Galleri SNERK, Tromsø, Norway
This exhibition at Galleri Snerk showcases the results of experiments in which certain ‘commodities’ have been broken down in various ways, only to be reformed as filmic, sculptural or sound works. In this exhibition, products such as Coca-Cola, EL James’s book Fifty Shades of Grey, Taylor Swift’s Look What You Made Me Do? and high dosage cognitive enhancement pills have all been subjected to this treatment by the artist.
The products submitted to these processes were selected on account of their ubiquity and their inherent capacity to alter the target subject in somewhat subtle, unconscious or uncontrollable ways: Coca-Cola with its excess sugar providing energy or hyper-activity; pop music creating an impulse to move or to sing along; EL James’s books’s ability to titillate; nootropic drugs which are used to ‘focus’ the mind. These processes happen often subconsciously and without too much effort on behalf of those exposed, showing a human autonomy beyond the conscious mind.
The artist ‘inserts’ himself into autonomously unfolding processes based on the breakdown of these items, and guides the subsequent reformations as they happen. The artist attempts to produce works which rely on the results of chemical reactions or algorithmic coding; a tactic of distancing the artist’s hand from every decision in the making process, but meaning the artist still retains the role of guiding these unfolding processes to an aesthetically coherent end.
The title of the exhibition is a contemporary nod to the seminal 1962 exhibition ‘New Paintings of Common Objects’, widely considered the first survey exhibition of the then burgeoning pop art movement in the United States. It is an attempt to link the work on display here to this pop art lineage, but with a suitably contemporary view of the ‘common object’, the commodity. With pop art mostly being a celebration of the commodity, here is presented a late-capitalist view, according to which these objects are thought of not as exciting signifiers of a new age of consumerism, but as items from a present world subsumed and engulfed by capitalism, with little way out, holding back attempts to move beyond the superficial or any mode of being that is not of instant gratification, or given to immediate financial return.
James S. Lee (b. 1986, Dundee, Scotland, U.K) is an uncelebrated artist and curator. He lives in Tromsø, Norway. He graduated in 2010 from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, Dundee, Scotland after studying Art, Philosophy & Contemporary Practices. From 2012 to 2015, he served on the committee of GENERATORprojects, a Dundee based artist-led space. Since then he has been focused on initiating and delivering curatorial projects in collaboration with various arts organisations, focusing on how art can be a vehicle for political resistance or engagement. In 2019 he will be programming exhibitions and events in an environmentally minded and activist manner through ‘F,U,C & K’ (Failure, Understanding, Care & Kunst), an independent project space based out of a caravan located in Tromsø alongside artist and curator Ruth Aitken.
The artist would like to thank: all the team at SNERK and in particular Alfred Marasigan, as well as Inger-Emilie Solheim for posting on social media; William Andre Bentson and Ruth Aitken for their help and advice in putting together the exhibition; Vsevolodas Kovalevskis and the Tromsø Kunstforening for the loan of exhibition equipment; Neil Bennum for his writing on this handout and also proof reading writing by the artist; and Nicolas Horne at the Kunstacademie for the supply of audio equipment in the exhibition.
* The artist kindly asks you to not lick any of the works as you may become too powerful.