In the West we often take on the task of critiquing capitalism as a sort of macabre sport; we look at poverty, consumer patterns and social injustices as ways to undermine the current capitalist project and to determine in which ways we can go about creating safe spaces as coping mechanisms whilst existing within a larger institutional framework. We look at how the governments of Western states are dominated by corporate interests and just how those interests are materialized in the most literal sense; the created and manicured spaces of conglomerate superstores which appeal to consumers through hypnotic methods of advertisement. We rarely look at what impact capitalism has had on our perception of the spaces that have been created for us and what that entails in regards to our curated vision of happiness as consumers. This indictment of capitalism’s ‘success’ means that we are no longer on the path to becoming a Utopian society and that if anything, these methods of capital are causing us to lose grip on material reality and move farther off the path towards a desired utopia. In reality, life under a hyper-capitalist regime has presented to the masses a warped version of the proposed ‘perfect reality’ we are sold by advertising companies and corporations, the very institutions that have created their own types of temples in which their customers can safely consume their goods en masse and present said consumers with a placebic sense of safety. No matter how hard or how much the majority of people work, it is becoming increasingly impossible to bridge the inequality gaps established and perpetuated by conglomerates and the government officials they hold in their pockets.
PLACEBO seeks to look at these hypnotic methods of advertisement and the endorphin rush of purchasing consumer goods by stripping bare a constructed commercial space. With the architectural works of Bailey Romaine setting the idea of an upturned foundation and the hypergraphic mixed media sculptures of Megan Stroech representing a take on overly excessive luxury goods, this presentation invites viewers to face the realities of the constructed spaces they often take comfort in and reconsider what it means to take part in the consumer cycle.
The work of Megan Stroech explores the dichotomies between realness and imitation, image and object and common vs. luxury through references from pop culture and the Internet, still life, and domestic spaces. Stroech constructs unfamiliar arrangements of low-grade, readily available materials, subverting conventional understanding of their utility in order to spur new conversation between them. She often utilize materials produced as cheap and attainable luxury items, such as Styrofoam food, faux fur and marble printed Contact paper as well as stock photography. These mass produced objects have a relationship to the concept of the American Dream and often project desires for wealth and success, indirectly representing the hypnotic effect of hyper capitalism on the western psyche. Through the insertion of small moments of discovery and recognizable objects in the work, Stroech invites the viewer to reference their own everyday experience, whether it is a connection to a specific material or a piece’s overall form. She often straddles the line between space and object, and seeks to create a tension between the 2D and 3D elements in the work as a way to construct a dialogue between painting and sculpture. The faux versions of luxury items utilized in her work also fail in their imitation of the objects they propose to be. There is often a perceived humor in the failure of these objects, and this humor can be used as an access point to playfully mock overarching systems of consumerism, patriarchy and class.
Grounded in an understanding of making as searching, the works of Chicago-based artist Bailey Romaine are meant as poetic explorations of the margins of space, language, and longing. By closely reading the grammar of the built environment, Romaine seeks out moments of imperfection and physical rupture: the way layers of paint on a wall overlap and bleed onto the hinges of a door, the pattern freshly tuck-pointed bricks make against their weathered counterparts, precarious supports at a construction site, ad hoc home repairs and quick fixes, props, supports, patches. These moments of rupture, in which the identity of things begin to come apart, serve as jumping off points for her material improvisations, which unfold, expand, and unravel what she gleans from a man-made, constructed and material based environment. Her practice seeks to articulate a material empathy; in the idea that one being (whether it be animate or inanimate) feels so much for another that it physically begins to change form, to become what it is not. The resulting sculptures, drawings, and texts exist in a generative liminal state, caught between the longing for a nameable identity and the desire to continue moving towards new, as yet unthought forms.