SITE Santa Fe “More Real? Art in the Age of Truthiness”
I always visit SITE when I head to Santa Fe as it is one of the few art destinations there. And I very much enjoyed the exhibition that has replaced the biennial which explores when truths are cast into doubt–the change in our experience of reality. “Truthiness” is a term coined by Stephen Colbert on his show The Colbert Report. The definition of “truthiness” is that things we wish to be true are preferred to things known to be true. The artists in this show explore this idea and the works are divided into three categories: Deception and Play, Reshaping the Real, and The Status of Fact. Artists grapple with the question of defining the real living in a world when media can change an experience. The wall text states that artists “explore a shifting sense of what is real and the consequences of not understanding the difference.” I liked that the curators selected a nice range of mediums–it kept the exhibition interesting.
Before one even officially enters the show, one is confronted by Mark Dion’s Waiting Room in which a realistic looking waiting room at a fictional university has been created. A woman sits behind a desk and asks you to “take a number.”
Upon entering the first gallery you see photos by artist Thomas Demand. In these photographs of carefully constructed models of the oval office, all details are missing such as stars on the American flag and faces in photographs on the desk. Initially, Demand’s work appears realistic, but as the viewer looks closer, it seems like a cartoon version of an oval office, stripped of crucial detail.
I have written about Leandro Ehrlich’s Stuck Elevator in a previous entry from his show at Sean Kelly Gallery. Its realism brings up a fear most of us have of being trapped between floors in an elevator.
Like a DJ, Dario Robleto samples and remixes pre-existing objects to create a new one. In The Melancholic Refuses to Surrender from 2003, Robleto creates boxing gloves made of bone, charcoal, vinyl records, horse hair and more. I really loved this work that was begging me to get close and view it intimately.
Sharon Lockhart’s photos of Duane Hanson’s installation process, push the viewer to look harder at what we see. Which are the real people doing the installing and which are the Hanson creations.
My favorite work in the whole exhibition is Pierre Huyghe’s 2 minute video from 2000 called Two Minutes Out of Time. Ann Lee, whose identity was for sale, began as blank template owned by a Japanese company. Having no name or biography, she was killed off by an anime cartoon or an ad but Philippe Parreno partnered with Huyghe to purchased her rights–giving her an identity as a video character. The animation talks to the viewer about her situation. It was just a very cool piece like nothing I had seen before.
In the hallway before entering the next gallery space are photographs by An My Le. Vietnamese born, Le moved to the US in 1975. From the series Small Wars, the photos are recreations (in which she had to actively participate in order to photograph) of the Vietnam War .
A video by Eve Sussman and the Rufus Corporation called 89 Seconds at Alcazar from 2004 is a reenactment of the moments before the iconic scene in the 1659 Velazquez painting Las Meninas. It is “art based on art based on reality, a fiction made more real by the power of film.” It has the same vibrant colors as the painting! The film made me aware of things I had never noticed in the original work. I never noticed there was a nun in the painting until I saw the recreation.
Jonathan Monk Deadman 2006, is a mash up of two performances by conceptual artist Chris Burden– 1971’s Shoot in which the artist had someone shoot him in the arm, and a 1972 work where he pretended to be a corpse in the middle of a busy road.
Another work by Dario Robleto I enjoyed, Deep Down I Don’t Believe in Hymns, is military issued blanket infested with record dust, alluding to the relationship between Native and European peoples.
Vik Muniz’s work, “Verso” shows the back of a painting. It tell its story and documents its life. What appears to be the actual back of one of the most famous works of all time that lives at MoMA, is actually a perfectly detailed recreation of the back of the painting Starry Night.
Cao Fei’s video, i. Mirror, is an analysis of commercialism, depicting a heightened sense of isolation and loneliness, where the term “FOR SALE” is plastered on everything. It highlight the need for a search for authenticity and meaning in our modern lives.
In Omer Fast Spielberg’s List from 2003 actors and extras in the film Schindler’s List are interviewed. Some were alive during WWII and these interviews blur the difference between actual history and the movie. Fast also manipulates the truth by altering subtitles of the video.
In the next room you find Inigo Manglano-Ovalle’s Phantom Truck from 2007 As the viewers eyes adjust to the blackness of the room, they find a huge truck based on blueprints and descriptions of Iraqi mobile biological weapons; labs that Colin Powell presented to the UN Security Council in 2003 and used for the justification of the invasion of Iraq. It was eventually determined that they never existed. This work is a “metaphor for political camouflage that enabled a fiction to help launch a war that was all too real.” Very cool.
In the next room is a video work called I Only Wish That I Could Weep from 2001 by Walid Raad. It is at this moment that I take a moment to reflect upon the fact that there is a lot of work about war in this exhibition. What does that say about our media and the way they portray historical events such as wars? Anyway, I digress. Raad came of age in Lebanon during its civil wars which has greatly informed his art. This video presents images from a hidden Lebanese intelligence camera intended to record covert activity along a boardwalk promenade in 1995.Every evening the camera operator turned the camera to record the setting sun–a moment of freedom. So you see images of silhouetted figures sped up moving along the boardwalk with the sun setting in the background. Growing up in East Beirut, he had always wanted to see the sunset from West Beirut. He was fired in 1996.
Seung Woo Back took photos of familiar landmarks like the Eiffel Tower at an amusement park. The works look completely manipulated but these replicas of some of the world’s most iconic buildings really exist there.
The Eva and Franco Mattes work No Fun from 2010 was incredibly difficult to watch. A staged online performance on a social media site that pairs people in conversations was used as a social experiment. Consisting of a desk, chair, light and computer, when partners logged on, they saw Franco’s body hanging from a noose in a dirty apartment. Only one person called 911. Most reactions were complete disbelief and some were nonchalant. I found it fascinating to watch but also horrifying that no one attempted to help him or even seemed shocked that a man had hung himself in front of their eyes.
Five sculptures by an artist named Ellen Stanley, who may or may not have actually lived were presented by another artist begging the viewer to question what part of that was real.
Ai Wei Wei Colored Vases 2006/8. The artist wants us to believe that he dipped Neolithic clay vases in buckets of household paint. Are they irreplaceable antiques or did he make them himself or find them at a flea market? If they are real is their value gone because of the paint that now covers them?
Joel Lederer creates inkjet on paper photographs. He creates landscapes of a virtual reality based on Second Life, a real place on the internet. These images shift constantly on the computer, but he does in fact make them stop using screen-capture software, and transforms them into beautiful photographs.
The Yes Men’s fake newspapers of the end of the war round off the exhibition. And turning around one can watch the video of Stephen Colbert’s The Colbert Report from 2005 called: Word of the Day: truthiness. Do we only believe what we want to believe in this day in age? Is “truthiness” something that really exists? Artists have the capability to alter reality, but are we as a culture doing more harm than good by creating our own individual “truthiness?”