Emily Ritter: Habitual Consumption
Opening: Saturday, Oct 17th, 7:00-10:00pm.
Show runs: Saturday, Oct 17th to Nov 10th.
Emily Ritter's work is performative, accumulative, and subversive for engaging in a politics of aestheticzation around what many people would consider to be an act that is habitually associated with the greatest degree of disinterested feelings, i.e., the regime of disposabile objects. And yet, the idea of the "disinterested gaze" is exactly what the 18th century philosopher Immanuel Kant considered to be most germane to the act of aesthetic contemplation. It is here that we find Ritter's work performing something quite unexpected with regard to what Jacques Ranciere has termed 'the aesthetic unconsicous', or even Jameson's notion of the 'political unconscious', esepcailly if we take them to represent the place where praxis and dissensus meet. Indeed, it is here, where Ritter's earlier series like "Wildly Captive" act in a transversal manner, crossing both figurative cartoons with a kind of literal carbon footprint in the form of a culturally legible image made in a very specific meduim that is reflective of the tyoes of concerns which are tied to the socio-political unconscious of our times. Not only that, but her serial imagery in "Consumption and Cycles" points to the many ways in which we are pressed to contemplate the repressed, not only in the form of imagining the recyclabiltiy of the self in a culture of awash in branding, but that in this very same culture is it increasingly harder and harder not ot consider the the face of our species as the posterchild for a terminal mode of production. Ritter's more recent work places the theater of her on waste on display, allowing the series of "habitual Consumption" to break with the disinterested spell of diletantism through Brechtian means, with the artist becoming the audience and the audience being taken as the object of praxis, or at least, of motivated self-reflection. To put it another way, aesthetics here is a measure of our intersted rather than our disinterested behaviors; it is a matter of act and action, of theory and practice, of aesthetic contemplation and consumer motivation.
In this way, the the artist's own books of consumptive accord, or rather, the gathering together of these pages of (un)natural discord, hold our attention at the edge of the commercial gaze. As documents they have a structure that is not unlike flip-book style animations, but what they animate is an active consideration of the nearly continual consummation of the consumptive act in late capitalism. What they seek to address is the consequences of captialism getting any "later" in our economy of overproduction, and whether or not we can reverse what many consider to be one of the "natural" outcomes of ends-and-means thinking, of fulfilling supply-and-demand, or of innovation as a naturalized dialectic of capitalist revolutions that will forever be fough on the terrian knwon as creative-destruction. What people miss however is that the philosophy of disinterested asethetic pleasure was birthed alongside Adam Smith's idea of the "invisible hand of the market", and that the major inward tunring metaphor of both Kant and Smith is one of blindness to our acts and actions. Kant, afterall, produced a transcental philosophy related to a blindly thinking about pictorial means without ends while Smith produced a blinded thinking about means as a end in itself, where the natural by-product of self-interest is staged as the hero of the story in a story of socio-economic development. Of course, both of these outlooks now appear ot be unconscious defense mechanisms against having to consider the real world outcomes of captialist competition. Creative-destruction is not a blindman's game, but thinking about it in Kantian-Smithian terms has proved to be a blindman's bluff.
And it is from this perspective that Ritter's works that place us on the flipside of capitalist accumulation in the form of producing "flipppant" texts of envronmental reappropriation. But they are not at all flippant in the sense of being a joking gesture or a coy refrain. Instead, they are objects of contemplation in as much as they try to introduce us to a wholly new sense of object relations that who's axis of interpretation resonants with the philosophies of Klien and Kristeva - of the effects of the partial object and melancholia - rather than any overaching sense of release into the realm of the "purely disintersted". Or, one could go a step further and say that Ritter's objects are a perfect rejoiner to all of the Object-Oriented philosopher's who have had a tremendous influence in the humanites in the last decade with regard to rethinking our relationship to the enviornment. From this perspective Ritter's object-oriented books are meant to disorient our well regulated catographies of consumption. They do this by placing a new categorical imparative on us of the kind Kant could not have imagined, because it is imparative to read and retrace the impetus behind our ecological impact on the world around, and this has to do with thinking about object relations on both a personal and global scale as so many "intersted" parties. In this way, we can say that Ritter's work is the kind of artistic practice which, in giving us an object that functions as a picture - a picture that is equal parts diary and display - alllows what Foucualt and Blanchot called the "unthought" to emerge into the field of so-called "disintersted pleasures": casual consumption, disposable interests; consensus trace. This is not only how Ritter's work picks up where Kant's third critique never thought to go; or how she has taken the remains of the day and turned it into a serial measure of object relations that address the leading concerns of our time; or even how Ritter has done all this through the lens of self reflexive-critique split between questioning the agency of ones own actions and the act of aesthetics becoming an agent-for-change; but it is much more.
This is because the real twist in her oeuvre is that her works are a documentary trace of our consumer civilization, a record of domus and domicile that begs its viewers not to become docile consumers of disintersted measure. In fact, one could say that with each new project Ritter manages not only to measure the losses and gains of Western Cilivization, but to take a more interested measure of the so-called "civilizing impluse" as it applies to the cultish status attributed to impulse-buying, being up on the latest trends or particiaptaiting in the most recent "fad". Cast in this light, one could even say that her most recent series, "Infertile Obsolescene" represents the event-scene of our generation with an even greater emphasis placed on the weights and measures of everyday actions. One could even go a step further in claiming that Ritter's critique is at it's most poignant when she intertwines the idea of 'planted-and-planned obsocence' as a collaged aesthetic that recaputres or reclaims the partial object and its effects from the disinterested gaze of surplus-value absent any concern for externalities. Indeed, Ritter's radicality lies in this, that her's is the kind of artistic practice that we hope to see taken up by a new generation of artists with the same seriousness and level of commitment as to rethinking the everyday as picturing our acts on the "world-stage". If this were the case, then turning of the tide agianst the 18th century version of art as the disinterested play of the faculties might one day be transformed into an "interested play" in how we rethink not just the use of our faculties, but also the use of our factories --- which may very well amount to one and the same thing! In an increasingly interconnected world Ritter's art is one of many significant developments in artistic production today where we can say that readressing the aesthetics of detritus collides with the aesthetics of the beautiful, because such interventions are what maek a beautiful planet and future possible.