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August 10, 2014 | by  | in Arts Visual Arts | [ssba]

‘A Universal Sign of Angst and Dread’

Angela Tiatia and Shahriar Asdollah-Zadeh, Enjoy, until 30 Aug

This is what happens. The economy tanks. Investors pull money from risky opportunities. Governments cut and cut some more. The art market, meanwhile, does just fine. Investors want something safe, something tangible, and so they invest in objects. Those without the means to enter the art market, those most affected by massive cuts, can’t do much.

May 1st, 2012. Edvard Munch’s The Scream is sold at Sotheby’s for $119.9 million, becoming the most expensive painting ever to be sold at auction. Months later, across Europe, tens of thousands of citizens took to the streets to protest massive cuts to public services. These two events collide in Angela Tiatia’s Cream, currently on show at Enjoy. Pixelated images of police brutality are interspersed with images of the polite, suited battleground of an auction house.

Tiatia’s critique, at first, seems obvious. So used are we to bemoaning the excesses of the rich that complaints become noise. This is what happens. The people get angrier. The rich get richer.

Such a reductionist reading is denied by the eight television screens that make up Shahriar Asdollah-Zadeh’s 2012 work Michael Jackson Motorcade piled in the opposite corner of the gallery.

June 26th, 2009, sometime after 9.26 am. I’m sitting in Maths class, a tweet is sent to my phone informing me of Michael Jackson’s death. I tell the friend sitting next to me. He doesn’t believe me. He says if it were true, the major news outlets would be reporting it.

Footage of Jackson’s funeral motorcade occupies five of the screens. Static plays on another. The others are blank. Suggesting something is not being revealed. The shots are shaky and awkward; at times the reflection of a camera is visible, behind which stands an ominous figure. There is something peaceful about the languorous unfolding of black cars in even motion, filmed from above.

Meanwhile, in Iran, following the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, protests were taking place in major cities around the country. These were met with state violence. Protesters were arrested, beaten, killed. Official news channels were blacked out. Protest organisers used Twitter to engage with masses of people.

Western media outlets dubbed the protest the ‘Persian Awakening’. Like the Arab Spring, or the less popular Twitter Revolution, these terms act ahistorically. Emphasis is placed on the role of technology, rather than on dissent. They displace the ownership of these moments.

The role of social media is significant, obviously, as a means of bypassing outlets already co-opted by the state. But there is something evaluative about these terms, an implication that these far-off places were shaken from their slumber not simply by technological advance, but by a specifically American brand of innovation.

Like Tiatia’s work, Asdollah-Zadeh offers a simplistic reading at first, a work concerned with celebrity obsession. But this falls apart under scrutiny.

Both of these works can be considered as attempts to navigate how we process information now. There’s something of Robert Heinecken’s layering of news footage, the bringing together of disparate elements to disorientate. Where Heinecken used the televising of war as a point of departure, both Tiatia and Asdollah-Zadeh are concerned with newer forms of proliferation.

This is how it happens. Everything is equally as important as everything else, and everything happens all the time. We filter, as a means of comprehending, as a means of accessing only the most relevant information. Images of the world, like Asdollah-Zadeh’s screens, are left lacking.


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