A society spinning its wheels

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Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted, 2009, 141″x95″x4″ , glitter, polymer, vinyl

I always enjoy talking to Andrea Stanislav about her work, because we end up talking about much more than the art itself. I also generally end up leaving with more interesting questions than the ones I brought with me.

For instance – the dominant work in Stanislav’s latest show at the Burnett Gallery in Chambers Hotel in Minneapolis (shown above) is a three-paneled piece covering most of one wall, stating in romantically futuresque typeface “Nothing is true, everything is permitted.” In terms of logic, it’s a type of mobius strip – if nothing is true, than this isn’t true either, in which case everything is true. Or if nothing is true, than everything is NOT permitted.

The phrase is said to have first been uttered by a Persian missionary, but found new life on the lips of William S. Burroughs (and even more recently, in the video game “Assassin’s Creed”).

For Stanislav, the piece is inspired in part by the energy and questioning of the late 60s and early 70s. It was the height of the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, and the era which brought us “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Stanislav says what stands out about that time is “the optimism and belief in the power of change. Social movements powered esthetic expression which broke new ground in form and content, and there was a belief that the confines of history could be escaped.”

Stanislav says she looks at the four decades since, and sees nothing that really compares to the energy and spirit of that time.

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Jupiter and Beyond, 2009, 46″x60″x2″, glitter, polymer, vinyl

In “Jupiter and Beyond” Stanislav pays homage to the final scene of “2001: A Space Odyssey” and the vision heStanley Kubrick layed out for human transformation and evolution. The main character, Dave Bowman, awaits death/rebirth. Here we are forty years later, still waiting.

Stanislav also has a great sense of humor and irony, which is probably most obvious in the piece “Tycho Magnetic Anomaly” – it’s her sculptural rendering of the 2001 ‘monolith,’ but in this case a black goat is breaking through it. Idealism collides with base realism.

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Other works are literally so dark it would serve no purpose to post them here. Only by standing up close and approaching the work from different angles can you make out the words hidden in the glitter and vinyl: “You know the change would do you good” and “I need a bohemian atmosphere.”

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lightning Struck Itself, 2009, 88″x44″x2′,glitter, polymer, vinyl

“Lightning Struck Itself,” like “Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted,” speaks to another sort of mobius strip. Where is all this energy headed? Are we simply spinning around in circles, failing to make any progress? Stanislav says she’s acutely aware of the lack of new ideas in the world. Her art itself is all about juxtaposing images and words from movies and songs to create new relationships. Todays movies retell old stories, our fashion rehashes old concepts… Stanislav says it’s as though todays world is just a re-ordered collage of the past.

Certainly there can be new ideas, but equally a lot dialogues need to be refreshed. Painting, after all, isn’t “dead”. However, as genres become fully iterated formally they DO seem to tend toward stasis or sophism…Certainly classical music or opera, as they have disconnected from their publics and become enshrined as cultural “warhorses” seem to have become less vital. Visual art enjoys a huge public at present, and artists, in my estimation, are responsible for critiquing and and debunking any tendency toward enshrinement or stasis.

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Zabriskie Point, 2009, 46″x60″x2″, glitter, polymer, vinyl

In the end, the viewer is left to contemplate not just the failure of past promises (the space race has been grounded, the peace movement replaced with multiple wars), but what new utopian vision will capture our imagination next.

“lightning struck itself” opens tonight in the Burnett Gallery at Chambers Hotel in Minneapolis, with an opening reception from 7-9pm. The show runs through March 7.

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