The group exhibition Bad Moon Rising exposes some of the dark sides of the world’s self-proclaimed greatest nation: the United States of America. The devout belief of the American leaders and their followers in that what is good for them is good for the rest of the world, brutally proves their ignorance and lack of understanding of other cultures, which inevitably instigates anger and distrust worldwide. Despite the many alarming signals of countries abroad, the USA continues to claim power and wisdom over the world for the sake of “the safety of our homes, families, and country.” Bad Moon Rising is a show about the Americans, for the Americans. Through a selection of artworks, artifacts and a-historical references, the USA is disturbingly portrayed, casting a dark shadow over its promised ideologies of freedom and prosperity. Intentionally, the exhibition is not an objective illustration of disturbing facts related to the United States politics, religion and society; moreover, the experience of Bad Moon Rising is upsetting and offensive.
Works such as Claire Fontaine’s installation In God They Trust and Philippe Vandenberg’s paintings L’important c’est le Kamikaze (the Important is the Kamikaze,) present explicit cynical statements about the conceptual absurdness and the physical weakness of the country. Often, powerful comments on the countries’ defects are most effective through popular media or direct public interferences. The lyrics of Rage Against the Machine’s song Testify boldly confront Americans with their countries’ ongoing war to secure oil supplies and with the Presidential race between Al Gore and George W. Bush in 2000. On February 28th, 2007, emerging artists Vanessa Albury and Marthe Fortun performed a scream at several public places in New York City. Their intervention titled Primal Scream is in its purest form, a personalized primal revolt against social and emotional pressure in a high-tech and on commerce-focused environment. Young people also revolt against society in a less loud and exhibitionistic yet equally disturbing fashion. Yoji Sakate’s script for the play The Attic sheds light on the international, controversial phenomenon that, among teenagers occurs more and more in the USA, called “hikikomori.” Hikikomori is the Japanese term for an acute social withdrawal or complete isolation that, when untreated, has proven to erupt in forms of excessive behavior such as kidnapping and killing. Bold violence is probably most inappropriately portrayed in two original and never publicly shown drawings by George Hennard. Hennard was responsible for the 1991 Luby’s massacre in Killeen, Texas, which remained the deadliest criminal mass shooting by a single gunman in United Stated history for sixteen years. Flanking all this disaster and trauma-causing references to the true face of the Greatest Nation, Ben Vautier’s piece A Flux Suicide Kit whimsically offers a solution to all our troubles by collecting a handful of tools that can be used to make an end to our existence. As a musical theme to the exhibition, the bittersweet, mantra-like performance by Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson titled Sorrow Conquers Happiness weeps on and on, sounding almost like the closing scene of a romantic Hollywood feel-good movie. Yet, its message is critical and far less superficial.
Bad Moon Rising covers some of the most disturbing, sometimes deliberately forgotten aspects of USA’s society, religion and politics, and leaves no space for mercy. As an underlying statement, the exhibition excludes any significant reference to the past and current situation of ethnic minorities in the country. In this respect, Bad Moon Rising is a predominantly white exhibition stating that the white leaders, multinationals, both Republicans and Democrats, rednecks, and bible-thumbers cause most of the truly memorable blunders. God Bless America! [JVW]
Bad Moon Rising
Vanessa Albury and Marthe Fortun, Tariq Ali, Mauro Ceolin, Custer’s Revenge, Claire Fontaine, Lonnie Frisbee and David di Sabatino, Simon Gush, George Hennard, Ragnar Kjartansson, Paulus Kapteyn, Luther Price, Rage Against the Machine, Yoji Sakate, The Weather Underground, Philippe Vandenberg, Ben Shaffer, Ben Vautier.
Jan Van Woensel is an independent curator, art critic and musician based in Brooklyn, NY. He is the curatorial advisor of Lee Ranaldo and Leah Singer and curator of Studio Philippe Vandenberg. Van Woensel is professor at CCA, dept of Curatorial Practice in San Francisco; Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles; and NYU, dept of Art and Art Professions in New York. Office Jan Van Woensel, a team of assistant curators supervised by Van Woensel, works with international clients such as private collectors, art galleries and artists on exhibitions. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org http://icpabackstage.blogspot.com
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