You know the guy with the bad hair who's been winning a scary number of primaries in this country lately? The other day, I saw this statement he reportedly made after winning some of those primaries: "We're gonna make our country great again, and we need the rich to make it great. Trust me." In a short editorial on Bustle, writer Lauren Holter stated that we ought to add this to the list of reasons to fear Trump: he defends the rich. "This isn't to say that presidential candidates should attack the rich and run them out of the country," she writes, "but they should want to improve the lives of struggling Americans, not just build up a great economy that continues to benefit the top 1 percent."
"Should" is the idealistic operative word there, and while there are loads of philanthropic wealthy folks around, I'm told, I'm not sure if any of us really expect the wealthy to give up their power and might and stakeholdings to benefit poorer folks. Travis Levasseur seems to espouse a similarly cynical position in his solo show at Terrault, in which he imagines a future where all of America's wealthy have absconded to their own man-made island in the middle of the ocean. The show, he says, is "a funeral to them and all that they provided, and a big 'Fuck You' to and from everyone left behind."
The installation is all intentionally pristine high-drama, complete with sconces and a player piano and expensive flatscreen televisions and excess and glossy trash and destroyed electronics. Objects are tastefully mounted and displayed, but feel more sinister on closer inspection. The black sconces on the walls are made of crunched together, composited trash—paper, cigarette boxes, bottles, iPhone cases, chargers—all lacquered black, with fake, flickering electric candles.
A Yamaha grand player piano plays jaunty melodramatic pop song instrumentals, like Evanescence's 'Bring Me to Life' and Celine Dion's 'My Heart Will Go On.' A screen mounted on the wall behind the piano shows lyric "music videos" for each, with pasted together footage of people at water parks, or buildings being demolished, or flooded hotel rooms and classrooms. The most disturbing one is easily the clip from a first-person shooter game which plays along with the player piano's version of Sia's 'Bird Set Free'; in this clip, a guy walking around an office building shooting people, over and over and over. The other objects in the show—an anxiety-inducing aquarium filled with unidentified electronics, lit by a purple light; an empty landscape model with only some grass, rock piles, pavement, and black candle wax; a framed LED screen depicting this rich people's island—all connote wealth, extravagance, and waste.
All these objects and technology are examples of innovation and economy and something like prosperity. As much as our country is obsessed with wealth and thinks that money will solve our problems (both on micro and macro levels), it's really the absurd illusion of it that we believe in.
'Into the Blue' Travis Levasseur at Terrault Contemporary through March 26