Anna Lindsay MacDonald, Re: Halcyon Dream by Shannon Stratton

L.A. Pai Gallery
May 10, 2017 3:17PM

An introductory essay

The function of ornament has been hotly debated in modern times since Adolf Loos published his essay “Ornament and Crime,” a provocative denouncement of ornament on everyday objects (and on the body of the everyman) as a sign of degenerate culture. Contemporary theorist, Jacques Soulillou took up the question of ornament in “Ornament and Order,” positioning ornament as a means to prevent chaos (both aesthetically and socially) rather than a sign of moral decay. He claimed that rather than indicative of decadence, ornament allowed order to appear, including hierarchal distinctions.

Anna Lindsay MacDonald’s work seems to resonate with Soulilliou’s theory of ornament, playing with the idea of appearance and disappearance in the face of technology. Her black and white palette recalls dazzle camouflage, but even more so, predicts a future prevalence of anti-surveillance camouflage, when humans will “hide in plain sight” from facial detection online and IRL through a combination of black and white face paint, severe hair cuts and other headgear that scrambles the technology meant to capture our likeness for data, observation and “security.”

The work in Re: Halcyon Dream imagines a line of luxury jewelry from the future, where people choose their body ornaments as a means to pass undetected by technology yet still remain visible and distinct to one another – a fascinating future conundrum where both objectives, visibility and invisibility, will be at play simultaneously both online and on the street.

In this sense, MacDonald’s work proffers a kind of sci-fi jewelry, where both traditional utopic (and nostalgic) desires for the handcrafted are in sharp contrast with a dystopic politics of personal appearance and identity that has more to do with subterfuge than distinction, or perhaps the distinction of being a master of subterfuge.

Considered alongside her chosen mode of the display – the “flat lay” fashion shoot – and one can begin to imagine a capitalism of the future where consumption will no longer be about the conspicuous, but rather, the defensive. A capitalism where power will no longer be blatantly on display, but concealed through dazzling distractions.

- Shannon R. Stratton, Mildred and Lasdon Chief Curator, The Museum of Arts and Design, New York.

tfny.manifold_neckpiece, 2016, sterling silver, acrylic, enamel, 15x14x2cm

L.A. Pai Gallery