Jillian Mayer and Marco Rosichelli at Plug Projects

Jillian Mayer, Relax Attack

Jillian Mayer embodies the 21st century media artist: at once highly proficient with the digital toolbox while deeply perceptive about the rapidly shifting currents of technology that are transforming our communications and culture. She seems comfortable, even gleeful at times, in navigating the murky territory between physical and virtual realities. Her new exhibition at Plug Projects “Relax Attack” features several new and recent works in digital video, photography, and a web-based project.

The gauzy, humorous installation “Climbing a Tree” (2014) anchors the exhibition.  In the center of the gallery a horizontally suspended tree limb appears to float in space. Over the limb hangs a life-size female nude photo transfer on silk. We encounter the face of the artist seamlessly attached to the mannequin like figure hanging upside down to greet us. Seeing through the de-sexualized Barbie-like figure, literally bent over backwards, we sense one of Mayer’s artistic strategies. As in Chaka Khan’s disco anthem that surely pre-dates the artist, “I’m every woman, it’s all in me; Anything you want done, baby; I’ll do it digitally.” Empowered by the flexibility of digital technology, she manipulates her body through creative authorship to “hang out” with us in the gallery space. Her painted toenails provide a fancy touch.

In the one-minute video loop “Hot Beach Babe Aims to Please” (2014) a bikini-clad Botticelli Venus emerges from the placid seascape, but instead of allegorical figures surrounding her, a lone computer cursor shows up. She is soon swarmed by more and more cursors as she walks toward us with a sly smile out of the frame. When she returns to the water the cursors continue to follow her until she dives beneath the surface where they seem uninterested or unable to pursue her. Signifying surrogate eyes, the pointy cursors pay attention until their desire is extinguished by her in-visibility. But the cycle repeats itself ad infinitum.

Thanks to Mr. Snowden who blew the lid off unchecked state surveillance of all our digital gadgetry, we are faced with an unprecedented erosion of personal privacy. A quick scan of any urban streetscape reveals numerous cameras, some equipped with sophisticated facial recognition software a.k.a. CV (computer vision), mapping the topography of our nose bridges and ocular cavities, recording our every move. Undaunted by this ominous reality Mayer created the informative video “Make Up Tutorial: How to Hide from Cameras” (2013) in which she demonstrates how to reclaim facial privacy using a century old “dazzle” camouflage technique. With low tech, DIY ingenuity she shows us with a smile that subverting artificial intelligence can be a fun form of asymmetrical adornment.

While this reviewer isn’t exactly comforted by Mayer’s skywriting video “You’ll Be Okay” (2014) as its message slowly evaporates into the ether, her artwork has a disarming, playful quality that masks an agile capacity to creatively manifest her identity in multiple mediums. Big Brother, meet your Little Sister; she’s on to you.

Jillian Mayer’s “Relax Attack” is on view January 16 – February 21, 2015 at Plug Projects, Kansas City, MO. A screening of Jillian Mayer’s videos takes place at Plug Projects on February 19, 2015.

Marco Rosichelli, Re-Made in China

Since China became the world’s manufacturer some decades ago, the rest of the planet has been awash in cheap consumer goods ranging from utilitarian to utterly absurd. These ubiquitous objects that clutter our domestic spaces are the jumping off point for a highly conceptual project by sculptor Marco Rosichelli. He claims to be “fascinated with life’s minutiae” and seeks to transform our perception of the everyday things that most of us take for granted.

His exhibition “Re-Made in China” stems from Rosichelli’s unlikely residency at the

Pottery Workshop in Jingdezhen, China, the capital of porcelain production for nearly two millennia. I say unlikely for no other reason than Rosichelli does not make ceramics. Instead, he assembled about a dozen banal objects available at any big box retailer: a plastic bucket, metal lunchbox, flashlight, carved pumpkin soap dispenser, a tchochke of two kittens in a basket, etc. with the common denominator being that they were stamped or stickered “Made in China.”

Upon making the long trek to Jingdezhen, Rosichelli transported these objects back to the source country in order to collaborate with ceramic artists on site who could re-make the very same objects in porcelain. By removing their utilitarian or decorative values these objects are reduced to monochromatic aesthetic forms with some variations on the theme. Thus transformed, the artist returns them to us as objets d’art reiterating their redundant readymade-ness.

One grouping of objects has originals and re-made doppelgangers displayed side-by-side, while a stack of re-made bucket forms are identical versions executed in matte, gloss, and reflective glazes. They are somehow more interesting to contemplate in a gallery context with their obligatory gold stickers on the bottom indicating their unique status.

The exhibition both reveals and conceals the re-making process including the role of the artist himself. Four clever photographic images staged by Rosichelli show him at the potter’s wheel, tooling the brow of a ceramic kitten, painting decoration on a vase, and seated in the studio at the site of production. The images invent an unmistakable impression of an experienced ceramicist at work when in fact the artist has fooled us into reconsidering the economics of mass production and the surprising aesthetic potential of industrial design.

Marco Rosichelli’s “Re-Made in China” is on view January 16 – February 21, 2015 at Plug Projects, Kansas City, MO.

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