I've found Tony Robbins tapes in boxes of suburban garage sales, amongst worn night-gowns and ancient kitchen appliances. I imagine how these tapes once indicated a lot of hope. We all know the American value, perhaps rooted in Calvinism tells us if we just work hard enough, we will achieve. But there’s another value that screams at us if we just buy the right objects, or take the right pill, we can have that achievement in one fowl swoop. I’ve felt the hunger pains of ambition more than once, chasing the elusive ghost of immediacy. A dream of American exceptionalism perhaps is just a click, a transaction away. To acquire the right accoutrement to to buy into the American Dream.
Overt Symbols is a mixed media installation composed of an 8-minute video titled New World Rituals and a sculpture sewn together of 110 pounds of men’s neckties. The sculpture also operates as a load-bearing device capable of supporting a human body, up to 200 lbs. New World Rituals reveals found footage of necktie instructionals, motivational speaker monologues, iconic Hollywood clips and a transcription of an interview with my father in our native Russian. The film vacillates between abstracted kaleidoscopes alluding to an internal meditative state and explicit references to media, politics and embedded ideologies of East and West.
Neckties, which hang down and are not worn by women, are definitely a male symbol says Freud. Historically, neckties were worn by men in the accessory’s association with military regalia and the rise of urban capitalism. Industrial culture created a confluence of public and private space, traditionally demarcating the division of gender. This movement provoked a deep need for a redefinition of gender, a reassertion of masculine identity and prerogative says Dr. Richard Boothby in his analysis of Freud titled Sex on the Couch. I imagine how it must feel to experience both such restraint and standardization, agreeing to nearly choking for the duration of an important, accountable event. I imagine this asphyxiation is both terrifying and exciting.
The sculpture Overt Symbols measures 8 feet wide, 14 feet high and is suspended from the ceiling. It installed to be load bearing, for viewer to not only see the piece but engage physically by touching, climbing and even suspending from the work. One is meant to engage the body in this mountain of ties, viscerally experiencing this object in a new way, when presented in mass. While a single tie remains relatively innocuous, a suspended structure of thousands of ties towering over the human body convey a wholly different message.