A plea to all writers of such words:  Please stop. We’re not stupid but we’re also not ‘experts’ in the latest jargon and this just goes over our heads. …. I found a video on youtube of Vincent Meessen talking about this exhibit – and now it makes more sense.  It’s still a history project though.  It’s also a case, again, of the artist turning a collection of other people’s work into ‘art’.

two people looking at framed pictures and pages of text on a wall that has been painted in blue and white squares

blue and white papers strewn over the floor, discarded, with a framed picture on the wall, and a blue desk in the middle

Jumping back to the future – jumping to Hito Steyerl’s exhibit “This is the future” at the AGO to be more specific.   She too uses words.  And multimedia.  And she too pushes the limits of what art is.  (Or can you argue that those limits are long gone?)

below: Two parallel stories, one on top and the other below.   The upper story is about a community where windows are purposely broken, “people are smashing windows tirelessly to generate power”. The other story tells the opposite, windows are left alone and “police with big wooden horses are guarding every window”.  It turns what we believe about society upside down – the ‘good’ people who don’t break windows are living in a gloomy police state.  The ‘vandals’ have sunshine and art.

room at the Art Gallery of Ontario with words written around the walls, and a flat screen TV laying a video in the middle of the room

below: Hell Yeah.  Well okay then, if you say so.  It probably says a lot about me and/our times when my first impression is that it would make a great background for an instagram photo.   There are other blocks of words too (not in the picture) and the whole sequence is Hell, Yeah, We, Fuck, Die.  Why these words?  They are the “five words that have appeared most frequently in the titles of songs in English-language music charts over the past decade”.  And yes, I looked it up.

large blocks, lit from inside, put together to form the words the words hell yeah

And yes, I checked instagram….  The “L” does make a perfect seat!

composite of three photos of people that have been posted on instagram showing them at the Hito Steyerl exhibit hell yeah we fuck die at the Art Gallery of Ontario

Five words.  What do they mean? What five words would you use?

 

‘Age of You’ continues until 5th January 2020.

‘Blues Klair’ is at the Power Plant until 5th January 2020.

‘This is the future’ ends on 23 February 2020