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"Matthew Day Jackson: Total Accomplishment" opens at the ZKM in Karlsruhe
Matthew Day Jackson „In Search of...Ghosts“ 2011. Blu-ray Video still Dauer: 31' 10" min. Courtesy Matthew Day Jackson und Hauser & Wirth © Matthew Day Jackson.

KARLSRUHE.- With “Matthew Day Jackson. Total Accomplishment” one of the most inventive artists of the new generation is presented for the first time within Germany. The exhibition is a comprehensive thematic show in which Jackson, starting out from American cultural history, undertakes a critical, multi-approach examination of the technological occupation of our world. In his works, he scrutinizes the impact of this technological occupation both on the individual and collectively through various media. In doing so, he thematizes the Occident by unraveling its myths through the creation of new enigmas.

The predominantly sculptural work of the New York-based artist Matthew Day Jackson (born 1974 in Panorama City, California, USA) is distinguished by its selection of interdisciplinary themes. Here, technology and pop-culture, but also aesthetics, philosophy, and sport comprise the wealth of sources from which the works emerge and negate a linear model of history. The artist’s questions turn on the deconstruction of history. Through his use of bricolage, connecting the remains of artifacts with high-tech materials, objects emerge that combine utopian as well as dystopian elements of a technologized world. Jackson’s practice of unveiling the past renders him as an artist-archaeologist who, in his versatile work combines historical realities with a fictional search for traces – whereby media-critical reflection is an inherent feature of his works. In this process, the artist’s self-mythologizing invariably occupies the center of his oeuvre, thus contextualizing physicality and the destructive results of the human power of invention.

“Matthew Day Jackson. Total Accomplishment” is the artist’s first German solo exhibition. It offers an overview of the artist’s still young but astonishingly comprehensive work, essentially typified by a ‘processing’ of the art and cultural history of the Occident.

“The essence of Jackson’s current work pivots on questions relating to the cultural impact of the atom bomb. In the form of an artistic debate on the substance and future of the American dream, the artist weaves its aftereffects into his works. Accordingly, the title of the exhibition cites Paul Virilio’s ‘The Information Bomb’ (original: ‘La bombe informatique’, Paris: Galilée, 1998), in which the French philosopher decodes the consequences of supreme scientific achievements against the background of information technology. The exhibition brings together paintings, sculptures and videos, the majority of which were especially produced for the exhibition at the ZKM.

The works presented are placed in relation to one another so as to unfold the cosmos of Jackson’s world of ideas. Here, the works on show are grouped around two key pieces: the large-scale sculpture ‘Axis Mundi’ (2011) and the ‘Kiloton Room’ (2013).

Staged in front of a gigantic illustration of the universe taken from the space telescope Hubble, the high-gloss polished cockpit of a B-29 bomber of the large-scale sculpture ‘Axis Mundi’ is presented as an artifact of the space age. For Jackson, the large-scale sculpture is a reference to the site of the beginning of a new world order emerging from destruction – indeed, from a B-29 bomber from which the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In Jackson’s art, historical interpretation and vision of the immediate present go hand-in-hand: whereas the cockpit brings to mind the all-pervasive power and destructive fantasies of the ‘spaceship’ USA against the background of the Cold War – which led to a hitherto unparalleled arms race with the
USSR – today, in a sublimated form, this relationship is reflected in the worldwide struggle for resources. It is invariably the same and frequently fatal race for the ‘faster, the bigger, the better’. On the other hand, the spectrum of the rainbow as materialized in different objects points to a utopian claim, which is not only inherent in art, but also in technology. As a central counterpart to ‘Axis Mundi’, a huge cube is installed which, with its edge size measuring 8.46 m, and a volume of approximately 600 cubic meters, corresponds to a spatial extension of 1 kiloton of TNT. This mass is, in turn, the equivalent of the minimal explosive power of one atom bomb, which thematically completes the circle with the B-29 bomber. The potential destructive force overtaxes the imagination, and the incomprehensible is represented on a spatial as well as technical
level. In this ‘Kiloton Room‘, the center of which corresponds to a perfect ’white cube’, hangs the burned out urban landscape of the historical city of Paris. Retrospect, disastrous prospect, limitless white and the deepest black face each other.

Against the background of social and atomic power relations, in a variety of ways, Matthew Day Jackson transforms history in complex, sculptural entities, the formal origins of which are to be found in a diverse sampling culture. The artist’s new pictorial work juxtaposes the myths of the universe and their exploration with the historical events of atomic tests. Filmically, these are connected with a four-part new production of the historic TV series ‘In Search of...’, which – moderated in the 1970s by Leonard Nimoy – sought answers to historical inconsistencies and paranormal phenomena. The works are related to Jackson’s long-term filmic project ‘24 Hours of Television’, a still to be completed, critical adaption of typical formats of the American entertainment industry, which was begun in 2010. The completed parts of the daylong television program set up by the artist are shown throughout the entire duration of the exhibition.”

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