by Daniel J Glendening
Hypercorrection, at Recess, brings together the somewhat disparate work of four artists under a thematic umbrella ostensibly concerned with notions of self-correction and self-identity. In its traditional usage, the term hypercorrection refers to, in language and grammar, a case of syntax or diction in which a grammatical rule is applied in an in appropriate case, out of a desire for propriety. In a sense, it’s overcompensation, turning into (or out of?) the skid so severely that the car swerves wildly out of control.
As a whole, the exhibition feels a little off balance, with the work of each artist (Sokhun Keo, Paul Clay, Krystal South, and Ross Young) installed somewhat independently, with Clay’s Bear Crosses Territory and South’s The Medium is the iMessage in the Recess collective’s main gallery, Young’s Grid 3 (Mold Grid) hanging like a mechanical Spanish moss in the stairwell, and Keo’s Tomorrow’s Artifacts occupying the first floor entry way. Dispersed through the building, the work of each artist functions as an independent installation, and while this allows the work to function as waypoints on the path towards the main gallery, it also minimizes the extent to which the works are able to directly communicate and reflect upon one another.
Keo’s work, Tomorrow’s Artifacts, includes a stack of printed take-aways and two sculptural works. The black and white take-aways, each 8.5”x11,” read “HOW TO DANCE THE SARAVAN AUTHENTICALLY,” and depict six steps, explicated with an illustrated figure looking, a little, like Keo himself. Upon closer examination, this saravan dance, commonly associated with Cambodian Rom kbach music, is mashed up with the “YMCA” dance, an East/West, traditional-disco hybrid. Keo’s sculptures are situated on the floor of the entryway, the first an arrangement of ceramic shards, fragments of broken plates printed with a woman’s face, the second featuring a large colorful placemat or paper prayer rug, featuring an ornate paisley pattern and borders with text, in an Asian-fast-food font, reading “Take Out.” Atop this print are two halves of a ceramic teacup, each half set atop a small round mirror, the reflection rendering the cup holographically whole. Keo’s work offers up something of a puzzle with missing pieces. The woman depicted on the plates is somewhat enigmatic and unidentified, though, in combination with the mirrored cup piece there seems to be a sort of trauma enacted here, a violent loss only tentatively filled in the reflected teacup.
There is some amount of exchange between the works of South and Clay, occupying, as they are, a single room together. Clay’s Bear Crosses Territory is a standout piece, a deft blend of humor and existential angst in a glitzy package. The work is a fairly simple computer game, depicting (through two side-by-side digital projections, somewhat distractingly overlapping and imperfectly aligned) a shaggy, acid-flashback, brightly hued bear, lumbering across an expansive landscape. The game is controlled via the exhibition audience through two large buttons, the first button, when pressed, activates the bear’s slow march. The second, while pressed, sends a stream of vomit out of the bear’s mouth, looking like a flood of chunky, semi-coagulated blood, splashing and staining the landscape floor. The bear marches slowly through a simply rendered desert, beachfront resort, and, apparently, a dance club.
It’s a darkly humorous meditation on existential suffering. Through an oblique lens, this blood-spewing bear, prodded onward my the whims of external and omnipotent onlookers, marches on and on, never really arriving anywhere, never taking pleasure in its surroundings. This shaggy, damaged, cartoonish bear is alone in a vast and unrelenting landscape, dying a long and protracted death, to no apparent purpose or end.
In a grouping under the title The Medium is the iMessage, South presents three works combining Apple iPads with Marshall McLuhan’s canonical texts Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, from 1964, and The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects, composed in collaboration with Quentin Fiore and published in 1967. A portion of McLuhan’s philosophy positions technology (any and all technologies, including, but not limited to, the printed word, radio broadcast, television broadcast, the automobile, the internet, the hot air-balloon, the iPad) as a social-transformer, and as an extension of human-ness. In an extremely reductive interpretation, McLuhan positions technologies as prosthetic appendages, extensions of the body, which transform the way in which a person or persons interact with the world at large. We are already cyborgs, as Donna Haraway described in her 1985 work, “A Cyborg Manifesto.”
South’s The Medium is the iMessage is comprised of a sculptural combine, a video projection, and two framed images leaning against the corner of the gallery. The sculpture is composed of a copy of McLuhan’s The Medium is the Massage (I think) clamped, open, to a white iPad box, with large black C-clamps. The video depicts yellow-toned, flickering overlays of a book (presumably, also, The Medium is the Massage), its pages being turned, and iPads or iPhones. The image is high contrast, reducing the imagery to stark black and yellowy-white, abstracting the image overlays. Aesthetically, the video projection resides somewhere between a 1960s loft-party psychedelic light-show and a jittery intro title-sequence for a Showtime techno-thriller. South’s third work, the pair of framed digital prints standing on the floor, leaning against the wall in the corner of the gallery, each depict an iPad displaying text from a book page. The text is entirely obscured by black redaction bars, save for a heading at the top of the page, reading “Literature,” a page number, 25, and one isolated sentence: “By itself a given sentence is neither a fact nor a fiction; it is made so by others, later on.” The page displayed comes from Bruno Latour’s 1987 work, Science in Action. The source of the text does, in a sense, connect directly to the apparatus of the iPad, but without knowledge of the source material the piece still functions.
South’s work, here, seems to be concerned to some degree with the role of contemporary technologies on human thought and language. The juxtaposition of McLuhan’s text with the iPad is somewhat flat, as the point of conflict or tension is unclear – through McLuhan’s text, the prosthesis of the iPad is not far removed from that of the printed text. South’s redacted iPads, though, touch on something else outside of Latour’s text: when Apple or Amazon can reach into your iPad or Kindle at any time and alter, edit, or censor your digital text, say, for example, your bought-and-paid-for digital copy of Orwell’s 1984, maybe something is wrong, somewhere in the system.
What Hypercorrection ultimately conjures is a sense of angst and trauma. Clay’s suffering bear, South’s techno-anxiety, Keo’s shattered plates and illusory, holographic other half.
Keo’s figure, in How to Dance the Saravan Authentically, is simply an outline of a body, hollow and faceless.