Against the Screen interrogates one’s relationship to the image as both object and material, highlighting the impact of lens-based image making in both art and contemporary society. While the digital image exists as seemingly disposable ephemera, it is through its mass reproduction in time and space that it establishes relationships to individuals and their bodies. We stroke images on our screens, leaving a residue of oils from our fingertips. We are surrounded by screens on buildings and other architectural structures that influence where we look and how we navigate space.
This exhibition presents new works by eight Kansas City-based artists working in photography, video, and new media: Barry Anderson, Patricia Bordallo Dibildox, Molly Garrett, Caitlin Horsmon, Judith G. Levy, Megan Pobywajlo, Benjamin Rosenthal, and William Toney. These artists experiment with material, time, and space, and redefine how one makes an image, challenging the boundaries of image and screen through unconventional methods.
In Hito Steyerl’s “In Defense of the Poor Image,” the author asserts that the poor image (or the highly distributed, low-quality digital image) is less about representing “the real,” but rather “about its own real conditions of existence: about swarm circulation, digital dispersion, fractured and flexible temporalities. It is about defiance and appropriation just as it is about conformism and exploitation.” The influence of Steyerl’s writing and artwork, along with the international dialogue around the politics of images, inspires the central question of this exhibition: How do images influence our daily experience and impact our understanding of ourselves?
Against the Screen asks viewers to consider the condition of existing with images that are often made by an invisible, anonymous hand, and through each artist, they are presented with questions and propositions around the environment, the body, and the everyday through a Midwestern lens.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS…
Barry Anderson disrupts traditional storytelling through sculptural, multi-channel video installations that engage viewers physically and psychologically, requiring them to suspend a conventional understanding of portraiture and narrative. Anderson’s ongoing project The Janus Restraint constructs an evolving portrait of adolescence and identity that blends myth, history, and symbolism, at times drawing from Icelandic and Native American traditions and Americana culture. The artist works with his own son, Finn, as the subject of his films and a representation of the artist himself, exploring geological and biological time through his adolescent eyes. Anderson, who grew up in a small town in east Texas, excavates mysticism and symbolism ingrained in any given place, highlighting the effect and significance of site on the psyche of the individual. In his most recent installation Come As You Are (2017), part of The Janus Restraint, the artist ties together disparate forms, ideas, and questions, exploring the visceral impact of experiencing six screens all at once, and giving the viewer agency to stitch together their own interpretation.
Barry Anderson’s work has been featured in over 40 solo and over 100 group exhibitions around the country and abroad with recent solo exhibitions in Los Angeles and Seoul. His work is included in the permanent collections of the Everson Museum of Art, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art. Anderson received an MFA in Photography and Digital Media from Indiana University Bloomington, and a BFA in Photography from the University of Texas at Austin. Currently, he is Chair of the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and a Professor in Studio Art, teaching courses in motion design, photography, 3D modeling, and professional practices.
Patricia Bordallo Dibildox emphasizes the fluidity in language and communication around identity by transforming utilitarian materials and pushing the limits of photography, the image, and text. Bordallo Dibildox plays with semiotics, perception, and affect through a feminist lens, dissecting whiteness, colonialist legacy, and systemic oppression as a Mexican-born woman of color in middle America. She experiments with scanners, screens and camera phones, altering tactile materials such as velvet, bubble wrap, and vinyl to create poetic and sensual objects that represent an ongoing dialogue with herself about the complexities and power of claiming self.
Bordallo Dibildox works as the Youth & High School Program Specialist for Continuing Education at the Kansas City Art Institute, from which she received a BFA. She is studio resident at The Drugstore where she was awarded a free residency through the Gift of Faith Award, and was the recipient of a 2015 Charlotte Street Foundation Rocket Grant as Senior Editor of Informality Blog. Bordallo Dibildox is a leading member of the Artists of Color Alliance in Kansas City, a collective committed to providing a safe space for creatives to engage in critical discussions around race, ethnicity, gender in the arts and society. Her work has exhibited nationally and internationally, most recently at Sister Gallery in Australia.
Molly Garrett’s time-based installations and films investigate the queer and trans body and self through meticulous, hand-drawn animations that form a critical, psychological space of inquiry and affect. Using their own body and their partner’s body as the work’s subject, Garrett closely examines this intimate relationship and finds new connections and questions about body, gender, and partnership. Drawing their bodies over hundreds and hundreds of times is a radical act of awareness for the artist, and through this contemplative process, Garrett both confronts internal biases and discerns the moments where separate identities meld, crossover, and break apart. The artist embodies reflexivity and embraces ambiguity as both process and concept, informing deeper investigations about queer relationships that consider mirroring, symmetry, synchronicity, routines, rhythms, and balance with another and within ourselves.
Garrett is a Co-Director and Curator at Plug Projects as well as 2015–2017 Charlotte Street Foundation Studio Resident. Their films have screened at film festivals including Animation Block Party (New York City), Middle of the Map Festival (Kansas City), and Somebody’s Reality (St. Louis). They have also presented installation work in Kansas City at Epsten Gallery, Paragraph Gallery, Vulpes Bastille, and H&R Block Artspace. Garrett graduated with a BFA in Animation and Art History from the Kansas City Art Institute, and currently works as an interactive designer for GPSImpact, a political advocacy firm that works with clients such as Planned Parenthood Great Plains, PrioritiesUSA, and Jobs for Justice.
Caitlin Horsmon mines the stories and histories of a place or site through experimental film and video installation, uncovering new meanings and knowledge within the overlooked. Horsmon approaches time-based media through a materialist lens, at times even pushing the recording apparatus to its limits, focusing on tactility and physicality. Inspired by the horror movie logic of a house, where the structure becomes a living and changing organism, the artist investigates the site and place in her newest work, Sense of Place (2017). The video installation projects images, textures, and colors of domestic spaces, including appropriated footage of houses from horror films, onto a gallery wall that contains implanted balloon-like growths on its surface. The artist believes that houses are imbued with notions and assumptions of class, success, desires, and ideals, and asks viewers to acknowledge and deconstruct the definition of place. For Horsmon, our built and lived-in environments can be markers of identity, therefore places become open networks of social relations that are informed by process and choice.
Horsmon is an Associate Professor of Film & Media Arts at the University of Missouri-Kansas City where she serves as a member of the Women’s and Gender Studies and Graduate faculties. She is a Co-Director and Curator at Plug Projects, an artist-run gallery and curatorial collaborative, and a Rocket Grants recipient, funded by Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and administered by Charlotte Street Foundation and Spencer Museum of Art. She has exhibited around the world, received numerous awards and grants, and her work is distributed by The Collectif Jeune Cinéma.
Judith G. Levy extracts scenes from noir and World War II films, merging multiple images into new, seamlessly composite photographs that articulate a personal, queer gaze. Using her camera phone, Levy takes photographs of these films playing through a screen, then carefully blends them together digitally and prints them on archival paper. Through this iterative process, the artist jumps from screen to screen to screen and produces pristine printed objects that will survive beyond their digital counterpart. Levy not only confronts the hetero-normative lens of media, but also proposes the permanence of the queer experience while exploring the influence of these films during her childhood and adolescence.
Levy has present solo exhibitions at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Big Car Gallery (Indianapolis), Soo Visual Arts Center (Minneapolis), Navta Schulz Gallery (Chicago), and Paragraph Gallery (Kansas City). She has also participated in group exhibitions at venues including, the Elmhurst Museum (Elmhurst, Illinois), Panoply Performance Lab (Brooklyn), PlugIn Institute for Contemporary Art (Winnipeg), Memorial Art Gallery Museum (Rochester), the Plains Art Museum (Fargo), and H&R Block Artspace (Kansas City). Levy is a Rocket Grant recipient, funded by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and has also received the following awards: Lilly Foundation Creative Renewal Grant, KC Arts Inspiration Grant, 2012 Kansas City Artopia award, and the Charlotte Street Foundation Art Omi Residency Fellowship.
Megan Pobywajlo approaches the photograph as a piece of text, embedded with layers of intellectual, emotional, and cultural meaning, and eager to be in conversation with its viewers. Photography, or rather making an image, for Pobywajlo is defined by its democratic potentiality, where anything is worthy of being photographed. She magnifies and celebrates the everyday and mundane, creating resolute and boldly colorful images of vegetables, utensils, and scissors, for example. Yet, the artist questions the access of the medium and who actually has the ability to make pictures. In this regard, Pobywajlo takes images that demystify the pureness of the photograph by revealing its realities at the edges, such as the curled of backdrop paper or the leg of a tripod. By dispelling the limits of photography, the artist broadens the capacity and impact of the image, handling each one as a phrase or a word.
Pobywajlo is a photographer transplanted to Kansas City from San Diego, California. Megan creates points of access to her work with photography through humor, zines, books, writing, performance, the internet, collaboration, and education. Since 2013, Megan has creating local and traveling exhibitions, public events, and publication projects with Archive Collective, a collective of makers and organizers that center photography and lens-based media,
Benjamin Rosenthal orchestrates visceral and sensual video and new media installations that border on pleasure and discomfort, enveloping the viewer in an ocean of screens, projections, and crafted objects. Rosenthal investigates queer technosexuality a term he has coined and defined as: “an identity/experience in which the supremacy of physical body-to-body contact is questioned, and virtual sexualities and hybrid techno-body sexuality exists along a continuum of experience devoid of traditional hierarchies.” The artist challenges the authenticity of physical, bodily experience, re-imagining what constitutes sexuality and sexual acts and reframing notions of touch and intimacy through the lens of both reality and the virtual. For example, Rosenthal rejects the role of genitalia, instead utilizing the hand to stroke or penetrate and assigning alternative functions to inanimate objects such as USB ports as points of penetration. In these investigations, the artist is probing the way people perform and the systems of control they establish to navigate our multiple personas and positions in the physical, psychological, and virtual world.
Rosenthal holds an MFA in Art Studio from the University of California, Davis and a BFA in Art (Electronic Time-Based Media) from Carnegie Mellon University. His work has been exhibited internationally in such venues as the Stuttgarter Filmwinter (Stuttgart, Germany), FILE Electronic Language International Festival (São Paulo, Brazil), Vanity Projects (New York, NY), the Museum of Contemporary Art of Vojvodina (Novi Sad, Serbia), and online via the Istanbul Contemporary Art Museum(Is.CaM), among others. Rosenthal is Assistant Professor of Expanded Media, in the Department of Visual Art at the University of Kansas where he teaches Video Art, Performance Art, and interdisciplinary practices.
William Toney documents the world around him and memorializes the everyday objects associated with his personal experience as an African American male. He photographs and collects found objects, which he considers relics of the urban landscape, and through his lens frames each object with new meaning. Toney builds photographs from scratch, staging still lifes that communicate a cultural and psychological narrative to be discovered, dissected, and deconstructed. His compositions embody the power and vulnerability of the Black experience, and through his direction of color, emphasize the joy found in the mundane. Toney identifies the inherently human characteristics and idiosyncrasies found in the spaces we inhabit and objects we interact with, approaching material as cultural signifier.
Originally from Raytown, Missouri, Toney received a BFA with an emphasis in Photography from the University of Missouri, Columbia in 2012. He is a studio resident at The Drugstore and a preparator at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.