Steal This Show
Illegal Art at Feldman Gallery, PNCA
Curated by Nan Crtis
posted by Anna Simon
The Illegal Art show is subversive by nature. “Tricky,” I thought. “Clever. Naughty. Funny. Gross!”
This exhibit uses the language and design of commercial culture to create “products” or signs (signifiers) that distort the original intended message. David Byrne transforms corporate signs to read “hope” or “peace”; another exhibit uses the covers of dime store detective novels to depict blatant desperation and next-door neighbor sexuality instead of smoldering fantasy. One brilliant artist created a “Benito Mussolini” action figure, cleverly and convincingly packaged as a Walmart product. I couldn’t tell if it was real or not, especially after seeing the receipt, bar code registered and everything. The accompanying five minute video of the artist purchasing his creation reveals that people will buy into anything–including the lionization of fascist dictatorships–as long as a company is selling it. There’s something eerie about how ideas and objects and culture are legitimatised as long as they’re a product. As if companies are parental stewards looking after us, giving us things we need.
“Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie!” as the video in the back room screams. The video compilation more closely examines the idea of copyright infringement and intellectual property. Please, everybody, watch Todd Haynes Superstar, a Karen Carpenter story. This video is illegal (I haven’t seen it since college) because Haynes used Carpenter songs without permission–and the family threw a fit when they saw themselves portrayed as mutilated Barbie dolls encouraging Karen’s anorexia. This video is a bit of editing genius that’ll twist your guts up. Bombs dropping on Vietnam as Karen sings “Close to You?” Subterfuge spectacular.
Overall, the unsettling part of the show is the multiple use of violent sexual imagery toward women. I’m thinking of one piece in particular, but I was alarmed that subversive, “de-generate” art necessary implied masochistic sexualization.
More on all of this as it settles.