Thursday, March 29, 2012

You Want It. You Need It.

Detail of Surplus II by Michael Krebs

Currently on exhibit at dnj Gallery is "Surplus" by Michael Krebs, a critique of consumerist corporate social influence and the commodification of desire, in which iconic images of war and armed strife are reimagined within a banal "market" context.

To be honest, I'm of mixed feelings about the appropriation of such imagery for this premise. Although the image of a girl screaming and running down a toy store aisle lined with packaged plastic dolls, fleeing as though in mortal danger, conveys both an absurdly humorous feeling and a creepy consideration of how children are indoctrinated into consumerist mindsets, the fact that it is a reflection, a tableau malsain of Nick Ut's iconic image of a Vietnamese girl fleeing from a napalm bombing, leaves me a bit uncomfortable. And perhaps that is the intention; perhaps it raises the question of how materialist values harm the individuals of a society.

I suppose it comes down to envy and banality. War is instigated by envy on a societal scale and implemented by the most basic and brutish and banal methods of coercion. Likewise, consumerist society is predicated on envy, "keeping up with the Jones" or constantly buying the newest model merely to preserve a social standing, never satisfied when others have "more" or "better" without making a raise or call, even if that which is desired is banal mass marketed trash, empty pablum.

Detail of Surplus I by Michael Krebs

In the end, both result in destruction. In war, the devastation is measured in lives and suffering. In consumerism, it is in wasted resources and misguided lives, a painful opportunity cost squandered on mounds of rubbish.

This isn't to say that war and consumerism are "the same" or even equally as horrible. Obviously, warfare is an organized application of violence, whereas consumerism is a form of societal persuasion. But, by appropriating the imagery of war, Krebs makes the viewer look at consumerism as if it were brutal aggression against the consumer.

Does it work? I think so. I've been putting off the writing of this post since I first saw the show a few weeks back. I've been mentally chewing over the imagery and concept, going back and forth on my opinion. In the end, I think the Surplus series is successful at presenting memorable images and raising salient concerns about our society.

Detail of Surplus VI by Michael Krebs

This exhibition will be on view at dnj Gallery until April 14. Check it out and see how these photos strike you in person. It's well worth a viewing.

And check out Gil Kofman's show, "Passages: Case Studies in Euclidean Seduction", which is also on view at dnj Gallery. Kofman will be speaking about his work on March 31 at 1pm.


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