From 27 October to 7 Dicember 2006
Gallery B: JAMES YAMADA “Rainbow Ball”
The aspects of human contradiction are diverse, and their analyses are not easily decipherable or clear. They are connected to the cultural and technological aspects of the structure of society in its journey. The way in which they are judged, changes with the interpretation of ethics, when ethics relates to its historical context. It is obvious that in a simple social structure, and in one that is more technologically and economically developed, these analyses are further complicated by superstructures that also determine a different concept of need. Technology and the economy are interconnected as they are also connected to human adaptation, to the new requirements of progress, and the needs, which have spread with the diffusion of information. The very instruments of children’s play today, are a request for greater sensorial ability in precise functions, functions which new technology will produce for future consumers. Our understanding, in the face of such a complex structure, one that redistributes anxiety for the new needs and the tension of desire for fictitious formulae of satisfaction, can easily be paralyzed by the incessant request for efficiency and speed that techno-consumerism impose on us. All of this, predictably, favors the existing structures of power and shapes a new dictatorship that no one can evade. While we go on thinking romantically about nature and “the natural state of the things”, we do not realize that this condition is no longer existent.
Our contemplation of the landscape today, clashes with the domestic landscape of the Internet. Meanwhile, our language, unconsciously, adapts itself to the not so decipherable language of the web. Behind this is “the power structure”. It is the source of information and offers a huge amount of newly induced needs and desires, transformable from ephemeral images into real objects using the credit card. In this fluctuating world, comprised of digital images and codes, the marketplace has been transformed into the highly personalized, house-bound, world-wide-web. At the push of a button, a click, and the world is all there, literally within arm’s reach.
These observations are not meant to form the basis for moral judgment, to generate nostalgia for past times, or to frame what is right and wrong depending on how a technological instrument is used, but rather to draw a surface awareness to something still in its formative state. It is obvious that these qualities represent the conditions of a new culture, one where human contradictions take on additional forms. Even language changes into an icon as everything becomes codified, and it is in this way that the contents of consumerism have become codes universally decipherable by the red light of the decoder. It would seem that this “within arms reach,” so to speak, may be an advantage, and from a few angles it is, but there is also another side to the coin: In making no effort to get satisfaction from desire, we find boredom lurking round the corner.
Boredom is vital to the ethics of consumerism because it drives us, yet again, to search ahead for further objects of desire and for another moment’s satisfaction. Boredom can also become violence, if the object is denied, or the acquisition void of satisfaction due to the object being virtually too readily available and easy to obtain. This dynamic implies different reactions, directly proportional to the various technological, economic and cultural levels of the users or of the possible aspirant users, and their ability, or lack of it, to buy either the merchandise or the technology of acquisition. This is considered a strong lever by the politic. In those areas; which do not have widespread access to information, are economically deprived, where there is ignorance and superstition, or where there is religious fanaticism, one can more easily manipulate the masses to obtain or create a false refusal of the technology-consumerism binomial. All this then produces reactions of self-defense or aggression in those societies that are more technologically and economically advanced, to the point of absolute paranoia induced by, or inoculated from, power in the defense of privileges. In both cases, the use of high or low technology becomes necessary. In both cases it becomes a devastating weapon, used to satisfy either a false ideological democratic identity, or a cultural identity suited to the vindication of one’s own territorial and economic rights.
What is right and what is wrong? What are the implications of the changes resulting from such a widespread aspiration to technological desire? What are the means used to satisfy these desires and what are the prices we must pay for those means? These questions are absolutely embedded in the complex system of James Yamada’s work. It is complex because it is linked to the assertions outlined in the reflections we have expressed so far. We can speak of the work as a system because it analyses a system of facts connected to the hyper-textualization of the contents.
When you first meet Yamada’s work, you may feel a certain sense of uncertainty and discomfort at not being able to grasp straight away the theme that unites it. This discomfort is amplified by the different formalizations of the works on show: from painting to sculpture, from photography to video. This is the artist’s strategy and it cannot give us clear co-ordinates because the language that he describes does not possess a fixed and immutable lexicon in his mind, but evolves and changes form like contemporary technology does. We must also underline that the American Yamada takes into consideration his own culture and the changes both in direction and character that it is inevitably connected to. Fundamentally, however, the artist manifests his anxiety over the landscape and of the loss of the concept of nature, leading us towards that of the Web and of technology, which he uses in his work, to speak to us paradoxically about the natural one in relation to man and his actions.
This loss and fall of man from the state of natural grace to that of uncertainty and the elusiveness of the consequences of his technological actions, measured against himself and the environment in which he lives, is obsessively present in all of Yamada’s works. It is interesting, as the artist has formally transformed through painting, using enamel layered on aluminum surfaces, the Warholian concept of merchandise as aesthetics. Yamada has come to this visualizing of the representation of desire for a landscape in abstract form, or in the form of cells placed on the surface and in which appear cold visual codes, or other kinds such as those of Chinese ideograms. All this is can be traced back to the pop aesthetics and of its passing, if we consider the bar code, which, bearing the contents (formal and qualitative) of merchandise, is at the same time very similar to the icons and to visual language of the internet. Furthermore, the graphic use of ideograms on the one hand, intimates the growth in China’s demand for space on the market for its products, its relative exponential economic growth and concomitant paranoia on the part of the western world, and on the other hand, symbolic codified language. Does this also represent a clash of cultures within the globalization of the current information system: the last glimmers of different nationalistic identities waiting to give way to the new, overriding language of the consumer supply and demand? It looks like it does.
This hedonistic way of satisfying desire through technology is also present in Yamada’s work, and when we spoke before about the catharsis of desire in boredom and then in violence, this can be imagined by looking at the two ninja stars stuck in the frame, like a photographic window opening out onto Amazonian landscape obscured by fog.
Very often, Yamada’s sculptures have interactions that unconsciously bring about changes in meaning in what we observe, broadening the horizon on vistas that we would never have considered. And, it is exactly in this way that human history has evolved in the imprecision of its own actions and the non-consideration of the consequences that these produce: from hi-tech to low-tech the results are the same: the unseeing ignorance of the satisfaction of one’s own desire.
An example of sculpture like “From Here To Eternity or Dreaming Of The Beginning Of The Information Age” shows the relationship between high and low technology, implying the two-fold use that can be made of it. On a minimal fireproof paneled silver structure that alludes to computer graphics depicting emerging land or the seabed, has been placed a starfish cast out of homemade rocket fuel. The starfish, which is only inflammable at high temperatures, is contained in a transparent plastic bag sealed to prevent the absorption of humidity. Inside it is a small Christmas tree light attached to two wires that if electrified will cause the fuel to ignite. The fuel is made up of readily available ingredients. The artist has provided as part of the sculpture a kit, with everything you need to make the starfish. From the poetic aspect of being able to send a starfish into orbit, to put it in space with the other stars, we can trace a series of meanings ranging from the thorny question of the position of man in the universe to questions concerning his actions and the freedom of choice he can have in the use of technology. These problems are emblematically expressed in another sculpture where a mechanical duck, placed on a thin metal rod, tries to find his way, using a GPS placed at the base, it continuously points itself towards various global tourist destinations: the migrant bird, trying to be faithful to its nature, tries to find a place of origin. But if in the case of the two sculptures, the possibility to choose is still open, in the video that the artist presents, there is a bitter reflection on the physical immobility of the person who, stuck in a wheelchair, in the setting of a natural landscape, by means of conjuring tricks, joins together rings to make a metal sphere levitate. This physical inability to move is due to the paralysis we mentioned before, the impossibility of understanding our actions in the face of the incessant requirements of the images of efficiency and speed that technological-consumerism demands, so much so as to make real that which is not, in the gesture of our paraplegic movement.