Visiting the New Museum’s lobby exhibition For Forgetting, a multimedia installation by artist Laure Prouvost, should not be done on an evening when the lobby also hosts a live band. Aside from the challenge in hearing the exhibition’s video installation, her film, Making Money Religiously, was well worth the concentration and effort.
Using the tropes of contemporary mass media video presentation as an assault against the medium itself, Prouvost with edgy, even disdainful, humour and grace slaughtered the common mind’s preoccupation with money and social place. Playing upon stereotypes and the commercial artefacts representing the needs and desires of the everyday status seeker, Prouvost quickly and adeptly takes the viewer through a landscape of emotional and mental states, conjured up by her through visual and textual referents to memory, illusion and delusion and the implication that they may for many be one and the same point of departure in the architecting of self and place.
Considering the content of Making Money Religiously, the somewhat banal mural and less-than-finished quality of the installation space can be seen as an intentional contrivance to mirror the shoddy mind state of the average viewer and participant in contemporary “fast” society. Indeed there is a feeling of mockery as one leans one’s head through an open window-sized space within the installation to peer into a room to view its full contents. As a viewer there is a specific sense of vulnerability and also shame in this act.
Although required to take in the room’s contents, it is also voyeuristic, especially since there is nothing of true value to see — a pocketbook hung on a rack, for instance. In this sense, the act of viewing is itself a critique on viewing and a question about the intention behind a desire to see and observe.
For Forgetting may be at least partially a comment on a society that is all for forgetting true values and ethics replacing them with fanciful notions of supposed transcendence through commercial transactions — commercial transactions that extend beyond the fact of trade in goods and money to the exchange of experiences and ideas.
Through allegory Making Money Religiously points out that personal exchanges and narrations of the self are influenced, knowingly and unwittingly, by sensibilities of objectification of the self and the other combined with identification with and yearning for power and control. What is real or actual becomes lost to a feeble yet resilient ego who hopes fervently and eternally for more, replacing memory with mirage and forgetting the transition.
For Forgetting, until 13 April, New Museum of Contemporary Art, 235 Bowery, New York, NY 10002. For further information visit www.newmuseum.org.
1. Laure Prouvost exhibition at Whitechapel Gallery, London. Image courtesy of the artist and Whitechapel Gallery.