Alyssa DeLuccia’s Letting You in on a Secret is an eloquent artistic inquiry into present-day politics, the media, and contemporary life—one that takes the form of a visual essay operating within the disturbance pattern of a subtle but crucial shift in medium that multiplies and compounds the power of the work and its message.
DeLuccia uses contemporary print media as raw material, fracturing the images and rearranging visual themes to create collages, which she then photographs. And for several important reasons, it’s the photograph and not the installed collage that is the final work of art. The media-reflective dimension of Letting You in on a Secret—the fact that it is based on print media, but locates its final manifestation in the realm of the photographic image intended not for mass-media reproduction, but for the reflective, contemplative context of the exhibition space—speaks to the dire state of imagery and language in the current media landscape and the need to find new methods to assess, decipher, and analyze conflicting and competing information. The new mistrust in the reliability and trustworthiness not only of the means of distribution through news channels, editorial boards, and social media, but in the veracity of the words and images themselves has, on a very basic level, changed the way in which we perceive and engage with the information raining down upon us. Read more »
In the 21st century we have largely lost touch with the avant-garde. In an age of rapid technological change, where the new is invariably seen as good, the shocks and surprises, the eclecticism and flattening out of postmodernism have become the new orthodoxy. No one is upset by a pickled shark or, for that matter, a pickled anything else being art. In-your-face and gritty is what we expect from contemporary culture. There is nothing much to dare anymore, nothing much to lose, in a society where what is ‘shocking' is mostly an ersatz construct quickly appropriated by the economic mainstream.
But at the beginning of the 20th century things were different. Establishment ideas held sway and there was plenty to be radical about. Epic socio-political changes were afoot. The growth of industrialism, photography, cinema and mass media, as well as the gradual emancipation of women, along with the decimation that was raging throughout Europe resulting in two World Wars, formed a potent mix.
In 1912 Anna Therese Johanne Höch, who had been born in 1889 in Gotha, Germany, left her comfortable upper-middle class home for the cultural melting pot of Berlin. There she attended the craft-orientated School of Applied Arts, an education not uncommon for young women at the time. Here her cultural interests and an astute eye saw her turn traditional craft into something quite new. During the turbulent years of the First World War she met poets and painters, publishers and musicians, including that guru of junk art, Kurt Schwitters, just as Dadaism was hitting town. In August 1920, her radical interests led her to take part in the First International Dada Fair.
He, too, has resigned his part In the casual comedy; He, too, has been changed in his turn, Transformed utterly: A terrible beauty is born.
Extract from ‘Easter’, 1916, W B Yeats
When we meet to discuss his work we have to decamp from the pub in Camberwell, which is both Mat Collishaw’s studio and stylish home, to a local café, as his apartment has been let out to a well known London store for a shoot and is full of rampaging children. But before we leave he shows me his new paintings. At first glance they appear to be abstract, constructed on a modernist grid, though the lines, in fact, are folds, creases left in the small square wraps of paper used to sell cocaine. These wraps have been torn from glossy magazines; there’s a woman’s foot in a high-heeled shoe resting on a glass table, and adverts for Fendi and Gucci. The subtext seems to be that these aspirational trappings are the spectral presence of an endless illusion that functions much like an addiction to drugs. You’re always left wanting more. The work is about debasement; the debasement of modernist painting as a form and as a result of the recent financial excesses that have led to the current economic crisis. This tension between the beautiful and the abject, between the promise of a possible paradise and the profane is central to all Mat Collishaw’s work. As the Marquis de Sade once said: “There is no better way to know death than to link it with some licentious image”.