Charnel House Scraps
Greene Park Gallery
proudly presents our inaugural exhibition
CHARNEL HOUSE SCRAPS
Cultures are in a transition that provides artists an opportunity to re-contextualize the signification of cultural signs. The artist is acting as translator to sift through our overwhelming pool of signs -- each tangled in contexts and connotations that provide the artist motivating forms for departure.
The over production of cultural signs, stemming from the effort to signify everything from political ideals to table salt, leave meaning in a precarious, loosened position. The leaders of the service economy (accountants, lawyers, lobbyists, marketers), now the largest contributor to our GDP, are tasked with creating defensible deception: fantastical financial reports, spurious marketing messages, biased science experiments, and manufactured needs. As Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has suggested, market makers benefit from the imperfect information distributed through the media as diverse as television and advertising to corporate financial statements. Facts are cloaked in near-truths, shell companies, and umbrella corporations that fill the interstices between the information we consume and facts. The "Invisible Hand" described by Adam Smith, the father of economics, has lost its grasp on trust.
In his 1957 essay “Myth Today”, the social commentator and philosopher Roland Barthes discussed the use of signs and their role in socialist propaganda of his day. What Barthes was flagging as a danger of socialism is also a servant to capitalism. Through a chain of gradual shifts and mutations, Smith’s theories of free market mechanics have been referenced and reapplied to justify the ideals known as Reaganomics. This shift gained academic support as economics became an empirical science. Principals of physics and thermodynamics have even been applied to create the theories of risk distribution that dominate Wall Street thinking which provided the kindling for the financial crisis that started in 2008. The Invisible Hand, which Smith used to describe how supply and demand effortlessly set prices, was transformed into a sanctified symbol of laissez faire policies. Under this banner, free markets brought unprecedented growth to economies around the world, shifting us from nation states of multicultural people to multinational consumers. This economic platform serves not only the transactions of goods but also the transactions of cultural signs, which have accumulated in the catalogues of culture, too vast for any individual to parse.
Each artist in the exhibition Charnel House Scraps begins with signs appropriated or created by government, religion, corporation or otherwise, and through their touch, alters it to shift meaning, freeing the sign from its given meaning towards a new life and new potential possibility. Based on Mary Shelley’s description of Frankenstein’s monster from a preface to the 1831 edition, the exhibition’s title suggests that these works reanimate decayed signs and expose the hollow ones; forms are offered another function to perform. As Barthes put it, “its point of departure is constituted by the arrival of a meaning.” The new sign and the new form takes on a new conceptual value where each viewer engages in a permutation of sign consumption and translation, where unique points of departure are channeled by the artists towards new points of arrival.
- Written by Rob Greene