Textiles and Video
by Sabrina Ratté and Ben Venom
Curated by Clark Buckner
In partnership with The Foundation at St. Joseph’s Arts Society
January 17th – February 20th, 2020
Friday. 1/17, 7:00 – 9:00
Wednesday, 2/5, 7:00 – 9:00
Gallery Hours: Mon – Fri, 10 – 6
Address: St. Joseph’s Arts Society, 1415 Howard St (at 10th St.),
Email: [email protected]
Apocryphally, in 1968, David Bowie conceived of Ziggy Stardust, his androgynous alien alter ego, after attending a screening of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. In Kubrick’s film, science-fiction is an existential meditation on the limits of reason and experience, a journey to the outermost reaches of the universe in which we find ourselves confronted with the alien irrationality of our own orienting contradictions. Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust gives these existential conflicts a throbbing pulse, marrying the cosmic ruminations in Kubrick’s film to the subversive power and alien strangeness of adolescent sexuality in Rock and Roll: as an uncanny figure of the future, an avatar of what’s to come.
This show takes its inspiration from Bowie’s starman, and the broader, varied intersections between Science Fiction and Rock and Roll – from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Queen’s soundtrack to Flash Gordon to Laurie Anderson’s Big Science and the afrofuturism of Parliament-Funkadelic – by juxtaposing Sabrina Ratté’s digital animation with Ben Venom’s heavy-metal textiles.
Venom employs the visual vocabulary of punk rock and heavy metal records, tattoo parlors, and biker culture, using recycled concert tee-shirts, bandanas, and blue jeans to produce iconographic images on banners, quilts, patches and other functional textiles. His work has the power and intensity of speed metal: flaming skulls, black cats, the ace of spades. By contrast, Ratté’s digital animation is cool, even scientific, in its phenomenological explorations of the underdetermination of experience. She constructs surreal, science-fiction landscapes, limning the boundaries between sound and vision; the analog and the digital; architecture and the environment; technology and the body. But these artist’s also share surprising affinities and, when brought together, reveal each other’s work in new and different light.
Set amidst Ratté’s surreal landscapes, Venom’s Rock and Roll icons become the neo-gothic, political symbols of an alien culture – something out of Frank Herbert’s Dune, or another great space opera. His work becomes speculative anthropology, a study of kinship formations; as well as an epic narrative, chronicling the political struggles of rival clans in imagined universes. When juxtaposed to Venom’s counter-cultural icons, in turn, the psychological intensity of Ratté’s animation is brought to the fore. The ambient soundtracks to her videos frequently have the dissonance of experimental noise. Her images glitch with a disturbingly anxious intensity, revealing her morphing figures and landscapes to be not merely underdetermined, but struggling to take bodily form amidst fields of affective intensities and conflicting desires. And, all of this, as the unfolding of the future.