Cwynar’s film Rose Gold focuses on Apple’s Rose Gold iPhone, tracking how the phone acts as a talisman of desire for objects, people, power, and money. The film considers how individuals — the artist is one of its protagonists – negotiate complicated feelings of love and hate for commercial objects and how features such as touch and 3D resonate directly with the user’s emotions and imagination.
Rose Gold is a research-oriented meditation on the emotional impact of color: how color can manifest desire. It has the tone and structure of an educational film, like the National Film Board of Canada documentaries produced in the 1960s and ‘70s. Its complex voice-over includes quotes of, or references to, the writings of Lauren Berlant, Toni Morrison, Judy Wacjman, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, among many others, as well as excerpts from the Encyclopædia Britannica and the Apple website. It includes studio-based performances and travelogues of iconic symbols of American progress: the New Deal’s Hoover Dam and the boomtown of Las Vegas.
The title is used as a starting point to think about other “rose” things, about how color is used to code liberation movements around the world, and how it is used as a selling device. The artist looks at Melamine, a line of plastic kitchenware introduced in the 1950s that was produced in bright colors with names like chartreuse, golden rod, and blue rose. Although intended to be indestructible and colorfast, with time they broke, stained and faded, moving from idealized, loved objects to forgotten kitsch, a fate the rose gold iPhone will no doubt share.
Cwynar’s new photographs comprise studio portraits of Tracy, a friend of the artist, with superimposed found objects and images; recomposed illustrations of suits of armor; a set of Avon presidential after-shave bottles from the 1970s minus their heads; and a studio photograph of a hot pink peony on a green background. Like her film, Cwynar’s photographs highlight the residual power of everyday, discarded objects and images. Color, image, and object draw the viewer into a time warp that can be both reassuring and unnerving, one that resonates with the cross-histories of color and of the representation of women. The images of armor, reshot with overlaid photographs of hands holding objects, and the after-shave bottles of US Presidents’ upper torsos tie-in with the film’s clips of American progress, delineating further how power is pictured, symbolized, and gendered.