Thursday, October 17, 2013

Smells like teen spirit – Josh Kline at 47 Canal

     Entering the gallery 47 Canal, a logo animation over three TV screens welcomes you with the words Forever 21. A familiar face on a TV screen attracts attention: a man with bleached green hair, a tattered button-down shirt, fancy sunglasses on his head and a sea shell hanging around his neck: Kurt Cobain. In the context of Pop culture he embodies grunge music, drugs, sex, youth and death. Like an avatar with pixelated eyes and an artificial pale skin, he is being interviewed on a commercial daily talk show. On the other screen, an interview with Whitney Houston who is glorified as another never aging iconic celebrity is presented. She talks about her death, a topic that causes a disconnect in time, since it is known that she died a year ago.

Installation view "Quality Of Life"

     With a dreaming glance to become a celebrity, we discover intravenous bags hanging on backlit–glass pillars which promises a regeneration through an energy drip including sugar, gasoline and a redbull mix. I think if this piece as a cynical statement that raises ethical questions:  Why do we treat our body like a commodity that has to serve our desires and dreams no matter what it means? How far do we go for just a feeling of youth? Josh Kline brings a topic on the table that seems to become the ultimate goal of our life: to grasp the feeling of youth. Not only masking our age on the surface with clothing, make-up and plastic surgeries are daily routines, but also every commercial for products praise for “physical remedies: exercise, health food, vitamins, and primitive body modification” as a constant reminder of our aging, as Kline states.  

 Kline’s works are visually following a bright color design that we encounter in commercials or high-end stores. With this aesthetic decision, he created a seductive environment for a hybrid perception of what is true and what is only an illusion, of what is present and what is dead. Are we young or old? The art gallery converts into a waiting room of a plastic surgery clinic. Time to leave the gallery before we get trapped by the eye-catching logo animation FOREVER 21 that is over present with a three TV screen length: An analogy that apparently dominates our desires of life.  


  1. I think you've pretty clearly laid out what was active in the show and the superficial tendencies of a mass-media based culture. It seemed so obvious to me that Kline was glorifying the tragic lives of media icons, embracing their addictions that were subsequent to their deaths. Although, I'm not sure if I felt an redemption for these people after the viewing the shows. It focused solely on exploiting their pitfalls with addiction by making raising them to icon status, especially with the super star concoction in the IV bag. I feel at odds with the show.

  2. I really like the way you synthesized the show and hashed out the issues behind Josh Kline’s commercially-sleek works. Your commentary on the commodification of the body is spot-on, and I like your comparison to a car that needs to be oiled. I also really like your phrase about the exaggerated content, felt in a “hybrid state.” But if I had not seen this show, I would have been left a bit confused about some of the pieces – I think you should better explain the video pieces, because it almost sounds as though they are actual interviews with Cobain and Houston.