NEW YORK, NY.- Alternative facts are lies. Fake news is propaganda.
Both are indicative of the aestheticization of politics that Walter Benjamin warned against. The media is tightly molded and controlled, beginning in the White House Press Office and algorithmically landing in our feeds. The truth is exaggerated with ideological results in mind.
alt-facts is a politically charged response to today's mediascape. Spanning both gallery spaces, the works therein propose that the politicization of aestheticspropaganda's oppositecan offer profoundly powerful alternative truths.
Art condenses its message into objects; meaning is extrapolated. It lends itself to constructing fictions: Painting is illusion. Sculpture is fabrication. Virtual reality is unreal reality. In alt-facts, conceptual and material interventions produce fictitious narratives, alternative histories, objects and images both real and virtual. Poetic license does not have evil intent. It is a departure from reality because reality bites. Hello, you've reached the winter of our discontent.
If fiction is more credible than truth, and if building a world only requires making things up, we are equipped to build the world we want.
Meriem Bennani's FARDAOUS FUNJAB, Episode 1 (Pilot): Fardaous is a mock reality showthe perfect format for a constructed and scripted realitythat follows the life of Fardaous, the designer behind the hijab of the future: the Funjab. With over 700 designs, the Funjabs featured in the video have pockets, double as tennis baskets, come equipped with a bluetooth device, and even work as mechanical hair extensions. Your Year, a printed lightbox, reads like an ad for the designs.
Two paintings by David Diao feature in the exhibition. 40 Years of His Art takes the invitation design from Picasso's retrospective at MoMA in 1939, curated by Alfred H. Barr, Jr., the only change being Diao's name appears in lieu of Picasso'sand, of course, that Diao's show never happened. Dancing 1 pictures a costumed Diao posing in front of Matisse's Dance, as one might expect a 20th century Matisse to appear. Self-deprecating and earnest, Diao playfully portrays himself as canonized artist. The silkscreened square image operates a geometric formal devicea pivotal example of how Diao came to blend New York school abstraction with identity politics in the nineties.
David Herbert's monumental sculpture The Phantom of Liberty comprises twelve-feet of scaffolding around the Statue of Libertyexcept the Statue isn't there. Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free... The memory of the message remains but its vessel is gone. The icon has been replaced with its void, its negative, its opposite.
Matt Johnson's meticulously carved wooden sculptures look like trashliterally. Untitled (Amazon Box) and Untitled (Avocado Box) are trompel'il objects, where wood appears to crumple as easily as cardboard, and hand-painted surfaces transform expertly crafted objects into disused boxes.
In Eva and Franco Mattes's No Fun, the artists staged Franco's hanging to be broadcast on Chatroulette, an online chat and video website that was particularly popular when the work was made in 2010. The video contains both the constructed action and real reactions: Franco hangs on one side, with viewers responses to the scene on the other. Reality and fiction are dependent on one another.
Scale is one of the basic lies of photography (think: William Eggleston's "monumental" tricycle), perhaps only second to cropping. In Jennifer and Kevin McCoy's series of photos related to BROKER, a film about the insidious illusions of luxury merchandising, we find a smaller scale replica of the set. And in place of BROKER's Gillian Chadsey, we find a smaller scale human, too. None of this is totally obvious, though, as scale shifts and becomes increasingly difficult to navigate with each image.
William Powhida's Didactics is a series of sci-fi advertisements and news clippings that picture the art world of the future. Already crumpled, they appear discarded, locating the future-looking content in the present. Jeff Koons's obituary and Art Basel Thieland (yes, you read that right) are two examples therein.
Kenya (Robinson)'s newest works are sex toys and sensual objects designed with prisoners in mind. Severe limitations in prisons serve to dehumanize inmates; having sex is a crime and access to anything beyond the already limited commissary is bleak. (Robinson)'s objects, made with bodega or 99-cent store goods like curlers, marbles, and latex gloves, envisage what inmates might design in this space, instilling prisoners with deserved humanity and urging the viewer to remember all the livesand human needsthat occupy prisons.
Rachel Rossin brings the explosive denouement of Zabriskie Point point into contemporary focus. In Scrubbing 1, Maquette, VR enables a participant to enter a scene and become the narrative agent, setting off explosions or spinning these actions into reverse. Like Antonioni's cathartic explosives that blast away every pristine and empty promise of consumerism, we find a similar impulse in Rossin's work, located in our current moment.
Ultra Violet Production House [Joshua Citarella and Brad Troemel] is an Etsy store that sells products that don't existat least not until they are purchased. The products pictured are digital composites of products sourced from around the web, presenting a hypothetical view of what the work will look like after assembly. For alt-facts, UVph is releasing a new product that will be announced upon the opening of the exhibition.
In the fall of 2008, The Yes Men, along with a cadre of co-conspirators, handed out fake copies of the New York Times. Literally fake news, the front page headline read: IRAQ WAR ENDS. Dated July 9, 2009, the faux Times situated its wishful thinking in the future. A decade later, we still haven't reached this future. It's hard to say when we will. At least with a gesture like this, we can imagine and hope.