Protest culture, TV entertainment, game shows, Court TV, pop, the monumental North American landscapes, biker gangs, affirmative action and latent racism, the Western as a film genre and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, tough guys, cowboys and rodeo: The exhibition AMERIKANA brings together works by eight New York artists addressing typical, even "all-American" topics. Over the course of decades the history of United States society has been mythologized. The NGBK has decided to take a closer look at the status quo of the American legend. The topoi under scrutiny impressed a lasting and intensive stamp on western culture and its countercultures. They are part of a progressive Americanization taking place outside the USA and also determine the self image of U.S. Americans.
Martin Beck, Sanford Biggers, Martha Colburn, Robert Gober, Mary Lucier, John Miller, Donald Moffett, Paul Pfeiffer
The artists challenge traditional viewpoints. They shift the perspective or exaggerate certain genres, thus promoting a sense of skepticism towards the mythical excesses of the sometimes bizarre American way of life. They make no exceptions for the apparent antagonists, the underground or subcultures.
The exhibition takes a skeptical look at the ideals of liberty and independence as expressed in their normalized, perverted and grotesque forms and places them in relation to the glittering yet depressing status quo. The artists’ gaze is attentive, critical, deconstructive and aggressive, and at times humorous. It takes the pathos presented and works with it, not entirely destroying its baroque character, its many layers, its empathy and poetry. The dissociation is carried out rationally and sober and at the same time fancifully.
The exhibition is held together by one of the few photographic works produced by Robert Gober, "1978 -- 2000". He conceived it for the 2001 Venice Biennale. At that time it was only made public in the form of a brochure handed out to interested visitors to the American pavilion. It deals with a road-trip in 1978 which led from Manhattan to Jones Beach on the Atlantic and which Gober repeated once more in the year 2000 (the photos had been in his apartment for over 20 years / the negatives are lost / a poor quality contact sheet was his only starting point). He assembled the old and new photos to form a sobering pictorial essay, as impressive as it is apparently casual, a reflection on civilization, on the everyday and on memory.
Robert Gober’s photo series evokes the road movie genre. Automobile culture, consumption, fragile liberty, pictures of a partly disconnected and partly extremely concrete desolate world provide the frame for two articles about the murder of homosexuals and the ultraconservative attitudes which incite people to such deeds. It is a reflection about strangeness and alienation, proximity and distance, and the half-life of civilization’s non-degradable refuse and ineradicable prejudices.
ama especially paul pfeiffer's. next post.