Annabelle Agbo Godeau
A spectacular woman
A Twisted Kind of Peepshow
Looking at Annabelle Agbo Godeau’s latest work through the glass front of the BPA space is like watching a twisted kind of peepshow. Two athletic performers in short red dresses descend from the ceiling into what appears to be a mise-en-scène of femininity. Instead of one-way mirrors, behind which usually other anonymous spectators would linger, a triptych establishes the scenography of the show. With a bright smile, beaming at you through heavy makeup, you are invited to stay and watch.
Both performers quickly confirm every suspicion of their fraudulence, as they turn out to be just cut-outs from a painted piece of canvas. Their resemblance is more akin to cinematic and theatrical scenographies or so-called 'paper peepshows' from the 19th century, rather than fleshed-out acrobats. Or maybe they are placeholders, waiting for the actual performers to return and resume the show.
Instead, the spectacle further unfolds within the paintings on the wall. They are compositions of images Agbo Godeau collects from archival material, such as erotic magazines and pornographic films from the 1940s to 90s, and the internet. By extracting them from their original context, they are rendered ambiguous and cross-referential. The trompe-l'œil adhesive strips and pins, which loosely attach the different snippets to the blue wall, suggest the impermanence of their meaning as do the water droplets resting on the surface of the painting.
Judith Butler used Simone de Beauvoir’s famous quote "one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman" to formulate a theory of performativity according to which gender is not a 'natural' state of being but an identity that is inscribed onto the body through the performance of certain acts which are pre-conditioned by social conventions. The development of a white heteronormative notion of femininity created certain cultural codes that are to this day sensationalised and capitalised upon, proposing a fixed idea of the 'feminine' as most desirable.
A Spectacular Woman is the title of the work, which can also be seen written underneath a still from Lady Snowblood (1973), a Japanese action film recounting the avenger trope of an attractive woman seeking vengeance for the rape of her mother and murder of her father and brother. Interestingly, her face is not visible. What sounds like the slogan of a blockbuster, seems fitting for the glorious promises of skincare commercials and tutorials targeted most commonly at women. It is the close entwinement of notions of femininity and superficial standards of beauty that propagate an unachievable status quo. A pinnacle of the search for beauty no matter the cost could have been the controversial reality television show called The Swan (2004, USA) in which women were given drastic make-overs, including plastic surgery. A still, showing a contestant calling her husband post-surgery, is painted on top of what appears to be a cropped and pixelated image of a person wearing high heels.
Beyond that, Agbo Godeau hints at the eroticisation of femininity and the social obsession with beauty outside of contexts of 'self-improvement'. The depiction of the female passing person and the swan in the centre almost seems like some sort of preceding archetype of heteronormative femininity as it could bring the myth of Leda and the Swan to mind. It is one of many ancient stories of Zeus admiring someone for their beauty and turning himself into an animal in order to seduce or rape.
In the same way that stage lighting is central to symbolically amplifying a scene, Agbo Godeau uses colour to saturate her paintings with significations. A deep blue has been dominant in most of her works from the past few years which could be inspired by the radiance coming from the displays of the electronic devices she uses to search reference images. The colour also hints at pornographic films, so-called 'blue movies', that are an underlying theme of most works. Looking at the trickle of red blood in the still from the Japanese action film and at the laboratorial set-up, which resembles a uterus, makes me also think of something more. I am reminded of how blood is omnipresent in 'high'- and pop-cultural representations of violence and simultaneously kept hidden in commercials for feminine hygiene products. Even though it is experienced by every menstruating person monthly, all liquids within broadcasted commercials are coloured different shades of blue.
 Butler, Judith: 'Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory,' in Theatre Journal, Vol. 40, No. 4, Baltimore 1988, pp. 519–531.
Beyond Conservatism: No More Rules for Life
Compiled, rephrased & written by Yvo Cho & Günther Möbius
We offer the following to you in loosely organized and preliminary form. Think of these fragments as analytic gambits intended to prompt or provoke further thought and discussion. Take them for what they are worth, which, we hope, will be more than nothing.
An illuminated space next to an interior design pop-up store that sells Memphis Style objects.
A storefront displaying a bootleg Egon Eiermann desk by Adam Wieland and a Hbada office chair.
A locked door and the apparent disappearance of a person. (observation)
The absence of memorabilia to identify the user. (assumption)
Nothing that confirms the incident of a LARP without an actor. (conclusion)
The voyeuristic desire to look at another person’s screen.
Simulating the habitat of an entrepreneur and his fragile microcosm of mundane tools and artifacts. Provisional assemblages as aesthetic enhancements for a fictional stage that automatically become sculptures. Is this a problem?
An explainer video on YouTube playing on a 27 inch Apple iMac.
Its female voice-over playing on a Bose Revolve II SoundLink that can be heard through the windows.
She reads her script in a trustworthy and educational tone as assigned.
She received $127 for 1180 words + $47 for a 24h delivery + $17 tip.
The fact is the sweetest dream that labor knows.
There are mysteries in that line, but the centrality of action to both living and knowing seems crucial. Only through work that brings us into the world do we approach a true understanding of existence, of “the fact.” The fact is a projectile, it cannot be denied. It’s not an understanding that can be put into words. It can’t be made explicit. It’s nothing more than a whisper. To hear it, you need to get very near its source. Labor, whether of the body or the mind, is more than a way of getting things done. It’s a form of contemplation, a way of seeing the world face-to-face rather than through a glass. Action un-mediates perception, gets us close to the thing itself. The antithesis of transcendence, work puts us in our place.
From Global Village Coffeehouse to Corporate Memphis:
The rapid acceleration of globalized greenwashing in the late ‘80s contributed to the dispersion of GVC design, as it heralded a new wave of imperialism in the form of corporate exploitation of ‘emerging countries’ and global cultures. In the 1990s, Western nations developed a fascination with various global cultures through their increasing visibility in media and consumer products. This overall zeitgeist manifested itself in the appropriation of iconography previously associated with both ancient and Indigenous cultures.
The worldly style has become a recurring souvenir for the failed predictions of the harmonious ‘global village,’ the romanticization of colonialism, and the dark legacy of neoliberal globalization – distracting from the exploitative nature of the production line. A few decades later, the idea of the global village is reviving. It was reinforced by Tech companies like Apple who began to drop elements of their iconic skeuomorphic design in favor of a flattened user interface. The limited color palette and lack of depth offers a uniquely uncomplicated view of the world. The figures are abstracted – oversized limbs and non-representational skin colors help them instantly achieve a universal feel of joy.
Aggressive Inoffensiveness. The style appears to serve as the illustrative arm of an intentional deployment of cheerful minimalism to mask the insidiousness of multinational tech corporations with friendliness and approachability. It allows these companies to offer the illusion of a world without hierarchies, where users are afforded the same access and privileges as those who control the platforms. The style depicts a world whose problems are already solved, built out of complementary components. It's a deliberate oversimplification of social interdependencies. Another factor in the promotion of Corporate Memphis are the vast image databases for vector graphics such as FreePik, UnDraw, or Adobe’s vector art library. These platforms have played a massive part in letting non-illustrators co-opt the Corporate Memphis style for themselves, proliferating lazy variations and interpretations of the style. A few visual features of the sub-styles still reminiscent of CM are appropriated, but the underlying agenda of inclusion and universal identification has been left aside for the sake of targeting a more specific audience.
An extinction event for Narratives:
The pacing of the movie is accelerating. The movie is transformed into a series of snippets, clips, lines, gifs which float around independently of the whole. The digitized artifact is the artifact that has, for all intents and purposes, surrendered its integrity. Authority is lost on us.
Explainer videos though put themselves in the interspace between the messiness of the database and the authoritative reliable Narrative. They dress as a proposal for enlightenment; an alternative truth.
Trivialized and condensed flows of information, short and memorable, easy to digest, with quick cuts, zippy graphics and vivid sound effects.
Who owns the means of communication? – an investigation:
1. Databases are tools for storing and sorting information: they are mnemonic technologies.
2. The Database tolerates, indeed encourages Narratives, but it cannot sustain and actively discourage Narratives.
3. Narratives are instruments of forgetting. They select what is to be remembered, allowing us to discard the rest.
4. All Narratives generated from the Database are tenuous and subject to constant revision. They are but one possible path through the Database. Everyone knows alternative paths are possible. We are all just pinning red string on the board to connect the data points.
5. Narratives seek closure. The Database is open-ended. It assimilates new data indefinitely. The Database resists the Narrative impulse to control and stabilize meaning.
6. The inability to establish Narratives yields an experience of perpetual flux, unsettledness, instability. It amplifies a sense of disorder. Consequently, it can also yield the impulse to impose order by whatever means.
7. Moreover, the imperative to weave Narratives under the pressures of virtual instantaneity results in the need to constantly update the Narrative, which, because this phenomenon also becomes part of the Database, undermines the plausibility of Narrative.
8. In the post-Narrative age of the Database, we all assume responsibility for improvising our own, often tentative and fragile, Narratives about both the world and ourselves. Because Narrative is so critical to our sense of identity, however, we are tempted to zealously guard our Narratives.
9. Stories are not necessarily false and not necessarily propaganda, but they are partial and perspectival – and they can be picked apart. That is true of every explanation.
10. The Database is indifferent to truth.
Upon this gifted age, in its dark hour,
Rains from the sky a meteoric shower
Of facts . . . they lie unquestioned, uncombined. Wisdom enough to leech us of our ill
Is daily spun; but there exists no loom
To weave it into fabric
Illiteracy. Incomprehension. Simplicity. Stupidity. As meaning is lost, the materiality of words becomes obsessive, as is the case when children repeat a word over and over again until its sense is lost and it becomes an incomprehensible incantation.
Temporalities of health:
Time is a powerful but under-examined element in healthy lifestyle advice, particularly in the promise of stable states of future health achievable through sustained lifestyle change. But such linear, sequential time frames reinforce notions of rational choice, personal control, and responsibility despite common experiences of diet and exercise regimens as non-linear, effortful, and difficult to maintain. An over-simplification of time thus contributes to the logic of blame when people fail to achieve healthy lifestyle goals, producing spoiled health identities and abject bodies as people struggle to sustain what can be unsustainable.
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