Painting / Expelled from paradise:
Brooke Marcy (painter)
Chris Rackley (drawings)
Painting / The Raft post paradise
Laura Snell (painter)
Chris Rackley (drawings)
-Excuse me for my Razzmatazz-
The aesthetics of surplus, endangered memory, and acquired status.
Razzmatazz is a flashy action or display intended to bewildering, confusing, or deceiving. This term epitomizes our post-democracy momentum—superficiality and empty vessels.
Post-democracy has delivered a manifest numbness, a lingering sense of absence of proactivity in our experience as citizens. We have been slowly displaced as active citizens engaged in civil activities and social transformations into experienced consumers –disengaged- but in an ubiquitous and global hedonism. Post-democracy presents democracy and institutions as a formal shell, substantive content is absent as described by Colin Crouch. In that context consumers inhabit a virtual reality. We are becoming more accustomed to having empty experiences, experiences without risk, or as Zizek described, we generalize the procedure of offering a product deprived of its substance: reality itself deprived of its substance like coffee without caffeine, or beer without alcohol.
A post-democracy citizen is contained in a complex formalist society. The main concern is the form and legality of the process, where content becomes an anecdote and essence is placed in the form. Form manifests itself best in the products that it regurgitates. It lets democracy be an endless flow of merchandise, where ethics has a place in the manipulated conscience of the consumer as the portal of the process, with the provision of one argument—to have ubiquitous access to everything everywhere—that is post-democracy freedom.
We citizens translate the process of the form of post-democracy at a micro-scale on a daily basis; by purchasing other people’s travel memories at a garage sale, or some status signifier in an estate sale or on ebay. We are buying objects that we hope will transfer an experience. The citizen is now dislocated into fragmental experiences, regulated by profit and commoditized pleasure. To the extent that commercialism inserts the sense of pleasure into fragmentation and in our constant divorcing of materiality from experience. An example is tourism in areas where culture is completely divorced from entertainment, experienced in areas of historical significance, reducing the experience to what the situationist denominated the society of the spectacle. “All that once was directly lived has become mere representation." This condition, according to Debord, is the "historical moment at which the commodity completes its colonization of social life." The ultimate act of unity –Democracy- was relocated into the market, where the experience of consumption is the ultimate manifestation of choice and freedom. In modern American society, there is more activism and proactivity about what is and what is not on the shelves of the grocery store than on the direct democracy of the polis.
The dialogic product and the subsequent consumer are at the center of the democratic process, shaped by a psychological aura mounted by marketing campaigns and the reassurance that if I consume, therefore I am. The irony is that in the process we are a mediatized society, where media distributes material and symbolic resources and makes use of formal and informal rules.
The possession, dispossession, and repossession of the object and its transit though different experiences are the central components of the exhibit. In an object biography, an object can transform from an object to be disposed of into a personal treasure or a status signifier. For example, a tchotchke dismissed as a tacky adornment could be transformed into a status signifier. There is an aesthetic experience associated with status, imposed through a legacy of material culture and social and political dominances, yet contested by individuals and groups. Colonial and post-colonial manifestations imposed a relative form of representation: knowledge, power and images and products reassure and command the supremacy of one group over others. Foucault explains power/knowledge relationships as a kind of ‘metapower’ or ‘regime of truth’ that pervades society. ‘Truth is a thing of this world: it is produced only by virtue of multiple forms of constraint. And it induces regular effects of power.’
Aesthetic experience has multiple expressions in daily social manifestations. In the process of acquiring an object, the simulacra proposed by that aesthetic is implicit in the very act of purchasing. Objects construct for us a multifaceted domain of relationships articulating different aesthetical dialogues at various moments in the life of the object. Objects experience a relationship through value with the time factor. Less obvious are the processes of value forced not by time, but by the economic process itself.
The economic process precedes an object in the form of the exchange and follows the object as a social mechanism—a memorial, or as a found object. The economic process is also articulated in the role of the object as post first-hand object –as a potential new exchange. The economic process relates to us in an array of forms. In that context the aesthetic of surplus combines two meanings, the first one is in relation to the amount, quantity, etc., greater than needed, in order to create a new surplus as Marx understood the idea of accumulation and gain.
Memory and the false sense of belonging can be constructed by adopting mimetic symbolism through purchases. One aspect of memory is imagining. We use objects to imagine pasts, presents, and futures that may or may not be grounded in reality. It is the superficial evoking of a time period that is essential here, rather than evoking particular experiences. Objects can also be used to simulate solidarity or belonging to a certain group by acquiring symbols of membership, in place of the actual social relations that connote true belonging. Superficiality obviates essence. Proactivity is reduced to acquisition. Meaning is generated through materiality. The subdued object, the Prêt-à-Porter logo submitted to us, now acts as a mirror. The object/ logo now displays our anxieties—We are the objects.