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Toys Redux

Migros Museum, Zurich

On Play and Critique. The adoptions and manipulations of motifs from video games, television shows, movies, and cartoons should not be seen as mere pop-cultural quotations: the artists invited simultaneously comment on the capitalist production of these consumer worlds.

comunicato stampa

Cory Arcangel , Alex Bag & Patterson Beckwith , Judith Bernstein , Vittorio Brodmann , Marvin Gaye Chetwynd , Simon Denny , Harun Farocki , Jan Peter Hammer , Nic Hess , Danny McDonald , Dawn Mellor , Claus Richter , Tabor Robak , Timur Si-Qin , Michael Smith , Lily van der Stokker , Julia Wachtel , Hannah Weinberger

Curators: Raphael Gygax and Judith Welter

The group exhibition Toys Redux - On Play and Critique brings together artists who make creative use of formats and imagery from popular culture usually addressed to children or teenagers. Such adoptions and manipulations of motifs from video games, television shows, movies, and cartoons should not be seen as mere pop-cultural quotations: they simultaneously comment on the capitalist production of these consumer worlds. Their pop aesthetic and the promise of an "innocent" and playful universe of childlike fantasy contrast with the underlying reality of neoliberal advertising and marketing strategies. The thematic exhibition unfolds a dialogue between works by artists from several generations, including selected pieces from the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst’s own collections, and expands on one of the museum’s ongoing central themes previously explored in shows by Cory Arcangel (2005), Marvin Gaye Chetwynd (2007), and Alex Bag (2011) as well as Deterioration, They Said (2009).

The works on display in the exhibition bring a variety of themes and formal references into focus. The film installation Parallele I–IV (2012–2014) by Harun Farocki (b. Czech Republic, 1944; d. Germany, 2014) examines the rhetoric and aesthetic of video games, an entertainment genre that is widely popular with the children—and adults—of the digital age. In its four sections, Farocki traces the evolution of computer-animated visual universes and scrutinizes their construction and signification. Cory Arcangel (b. USA, 1978) and Tabor Robak (b. USA, 1986) similarly explore the visual language and functions of video games as well as their economic significance. In Super Landscape 1 (2005), Arcangel deconstructs the 1985 classic Super Mario Bros. Robak’s complex programmed animation Analphabetic Aquarium (2014) studies the immersive surface and mechanisms of today’s computer games.

Television is another system of reference in many of the works on view. Entertainment formats that invited playful interaction saw a veritable boom in the 1980s and early 1990s, developing audience involvement techniques that several of the contributors to the exhibition harness for their own purposes. In the video Mike Builds a Shelter (1985), Michael Smith (b. USA, 1951) satirizes Do-It-Yourself shows targeted at home improvement devotees. Alex Bag (b. USA, 1969) & Patterson Beckwith (b. USA, 1972) created their multi-episode late-night show Cash from Chaos / Unicorns & Rainbows (1994–1997) as a public-access television project. In his video The Jungle Book (2013), Jan Peter Hammer (b. Germany, 1972) reflects on the narrative genre of the educational children’s show, emphasizing the ambivalence of playful formats designed to entertain children while also inculcating specific values in them or, as in this instance, recruiting them as future consumers.

Claus Richter (b. Germany, 1971) has piled up gift cartons for his installation Very Large Self-Portrait with Train and Colored Lights (2015) to comment on the escapist allure of fantasy worlds that business empires like the Walt Disney Company turn into lines of merchandise. The intimate nexus between artistic production, pop aesthetics, and the laws of economics is the subject of the wall painting Interesting Work (2003/2014) by Lily van der Stokker (b. Netherlands, 1954), which incorporates fragmentary notes on the financial calculations of everyday life. The ornamental arrangement of animal-based logos of international corporations in the installation kollekTIEREnd ( 1998) by Nic Hess (b. Switzerland, 1968) as well as the echoes of merchandising and advertising in the works of Timur Si-Qin (b. Germany, 1984), Danny McDonald (b. USA, 1971), and Simon Denny (b. New Zealand, 1982) illustrate how closely play and marketing are intertwined.

A book accompanying the exhibition with essays by Esther Buss, Alexander R. Galloway, Raphael Gygax, Hans Ulrich Reck, and Judith Welter as well as interviews with the artists will be published by JRP|Ringier.

Saturday 13.06. 1 pm
Artist’s Talk (free admission, in English) Judith Bernstein in conversation with Raphael Gygax and Judith Welter

Saturday 13.06. 5 pm
Performance (free admission, limited seating) Claus Richter: Das schlaue Tier und seine Feinde (2015)

Image: Jan Peter Hammer, The Jungle Book, 2013, HD Video (Farbe, Ton), Videostill, Courtesy of the artist and Supportico Lopez, Berlin

Press contact
René Müller T +41 44 2772727

Opening: friday 29.05.2015 6–9 p.m.

Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst
Limmatstrasse 270 CH–8005 Zurich
Tue/Wed/Fri 11 am–6 pm
Thu 11 am–8 pm
Sat/Sun 10 am–5 pm
Adults: CHF 12
Reduced: CHF 8
Thu from 5–8 pm: free admission

Resistance Performed
dal 19/11/2015 al 6/2/2016

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