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Scenes From A Chasm brings together the work of four artists, from across a diverse range of creative practice. The show reflects on shadows cast by global wealth inequality and its impact on society, culture and an ever-shifting workplace.
Developing comprehension of the mechanisms and magnitude of the wealth gap presents a challenge for economists, social scientists and artists alike. The picture becomes more complex when drawing comparisons across nations, regions, and generations. The experience of living can be so divergent based on financial standing that it conjures notions of alternate worlds or times. Thomas Piketty captures this cognitive haze in his economic tome Capital in the Twenty-First Century – “Wealth is so concentrated that a large segment of society is virtually unaware of its existence so that some people imagine it belongs to surreal or mysterious entities”.
These strange worlds and their inhabitants are haunted by ghosts from both the past and possible futures. The conditions and events that brought us to this point of financial-existential separation are not strictly economic; intersecting and inseparable from questions of gender, race, culture, morality and human ingenuity. While we constantly reassess histories, we too are bombarded with predictions of automated futures and super-intelligent machines, effortlessly replacing swathes of a human workforce suddenly free from work, but not from debt. These haunted futures suggest a chasm that could yet yawn and gape, drawing breath from, and into, financial isolation.
Yet… the intention is not to protest, or raise awareness.
We are aware. Well read. We feel it, even know it.
By allowing artists to develop their own ideas, utilizing their chosen
tools and methods we hope to provide a richer, more nuanced field of experience.
Color, humor, movement, sound, joy, fury – these are all present and humming within these Scenes From A Chasm.
For her project Paradise No.7 (lucky for sum), Carla Busuttil draws a direct line between British colonial action and present day ‘wealth management’. Her vivid sketches depict various attempts by the Victorians to tame the wildlife of Africa. At the time, it was widely believed that, given correct guidance, the wild animals of the continent could be domesticated, and taken as pets. Busuttil’s compositions are overdubbed onto (and interwoven with) printouts from recent Paradise Papers leaks. These documents bring us back to the present-day reality of wealth locality and tax planning – dealing with sums so large that entire islands are financially fortified, obscured and defended. The bold strangeness of Busuttil’s imagery is set against the mundane monochrome of legal typeset and numeric minutiae. The paintings and drawings are populated with color and pattern taken from both the pageantry of the British ‘public school’ system and Asafo flags (used by local military groups on the Ghanaian coast during the colonial era). These flags themselves were collaged from imagery, pattern, and color derived from local Fante Art, as well as symbols of foreign imperial power. Busuttil’s layered compositions hint at colonial instincts that sought to domesticate, dominate, extract and own – using leaked documentary evidence of the distorted world of present-day ownership as a canvas on which to work. This contrast of layers, rubbing and scratching, forms the core of Busuttil’s project.
The work of Appau Jnr Boakye-Yiadom too considers ideas surrounding domestication and role allocation. After: The Scream of Nature is presented as an audio sequel (or remix) of the artist’s previous moving image work The Scream of Nature – focusing on technology as a domestic apparatus. After: The Scream of Nature consists of two speakers with the audio split over alternating channels. One channel plays an instrumental medley from Soul and R&B records. The second uses edited snippets of wordless singing within the genre. These isolated voices howl in a domestic style setting, representing a break from the orthodox – an uncontainable, ungovernable act. For Boakye-Yiadom this sits alongside audio’s reverberative resistance to confinement, with its ability to be amplified and extended beyond the parameters of a given space. Centering on black culture, the work is an attempt to delve into the inherent relationship between culture and technology. And with entertainment/performance infiltrating the domestic environment (often courtesy of technological progress), we are reminded of the role of performance and repeated playback can take in developing a cultural connection.
While Boakye-Yiadom considers the domestic environment, Sam Kidel focuses on the modern office environment as Customer Service Agent. Through constructed audio interactions, Kidel looks at the precarity, alienation, and entrapment of call-center work, characteristics that increasingly typify work across many sectors. Are we all becoming Customer Service Agents? Using recordings from live performances, Kidel instigates dialogue through Muzak-style ambient music. Whereas the neoliberal project promised a market-driven freedom from bureaucracy and drudgery, we are presented with the world of controlled, scripted factories, and efforts to systematize humanity. Kidel breaks through this, transcribing to us the hopes, dreams, and secrets of Customer Service Agent.
In Zygomaticus Major, Zygomaticus Minor Emily Willey brings to the fore the role of facial communication in economies of human interaction. Zygomaticus refers to a set of muscles used in the formation of facial expression and especially important in producing that most vital of workplace tools, the smile. Willey’s film follows three roles in which a broad smile and fluent small talk provide the key to exceptional customer service. Drawing on the format of comedy sketch shows, Willey brings a light touch to crumbling facades of job fulfillment and actualization through work. Her film begs the question of ‘what next?’. As we enter an era when algorithmic entities are predicted to replace many interfacing functions, what does it mean for our roles as humans? Willey’s work seems to say ‘bring it on’. As long as we keep our sense of humor, there is nothing to fear. Just keep the Zygomaticus working. In her own words: ‘Staying neutral and on a topic is a must, even if you pull a muscle.’
Emily Willey’s work looks at how public opinion is formed and the theatrics of acting out our own political position through participating in elections, online debate, and cultural exchange. Working with the form of the comedy sketch, Willey’s pantomime performances explore the vaudeville of contemporary politics. In a seemingly increasing climate of polarization, her work questions, how do we interact with positions we don’t agree with? And, in what ways do we perform our own political position in response?
Having completed her BA (Fine Art) at University of Reading, Willey is currently completing an MFA at Goldsmiths University in London. She was awarded the Platform Prize in 2015 for her work The Information Corporation which was exhibited at Modern Art Oxford, UK.
Sam Kidel is the Customer Service Agent. As the Customer Service Agent, Kidel probes and reshapes Ambient Music, exploring its emotional and sensory effects and its relationship with capitalist production, as Muzak. Kidel was formerly a member of the Young Echo collective (Young Echo Records, Ramp Recordings), which he co-founded, and Killing Sound (Blackest Ever Black). Kidel has curated a conference at Oxford Brookes University titled The Politics of Ambience (with Terre Thaemlitz, David Toop, Nina Power and Chino Amobi amongst the contributors), and released an acclaimed LP for Death of Rave, Disruptive Muzak. Kidel completed a Masters in Composition and Sonic Art at Oxford Brookes in 2015 and now teaches at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute in Bristol.
Through a multi-media artistic practice Appau Jnr Boakye-Yiadom creates hybrid performances where objects and materials are generated – both archival and self-produced – and kinetically combined to form languages of connectivity and multiplicity. In effect, the work has often taken a presentational form of an installation where an instigated performance takes place. His work has increasingly incorporated a deep-rooted interest in exploring and evoking physical sensory responses.
Boakye-Yiadom lives and works in London, received a Post Graduate Diploma from Royal Academy Schools, 2008 and a BA (Hons) in Fine Art; Painting from Winchester School of Art, 2005.
Carla Busuttil explores and addresses notions of power in a digital age, and she works across mediums; primarily paint, but also film, installation, digital media and sculpture. By platforming and interrogating the parallel themes of growing economic inequality and information abundance, much of Busuttil’s recent work looks at tendencies toward increased isolation and fortification, based on economic and technological strata.
Busuttil completed a Postgraduate Diploma at the Royal Academy Schools, London (2005-2008) following on from receiving a BA Fine Arts (Hons.) at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. Her work was featured in Newspeak: British Art Now, at the Saatchi Gallery and she has exhibited in museums and galleries locally and internationally. Busuttil’s work has also been included in publications such as ‘100 Painters of Tomorrow’ (Thames and Hudson) and ‘Painting Now’ (Thames and Hudson).
Gary Charles is an interdisciplinary artist, researcher, and curator working across a range of mediums including sound, film, performance and installation. Recent projects have looked at the privatisation of just about everything, looped conversations of the future, and the regional mascots of the 1990 Poll Tax Riots.
Charles is an associate practitioner/research member of the Sonic Art Research Unit (SARU) at Oxford Brookes University and was recently awarded a Santander Research Grant for work based on the Detroit/Grosse Pointe border.
Cuchifritos is FREE to the public and handicap accessible. Located inside Essex Street Market at the south end nearest Delancey.
Cuchifritos Gallery + Project Space is a program of Artists Alliance Inc., a 501c3 not for profit organization located on the Lower East Side of New York City within the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center. Cuchifritos is supported in part by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. This program is made possible by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. We thank the following for their generous support: Foundation for Contemporary Arts, New York City Economic Development Corporation and individual supporters of Artists Alliance Inc. Special thanks go to our team of dedicated volunteers, without whom this program would not be possible.