PACE inverts and superimposes massive structures representative of two countries and their precarious bond. Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza and the United States’ Washington Monument swing back and forth like an upside-down metronome, in tense relationship to one another and unstable in their power. The escalating and diminishing meter of their rhythm, alternating with the sound of an oscillating fan, echoes the fluctuating pace of change — of regimes, institutions and mindsets. The balance has not been struck.
The metronome in Man Ray’s sculpture resembles both an obelisk and a pyramid. A photograph of an eye is attached to the pendulum. Originally titled Object to be Destroyed (1923), Man Ray altered the sculpture in 1932 to add an image of his lover’s eye. Either eye can beat insistently and infinitely — like human desire — for personal pleasure or political reform. At an exhibition in 1957, a group of protesting students enacted Man Ray’s title and destroyed the work it; the artist eventually reconstructed and renamed the work Indestructible Object. In either form, the work is uncanny.
The omnipotent eye is discussed in Freud’s essay The Uncanny where it is associated with anxiety and fear of an external power that we rarely regard as benign. An Eye of Providence crowns a pyramid in the Great Seal of the United States and is printed on the U.S. dollar bill; its source can be traced to the Egyptian Eye of Horus, a symbol of protection, royal power and good health.
This recurrence of pyramidal forms and all-seeing eyes informs PACE. Before the 2011 Revolution, Egypt was second largest recipient of U.S. aid after Israel, so connections between the two countries are more than symbolic. The current limbo of Egypt resembles the shifts in Man Ray’s titles: was the tyranny of Mubarek’s regime an Object to be Destroyed or, in a sense, an Indestructible Object? Will the old tyranny persist, be replaced by another or dissolve altogether? Is the people’s will (in any country) to be destroyed or is it indestructible?
Together, Andrew Ellis Johnson and Susanne Slavick address topics ranging from the luxury of memory to the disasters of war, exhibiting individual and collaborative works in museums, galleries, electronic arts and video festivals, public collaborations, conferences, books and journals in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
Andrew Ellis Johnson’s exhibition topics have ranged from the apocalypse to animal nature and the disasters of war to the culture of class. Venues for his work have included museums, galleries, electronic arts and video festivals, public collaborations, conferences, books and journals in North and South America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. He is co-founder of PED, a socially engaged collective that has performed in Buffalo, Belfast, Chongqing, Rio de Janeiro, St. John’s and Tonawanda. Johnson received his BFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and his MFA at Carnegie Mellon where he is Associate Professor of Art. He has also held teaching residencies at Korean National University of the Arts in Seoul and University of the Arts London at Camberwell. In 2011, he participated in a residency exchange project at Fayoum International Art Center in Egypt.
Susanne Slavick is Andrew W. Professor of Art at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. She graduated from Yale, studied at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, and earned her MFA at Tyler School of Art in Rome and Philadelphia. Her work has been exhibited in museums and galleries across the country and internationally, and have been recognized through fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. She has been an artist-in-residence at The MacDowell Colony, Mt. Desert Island through the Four Seals Foundation, The Skoki Castle through the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznan, and the Blue Mountain Center in New York. In 2008, she premiered “R&R(…&R)” at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, a series of works on paper that subsequently traveled to the Warhol Museum, Rutgers University, Bradley University and to solo shows at the Chicago Cultural Center and the McDonough Museum of Art. She is a co-founder of 10 Years + Counting, an online resource developed to commemorate a decade of senseless war, expose its costs and promote a shift in our national priorities toward peace through the arts. Out of Rubble (Charta: 2011) is her recent anthology of works by international artists who respond to the aftermath of war and a curatorial project that premiered in 2011 at SPACE Gallery in Pittsburgh and will travel through 2014, concluding at University of Colorado Art Museum in Boulder. She is also curating Cutting Losses for the Allcott Gallery at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and has written visual essays and articles for print and online for Cultural Heritage and Arts Review (forthcoming 2012), Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies (University of Nebraska Press, 2011), Guernica: A Magazine of Art & Politics (2009 and 2011), and AlterNet (2011).
Andrew Ellis Johnson & Susanne Slavick – Pittsburgh Pennsylvania