PATHETIC FALLACY brings together all aspects of my art practice: research, Web surfing, collage, text, video, architecture, and e-literature. It is not disparate pieces gathered as an overview of my work and ideas but, rather, it’s an installation where each form is a variation of the other. The overarching theme of the installation is that nothing – no image, object, text, or space – is simply what it appears to be. Although we are individually and culturally conditioned by the larger political, economic, and social structures, subjectivity is always at play. In Modern Painters: Volume 3, John Ruskin (b. 1819), discussing how strong emotional content leads only to false impressions of the external world, coins the term “pathetic fallacy.” [1] David Barrie writes in his introduction to the book, “[Ruskin] regards any distortion of reality that results from the influence of the artist’s emotions as a sign of weakness. He believes a really great artist, although subject to intense feelings, remains firmly in command of them and is, therefore, always able to ‘perceive rightly.’” [2] It is the idea of perceiving rightly that astounds me the most. In contrast to Ruskin, I argue that it is impossible to perceive rightly; I know that there is no singular right perception. For me, it is in the gray areas, the multiplicities, the varying points of view where the complexities of humanness are exposed and consciousness potentially raised.

          Ruskin is deeply troubled by the words objective and subjective, claiming them to be “exquisitely useless.” He goes on to say, “From these views the step is very easy to a farther opinion, that it does not much matter what things are in themselves, but only what they are to us; and that the only real truth of them is their appearance to, or effect upon, us.” [3] In our pervasively mediated twenty-first century where we are more familiar with the copy than the original, where subtext and innuendo operate just below the surface of almost everything, and where, more than ever, we curate our individual identity, it assuredly matters very little what things are and it is poignant how they appear to us or affect us. This is the precious gift of objectivity and subjectivity. 

          Whether normative or queer, our position as subjects, makers, viewers, and readers is revealed in how we process information. How we access it, contextualize it, propose it, imagine it, read it, and format it. Our location is revealed in our objective and subjective interpretations, in our desires and actions. It is in the stories we tell and the secrets we keep. It is in our fractures and multiplicities. It is in our history and our future. Art, technology, and queerness are positions and points of view. The paths that extend to and from these positions can be traveled or bypassed, they can be readable or encoded. My location enables me to show an inherent potential of art and technology to point toward a queer assessment of the world, especially in contrast to the machinations of mass media. 

          For many the queer path is transformative and liberating. Yet, it is also fraught with alienation, fear, and violence. This abjection may precipitate invisibility and silence but it also informs, empowers, and maps queerness. Artist and writer Hito Steyerl writes: “The bruises of images are its glitches and artifacts, the traces of its rips and transfers. Images are violated, ripped apart, subjected to interrogation and probing. They are stolen, cropped, edited and re-appropriated. They are bought, sold, leased. Manipulated and adulated. Reviled and revered. To participate in the image means to take part in all of this.” [4] And so are the bruises suffered in mind and body. In and of themselves images, objects, texts, and spaces mean nothing in particular. Our experience of them imbues them with meaning and that subjective meaning positions us in the world.

          In my studio practice it is my actions – appropriating, juxtaposing, making illegible – that imbue the work with agency. And, it’s your actions – interpreting, relating, questioning – that make them meaningful. It is in the glitches, traces, and rips, and in the interrogation and probing that spaces are revitalized, new pathways invented, and common notions undermined. This is the power of art and technology: to identify and rebuke the normative structures that operate forcefully to shape us. It is an opportunity to become (re)(dis)oriented.

 

[1] Ruskin, John. Introduction: Barrie, David. Modern Painters. Volumes I - V. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc, New York NY. 1987. Page 364.

[2] Ibid. Page xxxviii.

[3] Ibid. Page 362.

[4] Steyerl, Hito. A Thing Like You and Me. Henie Onstad Art Centre. Høvikodden, Norway. 2010.