Sam Buxton, Noble & Webster,Barry Reigate,Conrad Shawcross
curated by James Putnam
FAMA Gallery, Verona
April 15th - July 16th, 2011
Historically, Phantasmagoria was a popular form of theater in the nineteenth century, which involved the use of a magic lantern to project strange and scary images like skeletons, demons and ghosts onto walls or semi-transparent screens, using rear mobile projectors. In the term's wider context, this exhibition is intended to visually challenge the viewer's perception with works that are partly illusionistic, thought provoking and ironic. The exhibition aims to illustrate, through a careful selection of works by these artists, an overview of the various cultural taboos, eccentric tastes and habits reflected in our modern Western society and offers a very original read of the cultural context in which we live. With a desire to undermine apparent or codified aesthetic rules, the works are a synthesis of new and established aesthetic characters that emerge from both the past and the present, often coming directly from the cult cinematographic and literary imagination.
Satirizing modern technological society as being potentially dysfunctional, the curatorial concept is inspired in part by cult science fiction films like Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927), Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange (1971) and Terry Gilliam?s Brazil (1985). In his essays, the philosopher Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) associated phantasmagoria with mechanical production and materialistic society. This exhibition also proposes a kind 'retro-futurism' that alludes to outmoded technology or futuristic innovations as Victorians may have envisioned them like the fictional machines found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne. The included works posses an aura of the carnivalesque that subverts and liberates the assumptions of the dominant style or atmosphere through humour and chaos. It also evokes a dark vision of the future where sexual-fantasy becomes merged with fairground-like extraordinary devices.
Phantasmagoria includes the complex sculptlures of well-ordered micro-architectural cityscapes by Sam Buxton and fantastic electromechanical machines of apparent usefulness but with no real function by Conrad Shawcross. These are juxtaposed with the eclectic paintings of Barry Reigate, images of hedonistic decadence derived from the world of cartoons and street-art that are darkly humorous parodies of today?s attitudes towards commodity, fetish. Central to the exhibition's theme is a large shadow projection by Tim Noble and Sue Webster, that comprises delicately drawn, hanging mobiles, projecting silhouette images of sexual abandon on the wall behind.
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