Monday, July 20, 2015

Multimedia Installation Reivew: Gabriella Denise Frank's "Ugly Me" at Jack Straw, Seattle

Walk in
Distorted selfies greet you with a smile,
A guffaw,
A bellylaugh

Fashion pictures on the other wall spell “UGLY”
Perfect plastic airbrushed clones

On the third wall,
reflective metallic material spells “ME”
A conversational voice hovers in the air,
Stories about cameraphobia.

This was the first installation I’ve seen where my first reaction was laughter. The distorted selfies are fun-house mirror projections with giant noses or big protruding teeth or two heads. They contrast with the fashion-magazine cut-outs on the other wall. Yet, aren’t they all distortions of reality? Doesn’t the beauty industry distort reality to sell us products? Isn’t it all really to get us to buy more?

Who needs rock and roll?
Who needs songs about saving your soul?
Plastic music, plastic food,
Cellophane tunes for that synthetic mood
You got your inspiration from a vending machine,
It's an audio starvation diet,
Mannequins on a shopping spree,
Who cares if you like it? - Buy it.
– Resurrection Band, “Elevator Muzik”

But this is more than just a critique of pop culture. The word “ME” on the third wall says it. Anyone who views the installation is “ME”, of course… So in the end, we are part of the culture that says beauty, and what's manufactured to show to others, is everything. In this installation, we take a step back and laugh at ourselves for such a ridiculous idea, and then move beyond it.

“UGLY ME is a multi-media sound installation that explores the interplay between appearance and self-worth through fashion photography, distorted selfies, and spoken prose. Twelve original works read by the author play as a backdrop to a series of comical personal images and large-scale typographic collage. Visitors are encouraged to listen, linger, and contribute their own selfies to the investigation.” – Jack Straw website. The installation runs through August 14th.

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