When a press release opens with a quote from an unnamed author who scrawled something across the back cover a pro-situ zine called NO 10 years ago which reads “As you read these words, the Information Age explodes…Inside and around you…With the Misinformation Missiles and Propaganda bombs outright information” it doesn’t leave one feeling confident in the curatorial direction of a show. Neither does following that quote with “In today’s overload of information…” The idea is fine, but it’s hard to imagine finding more outdated and cliche terms to bracket a show.
Tonight marks the opening of the show at apexart “If it’s Too Bad to Be True It Could Be ‘Disinformation“, and to its credit, the art is better than its press release. The most engaging work in this show comes from the guerilla artists and as is sometimes the case in this type of work, the documentation left something to be desired. For instance, The Italian collective 0100101110101101.org executed a project in 2003 where through a plagiarized version of Nike’s website (www.nikeground.com) they convinced the country of Italy that Nike had it’s eye on purchasing one of Vienna’s main squares, Karlsplatz, so that it could be renamed “Nikeplatz”. As far as guerilla art projects go, it’s hard to do better than that. What’s on display at Apex is a series of emails they had with people who were submitting inquires about the company. It’s almost interesting that the artists or the curator could take such a successful project and borify it. Reading letters from some poor sap who hopes to purchase Nike shoes in bulk and is just getting his chain yanked, rates pretty low on AFC’s scale of what’s good about that project. What would have been good to see is documentation of the correspondence they had with Nike because that is interesting. The best example of this is the response given by 0100101110101101.org when Nike issued a press release in response to the hoax which said the following:
“These actions have gone beyond a joke. This is not just a prank, it’s a breach of our copyright and therefore Nike will take legal action against the instigators of this phony campaign.”
The response given:
“Where is the Nike spirit? We expected to deal with sporting people, not a bunch of boring lawyers.”
Yeah, awesome. As it turns out Nike decided not to sue after all, because it seemed they were getting too much bad press for pursuing legal action.
Also on display is work done in a similar vein by The Yes Men who in their series of ” identity corrections” created a satirical website based on the pharmaceutical company Dow, which offered pointed criticism on Dow’s unethical business practices by creating fake marketing campaigns, as illustrated by the photo below.
BBC broke the news of the fake website, which created such a scandal that it actually effected Dow’s stock market price. Featured at apexart is a 6 minute Video titled “Dow Chemical Identity Correction, BBC World Service, 2004”. Under any other circumstance than an opening watching the video would be thoroughly enjoyable.
It is unclear if the group neuroTransmitter, another artist collective featured in the show, hopes to contribute in vein of Guerilla art, but it seems like it might be useful to them if they considered this route since the majority of their work at Apex seems didactic and yet somehow timid. Certainly one of the low points of this show would have to go to this group, who have been shopping around the idea of their backpack radio for years, but have yet to do anything with the project that is engaging. The video selected was a documentation of their election protest of 2004, and pirate radio broadcast which, among other things featured a lot of footage of tall New York buildings with dark tonal music and the scrolling names of radio stations and media outlets. Some of the footage of the protest itself was interesting, but the issue with this work isn’t the video so much as the narrow scope of the project. There is a fundamental problem with the idea of a backpack radio that has a broadcasting range of three blocks, if you are looking to instigate change. Nobody is going to use the walkie-talkie radio to connect with the three people who happen to tune in by accident to a pirate radio station that features a few peoples political opinions and/or amateurish DJing efforts. If this collective wants to be effective they need to consider either using a medium that might actually reach someone or rethinking what they hope to accomplish with their short wave radios.
While the contents of the show are mostly interesting, were it not for the videos, there would be no point in trucking out to apexart. There is far more on the Internet about groups like The Yes Men, than there is at the gallery, and frankly, it’s more comprehensive, and better organized. So make a trip out there for the videos, and for God’s sake, don’t read the press release. The show is a rare display of well thought out, effective, political art.
Participating artists: 0100101110101101.org, Paul Chan, Marcelo Exposito, neuroTransmitter, Martha Rosler, The Speculative Archive/Julia Meltzer and David Thorne, and The Yes Men
Show runs through November 26, 2005