April 3, 2013
By Ellyn Walker
WE THING, a solo exhibition by Los Angeles-based Canadian Krista Buecking, points to the intangibility of the neoliberal ideal. Playing with the linguistic development of the word ‘thing’, the exhibition’s title reminds us of the public body intrinsically located within any object, matter or circumstance. Similarly, examining prevalent social and economic systems within a critical lens, Buecking’s multifaceted installation underscores the inherent fracture within the current North American climate.
Ubiquity, turned on its head, permeates the exhibition. Referencing neoliberal prototypes such as the Human Potential Movement made popular during the 1960s as a model for self-actualization and social motivation, Buecking plays upon the notion of such ‘lifestyle marketing’ while disembodying its claims. Asking “What does it mean to grow up having been told you can be anything you want and then have reality be something different?,” Buecking locates our generational sense of disappointment and alienation within a social economy that guarantees the unsustainable.
Comprised of material props that remind us of television stage sets from 1980s sitcoms, Buecking takes up this interest in an effort to re-imagine what it means to use these formal predicates. The main gallery space sees Buecking penetrate these tropes within her videotaped performances shown on a glossy monitor and an older television set from the 1990s, showing scenes of the artist infiltrating an oversized GAP shopping bag, engaging with pop culture forms of furniture, as well as embracing the screen itself from which these images emanate.
Several questions like HOW MANY CONSERVATIVE ECONOMISTS DOES IT TAKE TO CHANGE A LIGHT BULB?” also appear on the screens, followed by tongue-in-cheek answers such as NONE. IF THE GOVERNMENT WOULD JUST LEAVE IT ALONE, IT WOULD SCREW ITSELF IN. Here, Buecking equates the familiar instance of domestic handiwork as a metaphor for the inability of political stakeholders to meet basic societal needs.
Furthermore, the overwhelming presence of green house plants within the various sets, similar to ones seen in storefront windows and waiting rooms, appropriates the popular practice of enlivening space with totems of the living. In this case, the vacancy of a human stage presence and of overarching economic promises allows the plants to suffice as emblems of a society that exists outside of its means.
The interrogations found in this exhibition expand upon Buecking’s artistic practice and combined body of work to date. Her earlier series, "LOVE SONG FOR A FUTURE GENERATION", "Proposal for Ruins" and "WHERE WE ARE MISPLACED" also explore similar sentiments of disappointment, disintegration and tenuousness. While each mark important criticisms of our imperfect world, there exists an overarching sense of sincerity within Buecking’s analyses of social economies.
Whether aligned with this exhibition’s particular trajectories or not, it is almost impossible not to appreciate the absurdity evident within Buecking’s reassembled environments. WE THING thus reiterates our identity as that of social construct, rooted in the premise of a lifestyle promised, and formerly believed unattainable.