Group Exhibition   Emotional Blackmail

September 24, 2011 - November 13, 2011

How do you feel? Is how you feel your personal experience, rooted deeply within yourself, or is it learned behaviour? In the exhibition Emotional Blackmail, contemporary artists explore the fluid state of emotions, how they flow back and forth between the personal and the public, the ubiquitous and ephemeral, the natural and the affected. Tracing a tendency over the last decade away from irony and towards an attempt at sincere expression, this exhibition offers a sampling of complex works in an effort to examine what we might call “neo-sincerity.”

The new stream of sincerity has surfaced at a time when individual expression seems prized above all, however there appears to be a simultaneous diminishing of the emotional scope. After the irony and cynicism of the 1980s and 1990s, we may have lost our ability to engage fully in the complexity of emotions, leaving the distinct impression that in today’s world, feelings can be encapsulated by a limited number of emoticons.

Emotional Blackmail reflects the recent trend among artists to analyse, express, and generate emotions through their work, and the ways in which sincerity manifests within it. It looks at how emotions are expressed and manipulated in the name of art; the often problematic emotional exchange between artist, collaborator and viewer; and the difficulty of expression, analysis, and generation of emotion in contemporary visual art. This exhibition reveals contemporary art’s reliance on language, theater, film, and music for addressing the complexities of emotions. Ranging from pop music, YouTube, and teen culture to Ingmar Bergman and self-help, the inspirations for these works are placed squarely in the mainstream. However, the artists see beyond simple sappiness by considering the constructed effects of what is often called the “culture industry” and the mechanisms of its subtly manipulative power.

In contemporary culture sincerity proves to be layered and complex, prompting us to ask: What do we accept as sincere and is sincerity truly possible? Should we equate emotions with sincerity? Is feeling a choice?

Artists: Kristleifur Björnsson, Kerry Downey, Hadley+Maxwell, Haraldur Jónsson, Ragnar Kjartansson & Magnus Sigurdarson, Meiro Koizumi, Tova Mozard, Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay & Aleesa Cohene, Christodoulos Panayiotou, Bert Rodriguez, Ariel Schlesinger, Amie Siegel, Sigga Björg Sigurardóttir.

Curated by Markús Þór Andrésson and Cḥen Tamir

Markús Þór Andrésson was born in Switzerland in 1975 and grew up in Iceland where he currently lives. As an independent curator he has created a range of exhibitions and written extensively on art in catalogues and art magazines, his focus being on the scene in Reykjavik and Berlin, where he lived for several years. He has worked on several documentary films and television programs regarding contemporary art as director and producer, most recently A While – an experimental film based on the concept of time and the work of artist Hreinn Friðfinnsson. His recent exhibitions include The End, with Ragnar Kjartansson in the Icelandic pavilion at the Venice Biennial; Without Destination, at the Reykjavik Art Museum; and Imagine Being Here Now, Momentum – 6th Nordic Biennial for Contemporary Art. Andrésson received a B.A. in Studio Arts from the Iceland Academy of the Arts, Reykjavik, and an M.A. in Curatorial Studies from the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College.

Cḥen Tamir was born in Israel in 1979 and is a curator and art writer dividing her time between Toronto, Tel-Aviv, and New York. When not writing or thinking about art, Chen is the Program Manager of Artis – Contemporary Israeli Art Fund. Until recently she was the Executive Director of Flux Factory, an artist-run center in Queens. Chen holds a Master’s Degree in Curatorial Studies from Bard College (2007), a B.F.A. in Visual Art, and a B.A. in Anthropology from York University (2003). Her recent exhibitions have been held at the Museums of Bat Yam, Art in General, the National Gallery of Saskatchewan, the University of Toronto Barnicke Gallery, the Israeli Center for Digital Art, Gallery TPW and White Box. Her writing has appeared in FlashArt, C Magazine, BlackFlash and various monographs. She recently participated in the Athens Biennial, Ex-Territory, and she serves on the board of directors and advisory committees of several non-profit organizations including Flux Factory, EFA Project Space, A Blade of Grass Foundation, The Shpilman Institute of Photography, and the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at the New School University.

Opening Reception: Saturday, September 24 at 8 PM | Remarks at 8:30 PM
Conversation and performance with artists Ragnar Kjartansson, Ásdís Sif Gunnarsdóttir and Davíd Thór Jónsson to follow at 9 PM

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