Sunday, November 12, 2006

All the World’s a Stage New paintings, works on paper, sculptures and text-based pieces by Emma McCagg. Curated by Raul Zamudio Gosia Koscielak Studio and gallery Chicago, IL November 10-December 10

Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle, Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Stephen Lambert’s Reality TV; what do these immensely disparate individuals—a cultural theorist, a philosopher, and creator of a TV genre, respectively—and their ideas have in common? They all recognize the thin line between reality and artifice. While it would be shortsighted to assume that Emma McCagg’s solo show titled All the World’s a Stage refers to the collapsing of art into life where actor and audience become one, this new body of work is more concerned in narrating the meltdown of fact and fiction and its social, political and cultural affectation. In her Endless Gossip Column (after Brancusi) (2006), for example, McCagg stacks tabloid journals one on top of each other and configures them into a Brancusi-like sculpture alluded to in the work’s title. This deliberate blurring of high and low culture, where even discourse around this canonical Modernist work is reduced to hearsay and gossip, is also extended in McCagg’s paintings. These works are constituted from a convergence of pulp journalism and political infomercials that subsequently make it difficult to tell the veracity of one source of information over the other. The individual pieces in the exhibition dovetail on what she construes as a kind of mass cultural schizophrenia manifesting in the contemporary world in a myriad of ways: Reality TV becomes more interesting than life; and chat rooms become virtual stages where people create and discard personas like the rest of us change socks. But the unreality of these endeavors is only made more surreal when the ostensibly unbelievable becomes status quo: an actor becomes president of a nation while his spouse consults an astrologer; a bodybuilder and Hollywood star known for his role as a robot is elected governor of a state; the current First Lady of the White House introduces herself as “a kind of Desperate Housewife;” the author James Frey fabricates his memoirs; and another writer made her name parading around as the destitute, drugged, male prostitute named J.T. Leroy, but was exposed as a female yuppie who was “slumming” in order to get published. These real-life “scripts’ as humorous as they are, would never be believed as fiction because of their lack of verisimilitude; in life, however, they foreground that indeed all the world is a stage. —Raul Zamudio

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