March 24 – May 26, 2018
The color red has long fascinated psychologists due to its effect on the human psyche. Red communicates confidence, success, power, lust, and sexuality. Despite its metaphoric connotation of aggression and the fact that it’s the color of blood, red is inviting in another primal sense. It is awe-inducing.
Awe is defined as reverential respect mixed with fear and wonder, producing feelings of vastness and accommodation. Awe-inspiring experiences may be one of the fastest and most powerful methods of personal change and growth. Yet they also reinforce social hierarchies. Primordial awe is the hardwired response that low-status individuals feel in the presence of more powerful, high status individuals and beings (God, celebrities, heroes, etc.)
VIP is an exhibition about this feeling of awe as a motivator and addresses issues of privilege, ambition, and risk. It is a social commentary on youtube sensationalism, social media fanaticism, and the frantic display of one’s importance to avoid fading into the ether.
The central piece in the exhibition is a floor-based, oval-shaped red carpet track titled “I am a very important person”. In order for a red carpet to work, one needs an audience. It denotes a sense of elevation and exclusivity (“getting the VIP treatment”), by providing a point of pause for admiration. This red carpet is its own feedback loop – you walk in a circle like a broken record.
On the wall are black & white drawings – black pastel chalk on white felt – of mountains. The drawings are part of a series titled “Deadliest Climbs” and feature 10 of the deadliest mountains to summit. Mountains, a long held symbol for self-help and motivational posters, inspire a sense of awe through their vastness. We feel small and insignificant in their presence. Ambition and bravery, as well as privilege and status are necessary to summit any of these 10 mountains, a quest to conquer unchartered territory.
Achievement calls for celebration. Yet are we the recipients or providers of this admiration?
Next to these monumental works, a lonesome red phone sitting on a table seems almost comical. A red phone reads as an emergency communication device – a crisis or hotline. “Find your Calling” is a direct line but to the top of the mountain and all you hear is the wind – nature’s static and silence.
A saddle-stitched zine of color photocopies is available as the footnote to VIP. Its free association doodles provide a child-like meditation on the red carpet track, turning the monumentality of the piece and its associated emotions of ambition, privilege, motivation, and awe upside down by infusing a sense of humor, a release to laugh at ourselves. Perhaps we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously because maybe the red oval is not a red carpet but an inner tube that could burst at any moment.
The initial contact a viewer has with an exhibition is through its invitation card. VIP’s postcard announcement shows a red background with “I am a very important person” written in white across the center. It’s a personal and private affirmation card for what’s truly important – knowing that you are a very important person. The affirmation is also available as an edition of bathmats.