Vanessa Albury and Marthe Fortun, Tariq Ali. Mauro Ceolin, Custer’s Revenge, Claire Fontaine, Lonnie Frisbee and David di Sabatino, Simon Gush, George Henard, Ragnar Kjartansson, Paulus Kapteyn, Luther Price, Rage Against the Machine, Yoji Sakate, The Weather Underground, Philippe Vandenberg, Ben Shaffer, Ben Vaultier.
Curated by Jan Van Woensel, ‘Bad Moon Rising’, compiles an eclectic and forceful range of artists and artifacts that share an apocalyptic vision of the current situation of the United States of America, ”casting a dark shadow over its promised ideologies of freedom and prosperity…with no space for mercy.” As someone who has recently relocated from Belgium to the United States, Van Woensel presents in this show “about the Americans, for the Americans” the shocked ethnographic view of an outsider, who is happily pointing fingers at the social atrocities happing in this country to date. While his accusations are undeniably valid and pressing, there seems to be the sweet smell of Schadenfreude lingering in the air of the space.
The most compelling aspect of this exhibition is that all the disturbing facets of US Society that are depicted in this show are, at the same time, attempts to revolt against, disturb, and circumvent the system of capitalist competitiveness and conformity. Titled Primal Scream, Vanessa Albury and Marthe Fortun’s 2007 piece is an outcry without a clear target or hope for change, simply marking the current state of affairs. The work is presented in the gallery as an audio piece as well as a muted double projection that maps the sites of the intervention. On February 28th, 2007 Albury and Fortun performed a single loud scream at a selection of random public spaces within the city of New York. A disruption fully conscious of the futility of its impact but nevertheless an act that expresses an underlying and suppressed sensation that seems omnipresent within contemporary society.
Philippe Vandenberg’s semi abstract paintings like L’important c’est le Kamikaze, 2004, and Mama Swastika Revisited, 1994-2004 are reflecting upon the banality of evil. Through provocative yet playful repetition they comment on the absurd and the emptied out state of signs and phrases in popular media.
In the back corner of the space Yoji Sakate’s play The Attic lays on the floor. Sakate is meditating on the phenomenon of hikikomori, a term describing a social withdrawal syndrome prevalent in Japan’s youth. Pondering upon the need of humans to retreat suspended between healthy alone time and the most extreme forms of isolation. Sakate’s play is introducing a mysterious company that offers tiny “attics” via the internet to people who wish to withdraw from society completely.
Ragnar Kjartansson’s video Sorrow Conquers Happiness (2006) provides the score for the exhibition. The work shows Kjartansson in a suit and tie, accompanied by a jazz trio repeatedly singing the words ‘Sorrow conquers happiness’ until the words become detached from their meaning – melting into a mantra for universal suffering. Within all this devastation the visitor is lucky that Van Woensel keeps Ben Vautier’s Flux Suicide Kit handy to offer the possibility of ending the ordeal right here and now.
Bad Mood Rising is a show of safe distance, through isolating the positions at hand, they seem threatening, but at the same time controlled. And precisely through this distance a pattern can be recognized that if stretched at the right places can be made to fit most other nations just as well as the United States. The overlapping sing-song of complaint seems to almost cancel itself out; to many voices are moaning at the same time, leaving the visitor with the feeling that there’s a bad moon on the rise – or maybe just a bathroom on the right?