It's always six o'clock:
Bonny & Clyde do Disneyland

Issue no4
Aug - Sep 2019
Ziektebeelden

‘It's about what happens if Philip K. Dick takes control of your mind, if time stands still, if ordinary things become mysterious and fantasy creatures overturn the order of your soul. Come and see works of ours being vandalized by other works of ours, a young girl peeping through a hole and Mickey Mouse going through ups and downs. I can't explain.’ (0100101110101101.org, 2008)

These first lines open It’s always six o’clock, an exhibition by the Italian art duo Eva and Franco Mattes at MU (meaning ‘synergy’ in Japanese), in Eindhoven, The Netherlands.

This partnership has transgressed a formal display by combining manga-style female portraits in digital print on canvas (including titles such as Annoying Japanese Child Dinosaur) with the colourful, spilled remnants of paint sabotage, executed suggestively by assemblies of action figures. The vigilantism involved in pairing the seemingly disparate genres of painting – ‘avant-garde’ destruction art and plastic mass produced play models of Bart Simpson and Buzz Lightyear – is the vandalism spoken of by the Mattes’.

The two ‘con’-artists pose as renegades, cybering themselves as 0100101110101101.org, operating under pseudonyms which challenge what they see as being the personality-driven European art culture. Their work has hitherto been exclusively virtual, one example being their release of a computer virus posing as a work of art during the 49th Venice Biennale. As self-professed ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ they consistently engage with mass culture in the Pop Art language of Andy Warhol and, in keeping with the MU’s mantra, explore the interface between art, design and the ‘reality’ these operate within. However, if Philip K. Dick is to truly take control of your proverbial mind, the question – in the words of the science-fiction writer himself – is whether these works inspire the viewer to ‘wonder out loud if it is real, and… wonder out loud if all of us are real’?

Concluding the hyper reality of the exhibition’s narrative is a stuffed figure of Mickey Mouse suspended by a hangman’s noose in a mock living room scene – a TV monitor provides white noise footage from mid-20th century Disney films. The obviousness of the installation could be ironic in terms of the Mattes’ Second Life project, interrogating the ready disposability of pop culture products to hybrid (virtual) uses by, what could be called a cynical, post-Disney generation. However, the literal overturning of a shopping cart by an army of toys does not necessarily amount to the memento mori of reality in the digital age as indexed by the show’s first ‘sculpture’ work – Mickey serving up a skeleton on a platter.

In revisiting the notion of the Disneyfication of society and subsequent discussion of the simulacrum by theorists such as Jean Baudrillard and writers other than Dick, the visual arts are pivotal in providing a metaphor for the philosophical. The three dimensional caricatures and flawless digital prints in It’s always six o’clock are intended to, in a Deleuzian sense, challenge and overturn the simulacra of the present media-saturated moment. Eva and Franco Mattes’ refusal to explain and develop this tension however results in a two dimensional time warp, where the critical stance is left somewhere with The Matrix circa 1999.

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Magazine
Metropolis M Magazine for contemporary art No 4 — 2019