Emotional Blackmail: Towards Sincerity in Art

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© Courtesy of Southern Alberta Art Gallery
Emotional Blackmail: Towards Sincerity in Art

601 Third Avenue South
T1J 0H4 Lethbridge
September 24th, 2011 - November 13th, 2011
Opening: September 24th, 2011 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM

403 327 8770
Tue-Wed, Fri-Sat 10-5; Thu 10-7; Sun 1-5


How do you feel? To what point is how you feel your personal experience rooted deeply within yourself, and to what extent is it learned behavior, affected by or mimicking your social environment? In the exhibition Emotional Blackmail, contemporary artists explore the fluid state of emotions, how they flow back and forth between the personal and the public, the ubiquitous and ephemeral, the natural and the affected. Tracing a tendency over the last decade away from irony and towards an attempt at sincere expression, this exhibition,offers a sampling of complex works in an effort to examine what we might call “neo-sincerity.”

The new stream of sincerity has surfaced at a time when, individual expression seems prized above all else; however there appears to be a simultaneous diminishing of the emotional scope. After the irony and cynicism of the 1980s and 1990s, we may have lost our ability to engage fully in the complexity of emotions, leaving the distinct impression that in today’s world, feelings can be encapsulated by a limited number of emoticons. This exhibition attempts to reveal the limitations in the process of personal expression that, through the pitfalls of clichés, distortion, misunderstanding, or even disregard, turn genuine complex feelings into compressed and simple ones. Rather than taking on the exploration of the deeply private, this exhibition looks at how emotions are expressed and manipulated in the name of art; the often problematic emotional exchange between artist, collaborator and viewer; and the difficulty of expression, analysis, and generation of emotion in contemporary visual art. Emotional Blackmail reveals contemporary art’s reliance on language, theater, film, and music for addressing the complexities of emotions. Ranging from pop music, YouTube, and teen culture to Ingmar Bergman and self-help, the inspirations for these works are placed squarely in the mainstream. However, they see beyond simple sappiness; they consider the constructed effects of what is often called the “culture industry.” Emotional Blackmail examines our multifarious mainstream culture, and the mechanisms of its subtly manipulative power.

In our modern state of ubiquitous market culture seeping through every element in our lives, can we talk about emotions without wanting something in return? Can we truly ask to express ourselves without implicating others? And if so, is there a way to accurately communicate what we feel?

Curated by Chen Tamir & Markús Thór Andrésson

Markús Thór Andrésson was born in Switzerland in 1975 and grew up in Iceland. He is the Assistant Director of SAFN , a private collection in Reykjavik. He has worked on several documentary films and television programs regarding contemporary art as director and producer, most recently STEYPA , a feature documentary on the art scene in Iceland, released in 2007. He has written extensively on art in catalogues and art magazines, his focus being on the scene in Reykjavik and Berlin, where he currently has his office. His recent and upcoming exhibitions include It’s Not Your Fault, on Icelandic art in Luhring Augustine Gallery in NYC in 2008; The End, with Ragnar Kjartansson in the Icelandic pavilion at the Venice Biennial in 2009; and Stray Beacons, an exhibition in four lighthouses around Iceland as part of the Reykjavik Arts Festival, 2009. Andrésson received a B.A. in Studio Arts from the Iceland Academy of the Arts, Reykjavik, and an M.A. in Curatorial Studies from the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College.

Chen Tamir is an independent curator and arts writer based in New York, Toronto, and Tel-Aviv. She is also the former director of Flux Factory, an arts organization in Queens. Her primary interests are video works, interventions, and interactive or social art. Chen holds an M.A. in Curatorial studies from Bard College’s Center for Curatorial Studies, a B.A. in Anthropology, and a B.F.A. in Visual Art from York University. She has recently curated exhibitions at Gallery TPW and the Barnicke Gallery (Toronto), the Ise Cultural Foundation and White Box (New York), and others. She has participated in Curating Degree Zero (Paris), and has written for numerous monographs and publications including Flash Art, Ciel Variable, and C Magazine. Recent speaking engagements include the Scope Art Fair, Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, Ramapo College, and Art in General.

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