High anxiety – by Mario Gioia
The cult of the brands is the echo of the movement of detraditionalization, of the impulse of the principle of individuality, of hypermodern uncertainty set in motion by the dissolution of the coordinates and attributes of the class cultures. The less the lifestyles are driven by the social order and by the feelings of class inclusion, the more the market power and the logic of brands are imposed. (…) It’s about a background of growing confusion and anxiety of the hiper-consumer that brand’s success gets its highlights.”
Uncertainty, confusion, anxiety. Gilles Lipovetsky, in his “Le bonheur paradoxal. Essai sur la société d’hyperconsommation”, discusses about what he calls the hyper-consumption society, whose development is anchored in these tenuous, shifting, unstable certainties. As a good artist, Felipe Cama proposes to dive into this era of excesses, in what unfolds today, and produces something that is deeply involved in these not so precise, nor pure, times.
If in series such as “What Seduces You?”, the questioning of the signs of consumption is more evident, Cama seems to shuffle more and more strategies of image seizure in later works such as “Search: Ericka” and “News from Nowhere (Made in China)”.
Via photographs, “What Seduces You?” is based on the display of products at first intended to luxury consumption at contemporary megalopolis. But authenticity is soon disproved as we see, next to the impeccably presented photographs, “smuggling shops” business cards, oasis of piracy open to public 24/7 in well known locations of São Paulo, such as the regions of Rua 25 de Março and Avenida Paulista.
In “News from Nowhere (Made in China)”, however, the artist creates and, at the same time, is subject to even more unpredictable conditions of this hyper-consumption, taking advantage and making his intention more provocative. Intrigued by the myriad of images disturbingly similar to the one he made in the Heavenly Peace Square in Beijing _ stored at the big online photo albums such as Flickr, Panoramio and Picasa, among others _, Cama adds another of his astonishments, the existence of a district destined exclusively for the copy of works of art, especially oil painting, in the asian country.
In negotiations which terms resemble parts of a nonsense movie script, but instead compose a frighteningly real dialogue, the artist orders from one of these copyist workshops 40 reproductions of photographic records of the Chinese tourism landmark. Nonetheless a comment on today’s rampant tourism _Cama could, in a later chapter, investigate the leisure industry of the cruise liners, as ingeniously discussed in the master Jean-Luc Godard’s “Film Socialism”, or in the young Venezuelan Luis Molina-Pantin’s photographic series “Royal Caribbean Cruise Line”.
“Search: Ericka” is poignant in showing the impossibility of a private life in the network. The artist again succeeds by questioning the mediation devices in the contemporary world. Starting from a person who he knew long ago, Ericka, Cama assembles a puzzle focused on her path, for years past. The starting frame is a computer screen, which displays the Google search field filled in with the name of the “protagonist” of the series. Key moments in the life of Ericka, more fictional or more truthful, gain another kind of record, pictorial, and today are part of the collection of one of major Brazilian museums, MAM-SP (São Paulo Museum of Modern Art). If we think that these paintings someday might travel to _ palpable possibility in this universe of global institutional trading _ the homeland of Ericka, the U.S., the power of the artwork is further enhanced.
And so Cama’s work goes through the threads of our intricate relationships, complex and supermediated. His most recent series bear more vigor, compared to the previous “That Was How I Was Taught” and “The Choice”, among others, that discuss the problem of representation and the noisy propagation of iconic images of Modern and Contemporary Art Histories.
With “Search: Ericka” and “News from Nowhere (Made in China)”, the artist manages to put down more incisively in his work the uncomfortable perception of the dizzying and confusing circulation of our era, that one day was designated as “informational” and today is closer to the “turbo-consumerist”, again borrowing Lipovetsky’s definition.
Mario Gioia – December 2010