Five 2016 MFA graduate artists working in multi-media installation, present “Cacotopia” at Annka Kultys Gallery in London, transforming the gallery into an active space for participation. The exhibition will unfold over the course of five weeks, each week featuring a new artist, and will bring to light contemporary perspectives on feminism, ecology, celebrity culture, politics and professionalism.
By Dimitris Lempesis
Photo:Annka Kultys Gallery Archive
In his discussion of George Orwell’s “1984”, Anthony Burgess introduces the term “cacotopia”, merging the words “cacophony” and “utopia”. Abandoning the more common expression “dystopia” Burgess uses the word cacotopia in order to more strongly describe a government of the very worst kind. As societies imagined on the lines of cacophony or cacodemon, cacotopias evoke extreme states of political disharmony and social dissonance. In contrast to the harmonious rhythms and orders of good government, the word refers to a kind of forced order of disunity. For Burgess it is such discordance, the dictation of a norm that suppresses its underlying conflicts, that forms the setting for Orwell’s “1984”, as well as his own cacotopian visions that he developed in the novels “1985” and “The Wanting Seed”. Olivia Strange opens the exhibition with “Cornu copia copia topia of your broken lusty” (2016), that recalls an imagined paradise with a bright red lounge chair atop a blue water floor, footage of palm trees swaying in the wind illuminates the trinitron television cubes, while large sculptures made from cement and wax appear tree-like. Upon closer inspection, however, the red chair becomes a distorted office chair, the palm trees are blown by gail-force winds, and the large sculptures merely the legs of office furniture anchored in cement. Ultimately the fantasy, an office day dream, is consumed by the banality of everyday life. Inspired by Kurt Vonnegut’s dystopian novel “Cat’s Cradle” (193), which takes place during “the end of the world” amidst Cold War paranoia, Andrea Williamson’s work is fascinated by Vonnegut’s description of a butterfly chair. Her version is a beautifully crafted wooden chair, covered with intricately hand-painted, motorised butterflies, whose wings are programmed to flap in correlation with the monitored pollution levels of Central London. Soo Choi’s work approaches fantasy with the desire to become an image. Appropriating typical cinematic romance symbols, her video “Snow Romance” (2016) features the artist being blasted by a snow machine operated by her boyfriend. A romantic gesture that turns violent both in its duration, the foam causing the artist to cry, and in its exposure of the cinematic apparatus, killing the fantasy. The failure to become the image is an important trope for Choi. In another video, the artist attempts to become a K-pop idol, a phenomenon from her native Korea, that has become massively popular internationally through platforms such as YouTube. The physical toll of becoming a K-pop idol involves hours and hours of practice, and often extreme dietary habits and plastic surgery. Olivia Hernaïz takes on the role of an interior designer, or bored housewife, creating an Airbnb bedroom with specially designed patterned fabrics. The patterns, however, are taken from the logos of various political parties, which when removed of context appear simplistic and even cute, featuring smiling suns, stars, palm trees, birds and other animals. While viewers are encouraged to get comfortable, lying in the bed, and watching a video that sells “a better tomorrow”, in getting comfortable, the viewer is confronted with his or her own passivity to the subliminal messages within each logo. As the Airbnb most likely will remain empty, the work criticises the utopian idea of the sharing economy. Further complicating the relationship with subliminal messages. Ruth Waters will install a relaxation studio, influenced by women’s magazines, the capitalisation of self love and the promise of success by the wellness industry. “J.A. Generalized Anxiety Relaxation” will present a series of bookable workshops in meditation, relaxation and self love. Through guided sessions, the artist exerts a control over the participants, reflecting the problems of individual therapy towards creating complacency in relation to achieving greater societal change. Devising a logo and appropriating the ridiculous mantras of Jennifer Aniston’s personal trainer, such as “I love what I have, and I want more”, the artist demonstrates the way in which the wellness industry has corporatised often necessary processes of healing.
Info: Annka Kultys Gallery, 472 Hackney Road, Unit 3, 1st Floor, London, Duration: Olivia Strange: 11-14/1/17, Andrea Williamson: 18-21/1/17, Soo Choi: 25-28/1/17, Olivia Hernaïz: 1-4/2/17, Ruth Waters 8-11/2/17, Days & Hours: Wed-Sat 12:00-18:00,www.annkakultys.com