Jon Kessler @ The Deitch Projects

by Daphne Rustow on April 8, 2009

in Visual Arts


Jon Kessler‘s mixed media sculpture installation may cause an uproar of emotion within its viewer. The exhibit itself, including the media sculpture, paintings and photographs, has a varying assortment of artistic elements. The focus of the exhibit seems to be placed on the larger media sculpture installation. The sculpture is spacious and invasive. It incorporates different constructive materials such as metal, wood, glass, and plastic; it is also electrically powered. It features a series of soldier-like ‘ken’ dolls which rotate upon smaller technical devises. The dolls are super imposed and overlapping in height but stand approximately three feet away from each other.

Taking a closer look at this installation the viewer notices the troubling and fascinating details in each element of the piece; each doll has his own personality or role. That is to say, the dolls seem to illustrate a consistent motion, a fatal injury or a stationary stance. In each case they seem to have been assigned a ‘pre-programmed’ task or responsibility. The doll’s action is only intensified with the repetitive cyclic pattern presented by the installation. Several small video cameras film the dolls as they move. The televisions which project these images create the boundaries for this installation. By this I mean that the set of televisions frame the viewer’s space as he or she stands amidst the installation. As a result the audience is constantly witnessing the images they perceive with the naked eye through that of a camera lens.

The grandeur of the sculpture is both intimidating and intriguing. Its chaotic and confusing presentation may cause the viewer to shy away, at first. However, the great amount of information and detail invested in each statue or sub-particle draws the viewer in. In some sense, the viewer is pushed to confront a message that may be hard or unpleasant to decipher. The media sculpture and the larger exhibit as a whole plays upon the themes of privacy and control. The ‘ken’ dolls in the structure are clearly electrically fueled and technically manipulated. As previously mentioned, their movement is constant, systematic and recorded through cameras. However, there seems to be a struggling balance between the mediums and techniques -carpentry and electricity- presented in the actual fabrication of the sculpture; this creates a certain anxiety within the artwork. The physical and symbolic aspects within the sculpture also transmit the sense of invasion upon personal space. The fast speed at which this installation ‘operates’ only amplifies this protruding sense. In conclusion, Kessler has us leave the exhibit feeling somewhat helpless or inadequate.

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