International House Of Cozy

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@ Showroom MAMA (Rotterdam) May 2015

Script

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International House of Cozy


A solo exhibition by Amalia Ulman (1989 AR)
Opening: Friday 15 May 2015, 18:00 – 22:00
Exhibition Dates: 15 May – 28 June
Location: Showroom MAMA, Witte de Withstraat 29-31

 On May 15, the first solo exhibition in the Netherlands of Amalia Ulman (1989 AR) opens at Showroom MAMA. ‘International House of Cozy’ includes a film especially produced for MAMA in which she takes her research into the boundaries of authenticity and consumerism to its extreme. The title also refers to a feeling of coziness and ‘home’ as marketed through lifestyle blogs and websites such as Airbnb.
 
Amalia Ulman was born in 1989 in Argentina and raised in Spain. She lives alternately in Los Angeles, London, New York, and Gijón and calls herself a ‘transatlantic expat’. Living and working in so many different places around the world, she observes a worldwide globalised style that evokes a homely feeling. This globalisation leads to a society of equalisation and uniformity in which the non-identical is suppressed.
 
"So we've all become tourists and that's why our office is Starbucks."
 
 The notions of beauty and loveliness are central to Ulman's practice. Reoccuring in her visual imagery are flowers, butterflies, hearts, and latte art, but also plastic surgery and the agony that precedes such searches for beauty. In a world where life has become a commodity, Ulman takes the additional step to expose the obscenities of contemporary marketing. For the film she made for MAMA, she wrote the script and asked porn actors to perform it. The film will be shown in an installation specially made for MAMA. 
 
Amalia Ulman’s solo exhibition is part of MAMA’s Internet Aware programme, which focuses on online and offline art and culture, where objects and images cannot be understood without having knowledge of the systems, symbols, and possibilities created and offered by the Internet. ‘International House of Cozy’ also falls under MAMA’s Eyes Wide Open programme, which examines how the work of artists is part of, and offers, an alternative view on reality.
 

 

Why Porn

After watching a corporate hipster informercial where product placement and creative-industry-lifestyle referencing was almost obscene, my first reaction was to make a porn. “Wouldn’t a porn look fantastic in this set up: in between the Bonne Maman jam jars and the issues of Art Forum; with a conversation about Soho House as dirty talk”.

Is it a critique on porn? A critique on advertisement?
The video is definitely not a critique on porn. IHOC uses porn as a tool to legitimize a visual aesthetic while transforming it into a categorized fetish. In this case it'd be hipster culture as image void of meaning: as the commercial corporate beast it has become.

Porn has not been used as a means to make the video seem shocking or more edgy, quite the opposite. To bring this aesthetic, those conversations, that sort of video editing, color palette, corporate ukulele music, retro logos and indie fonts into the realm of the pornographic, is to normalize it, to finally consider it mainstream and therefore corporate. This comes from an interest in the idea of the invisible, of the template. The things we are no longer able to see. That’s why numerous wavy willows quietly decorate the exhibition space (as they reference a previous essay on objects, class and appearances Buyer, Walker, Rover, 2013).

This "rise and fall” kind of cycle where, through repetition and replication, a formula that started as a signifier of “good taste” (the hipster infomercial) can become something of utter bad taste, or normalcy, fascinates me. It all goes down to class, aesthetics and the thin line that separates good and bad taste. This pornographic video elevates and corrupts the original version of the hipster advertisement previously mentioned, through exaggeration, into a grotesque caricature of itself.

After watching IHOC once, our eyes get readjusted, or perception refurbished and everything, in a way, becomes bad taste: hierarchies temporarily destroyed.