“Where Do Ya Stand?” by Greggory Bradford
During a time of ever-growing political theater, two shows recently mounted in New York address our heightened awareness on all political fronts. War, environment, immigration, and the state of our country are the topics evident in the critique presented by participating artists.
The EFA gallery hosts Dean Daderko’s exhibition, “If You Don’t Believe in Something You’ll Fall for Anything,” containing four artists K8 Hardy, Sharon Hayes, Ivan Monforte, and Judi Werthein. Available in the free catalogue Daderko says, “The works in this exhibition put information into the world with a sense of urgency and necessity and their concrete action begins to alleviate feelings of powerlessness.” “They refuse to limit their respective discussions, so they make them public,” Dean has stated early in the text and stresses that the most important of the conversations in the exhibition is the one between the works and the viewers. 
Sharon Hayes’ work as described in the press release “is an ongoing investigation into the interrelations between, history, politics and speech.” The slide projectors at varying heights intersecting the gallery at different matrices include the viewer. An audience member could be congregated with friends conversing with part of the image projected onto them. The structures anchoring the equipment to this realm was obtrusive like our antagonists documented in remembered environs from around New York, making political claims against passers-by juxtaposing the voice of the protestor against the participating spectator. A common motif found in the slides of a lone individual surrounded by the undutiful citizens crawling past the intruder and her slogans to keep with their daily routine. Are the comments, the itinerary of the slogans being ignored by the public similar to the scenario found in the institution hosting the exhibit? Are we also just passers-by to the demonstration presented to us?
Also on display in the main room, is the evidence of socioeconomic importance calling for more attention to the issue of immigration at the Mexico-US border, involving the illegal entrance undertaken by some seeking the refuge of better opportunities found in our country. A display comprised of television screens of news coverage discussing the political implications as well as the fashion/consumerist, yet pragmatic, bend of a limited edition sneakers equipped with a map of the border, a compass, a flash light, and a place to stash your money while allowing the wearer more comfort in their travels. An icon of self-expression and freedom gifted to an active party in pursuit of a better way of life, not always for themselves but for their families. Brinco (translated from Spanish means, jump) by Judith Werthein was the name of a line of 1000 pairs of sneakers exhibited in San Diego and in New York.
Across the bridge in Brooklyn, David Hahn’s curated exhibit at Dumbo Arts Center examines Daniel Rushkoff’s coined term ‘coercive atmospherics’ (the show title) and what it means “to describe the insidious nature of ambient thought control.” Upon entering the gallery, Pawel Wojtasiks’ video projection, Pigs echoes. The ambient noise of pigs sloshing, snorting and grunting is relevant and poignant, it may be more successful in this arena by divorcing the soundtrack from the video to take the critique away from the spectator and include the audience walking through the show than as a video piece hidden in the corner.
Was and Still Is, scattered ashes of varied dimensions, by David Kennedy Cutler is about 8’ in diameter. It may be the obvious metaphor of ashes to ashes and dust to dust, but at first glance only. This is too simple. It is to take it for granted if this is how you leave it. The circle of ashes not just a cycle of life, but also a cycle of how we live that life, a cycle that we will continue to perpetuate if we miss this chance to see the path and know that it is up to us to break it. Adjacent to this piece is the ransom note style presentation of the introduction to the US Declaration of Independence entitled Declaration. An antiqued looking note being freed from broken glass. Is it an ‘in case of emergency’ situation or is it a simple forgotten thrown away neglected artifact? Possibly both.
Timberland, by Luke Painter, hangs on the wall nearby, a beguiling graphic representation (India ink on archival paper, 52” x 72”) of a clearing through the woods of two quaint ‘A’ framed style cottages. What may look to be a simple forging of a new life, a romantic notion of log cabins in the frontier, shows the repercussions of our actions for which we must be held accountable. The two closely nestled homes look like they are ready to multiply. They are facing the beautiful wilderness keeping their backs turned to the destruction that lay behind them.
The other piece of Luke’s in this exhibition is The Last Gasp of Sauron (Above) (India ink on archival paper, 72” x 48”), an intricate drawing of stunningly crafted knotted materials folded upon itself, twisting and writhing with the feeling that it is growing. All of it balances on the spindly legs of wood that have been hacked at over time. It appears that at any moment the environment upon which the intestinal nests of ornate pipes and garb rests will give way and crush us under our own weight of self importance.
The excesses of our environment that fill our landscapes and landfills could topple us. From sign to symbol we are subjects to the spectacle. An organism itself, capitalism grows and does not have to be good or evil, but that depends how it is directed or nurtured. Sam Clagnaz stands in the middle of this scale, exploring the ephemera of our utilitarian objects and hardware of entertainment devices from a paranoid schizoid 20th century, that have been resurrected from their discarded states, daring to bring about balance.
The owner of these altars may be seen, clinging to these constructions, these devices of self-deception. The Calgnaz works explore the invented personal mythologies of a post-apocalyptic or 21st century depression era like some back alley side street one may find in Bladerunner, an evangelical Yoshi-ite may approach you with illusions of salvation with these iconographic alters of re-use.
The discursive discourse of both exhibitions is empowering in its tactics of subversion. This call to arms is a bell sounding to awaken us to stand against our general malaise. “For a whole generation and more what has passed for the revolutionary movement in the has been reduced to pitifully few adherents, stubbornly divided into countless warring factions, vainly trying to confront historic problems of unprecedented magnitude that require, for their solution, the utmost cooperation and solidarity not to mention fresh thinking.” These artists are not alone.