Sara Cwynar, Débora Delmar, Shana Moulton and Tabita Rezaire
@ Slide Space 123, Mills College
October 21 - November 29t
Reception: October 25, 4:30 – 6:30 pm.
This exhibition was curated by Interface Gallery director, Suzanne L'Heureux, for the Mills College Art Department's experimental gallery, Slide Space 123. The participating artists, Sara Cwynar, Débora Delmar, Shana Moulton, and Tabita Rezaire, all explore how various means of cultural production are employed to shape our desires and produce us as subjects.
The title Culture Industry comes from a chapter in Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer’s book Dialectics of Enlightenment, which critiques the mass production of culture under capitalism and the ways this “culture industry” serves to manipulate desire and control the public. The authors examine how popular culture, including film, television, magazines and advertising, is designed to overpower consumers by producing a false psychological need for the products the culture industry provides. In various ways, the artists in this exhibition all contend with this “cycle of manipulation and retroactive need," revealing the racialized, classed and gendered nature of its influence.
Sara Cwynar and Shana Moulton do so with varying degrees of irony. Cwynar’s composite photographs, which draw upon advertisements, postcards and catalogs, explore the way popular images work on our psyches, infiltrating our consciousness and exerting the influence of systems of control. Her Little Video (2015), shown in this exhibition, investigates these themes, as well as the artist’s personal relationship to image making and her own archive.
Moulton’s videos, performances and sculptural installations examine the culture industry’s conflation of New Age spirituality and products for health, wellness and beauty. A recurring character in her videos, Cynthia, has thoroughly bought into the idea that various self-healing tools and rituals, prescription drugs, foods and beauty products will bring about enlightened bliss. In Every Angle Is an Angel (2016), a video presented as part of Moulton’s installation for this exhibition, one bite of a bowl of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes sends Cynthia into a nearly orgasmic state of spiritual ecstasy.
Like Moulton, Débora Delmar often focuses on the health and beauty industry and “lifestyle” marketing. Her work employs the aesthetics of globalized corporate culture and advertising to mirror its psychological influence, particularly its messages of social advancement. Here, Delmar presents photographs (taken with a product fashion photographer) featuring the beautiful, youthful hands of a hand model who she asked to imitate poses from luxury brand advertisements. The distilled, intricate hand gestures evoke a powerful sign system designed to lure in consumers.
The white hands in Delmar’s photographs can also be seen as signifying the hegemony of white culture, a theme at the center of Tabita Rezaire’s work. Rezaire uses video, performance, and Internet art to critique and seek healing from the effects of white, Western, patriarchal, cis-hetero techno-capitalism. Her video in this exhibition, Deep Down Tidal (2017), presents the Internet as a form of “electronic colonialism” and finds a metaphor in the way that underwater Internet cables reaching out from the West follow the same routes as ships during the slave trade.
As Adorno and Horkheimer state, “The basis on which technology acquires power over society is the power of those whose economic hold over society is greatest.”
Dialectics of Enlightenment was written in 1944, long before the Internet, globalization and the emergence of social media, which have only served to extended the reach and the grip of the culture industry. Collectively, the works in this exhibition present a powerful picture of the mechanisms through which this industry continues to assert its influence.
About the artists:
Sara Cwynar (b. 1985, Vancouver, Canada) received her Bachelor of Design from York University, Toronto, in 2010 and her MFA from Yale University, New Haven, in 2016. She currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Her art involves a constant archiving and re-presentation of collected visual materials. She is interested in the way that images morph, accumulate, endure and change in meaning and value over time, and the effect this has on a collective worldview. Cwynar has exhibited internationally at COOPER COLE, Toronto; Dallas Museum of Art; M+B Gallery, Los Angeles; Museum of Modern Art, Foxy Production, Andrea Rosen, and Eleven Rivington, New York; Foam Photography Museum, Amsterdam; and Fondazione Prada, Milan. Her works can be found in the permanent collections of the Guggenheim Museum and MoMA Library, New York; Dallas Museum of Art; Fondazione Prada, Milan; and Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, among others.
Débora Delmar (b. 1986, Mexico City) currently lives and works in London. Her work explores consumer culture, capitalist lifestyles and aspirational aesthetics. She is particularly interested in such topics as class and the increasing effects of globalization on our everyday lives as well as cultural hegemony and the gendered and racialized imagery used in advertising. Delmar frequently creates elaborate multisensory installations that include sculpture, video, photography, scent and sound, as well as online interventions. Delmar has exhibited internationally, including recent exhibitions at Páramo, Guadalajara, DUVE, Berlin, Ltd Los Angeles, Modern Art Oxford, UK, Mon Chèri, Brussels, and the Modern Art Museum, Warsaw. In 2016, she participated in the Berlin Biennale.
Shana Moulton (b. 1976 Oakhurst, CA) lives and works near Yosemite, California. Over the past 15 years she has been developing her ongoing video/performance series “Whispering Pines,” in which she plays the role of “Cynthia,” both a fictional figure and the artist’s alter ego. Moulton has had solo exhibitions or performances at the Museum of Modern Art, New Museum, Performa 2009, The Kitchen, Electronic Arts Intermix, and Art in General, New York; SmackMellon, Brooklyn; Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio State University; Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg; Palais de Tokyo, Paris; Migros Museum of Contemporary Art, Zurich; Kunsthaus Glarus; Fondazione Morra Greco, Naples; and Times Museum, Guangzhou. Her work has been reviewed in the Village Voice, Artforum, Brooklyn Rail, New York Times, Artnet Magazine, Frieze Magazine, Art Review, Artpress, Flash Art and Fresno Bee. She is a featured artist at Electronic Arts Intermix and Art21.
Tabita Rezaire (b. 1989, Paris, France) is a Guyanese/Danish new media artist, intersectional preacher, health practitioner, tech-politics researcher and Kemetic/Kundalini Yoga teacher based in Johannesburg. She holds a Bachelor in Economics (Paris) and a Masters in Artists’ Moving Image from Central Saint Martins (London). Rezaire’s practice explores decolonial healing through the politics of technology. Navigating architectures of power—online and offline—her works tackle the pervasive matrix of coloniality and its effects on identity, technology, sexuality, health and spirituality. Disseminating light, her digital healing activism offers substitute readings decentering occidental authority, hoping to assist in the “dismantling [of] our white-supremacist-patriarchal-cis-hetero-globalized world screen,” as she puts it. Rezaire is a founding member of NTU, half of the duo Malaxa and mother of the energy house SENEB. Artsy declared her among the 10 international black artists to watch in 2016, and True Africa placed her among the top 100 innovators and opinion makers on the continent in 2015. Rezaire has shown her work internationally, at the Berlin Biennale; Tate Modern London; City of Paris Museum of Modern Art; Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, New York; and The Broad, Los Angeles.