Since 2016 when Oxford Dictionaries declared "post-truth" as its international word of the year, it is officially recognised that objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than emotional appeals. (BBC article here) So, what does it mean to live in a world where fact and fiction collide into a blur that is almost indecipherable and where we exist in a nebulous middle ground between what we see and what we know? These kinds of conversations are present in Truish, the most recent exhibition from :mentalKLINIK at Gallery Isabelle Van Den Eynde.
Externally inviting, audiences are sucked into a false sense of frivolity deliberately constructed through the use of neon lights, bright and garish colours and the irresistibly Instagrammable glitter-covered floor. Once inside, an internal battle pursues as tactile surfaces lure you towards them. The crinkled expanse of Chromatic Madness 1706, 2017 made from dichroic micro-layered polyester solar film wills you to reach out to touch it, while the adjacent neon sculpture that spells out hand-written words: are you popular enough (with the omission of a question mark) – forces the mind into a spin.
On the wall, framed copies of Time Magazine from 2016 and 2017 are decorated with child’s stickers that sometimes obliterate and sometimes accentuate the publications' front covers. Is Truth Dead? the March 23, 2017 cover that was used to illustrate President Donald Trump’s loose grasp on the truth is embellished making the entire statement lose credibility. It also underlines the sheer ridiculousness of the bare facts - that America’s president and arguably the world’s most powerful man is a liar; to quote the magazine directly: “Trump says a great many things that are demonstrably false.”
It is these kinds of unpalatable realities that cause the viewer to oscillate between moments of joy (and selfies) and despair. “We are interested in the seduction of capitalism and its hidden camouflage,” explain :mentalKLINIK over a Skype interview. “We are showing the madness of our lives today and we are also having fun with it.”
One entire wall is filled with what the artist duo call Self-Seeking-Superficials. They are made from ultra-clear tempered glass and micro-layered polyester solar films. The material is again attractive and works aesthetically to produce floating colour-blocks inside subtly crafted frames. While the pieces could be described as minimalistic, the artists prefer to describe them as “maximalist”. In commercial use, solar films are used to block out sunlight and create external invisibility. “Therefore what you see is not what it is,” say :mentalKLINIK. “In the work you see yourself, you see the space, the other colours in between but what you cannot see is the material’s purpose to create boundaries and hide things.”
This is a metaphor for the virtual space in which so many of us spend so much of our time. Online, our presence is a veil concealing what we choose and masking the truth – the ideal breeding ground for our post-truth world. And in this existence, where value judgements come in the form of 'likes' and 'shares', we are all constantly plagued by the question posed in the centre of this show (are you popular enough[?]).
The final work in the show is a three second video of falling pieces of coloured foil confetti made on a high speed camera and slowed down to play over three minutes. The effect is mesmerising, continuing the colourful lull that we have experienced throughout the exhibition. However, the use of technique is a pointed criticism. Advertising for large corporate companies make full use of high-speed slow-mo to tempt their customers and confetti is usually a celebratory material. The combination of these two in one art piece brings home the message of the whole show. Blinded by glare of capitalism and foiled by the emotion-driven post-truth position, we need to slow down and take stock to fully comprehend reality.
- :mentalKLINIK: Truish. November 7 – December 30, 2017. Gallery Isabelle Van Den Eynde, Alserkal Avenue, Dubai