Young Projects is pleased to present Wake Me Up When It’s Over by the UK duo, Thomson & Craighead, who have shown extensively at galleries, museums and film-festivals worldwide. The exhibition will feature nearly a dozen works spanning the years 1996-2016, thereby presenting an in-depth look into the couple’s practice and methodologies.
Read the recent feature about Thomson & Craighead in the New Yorker
For the better part of the past two decades Jon Thomson and Alison Craighead have been “digging deep,” as curator Marc Garrett once described their practice, “into the algorithmic phenomena of our networked society; its conditions and protocols (architecture of the Internet) and the non-ending terror of the spectacle as a mediated life.”
In the process they've employed web cams, data feeds, networks, movies, images, sound and text in their many installations, videos and art-objects--often with a wide array of art-historical reference points, including 1960s systems art, 1970s structuralist film-making, and the compositional experiments of the literature group, Oulipo.
Of course, given their interest in the ever-shifting world of the digital, their work can also be as sardonic and menacing as our daily news feed might suggest. Terrorism, dystopia, the apocalypse, the loss of privacy, police states, political apathy, radioactive waste, fear mongering and the self-help industry are common targets for the artists. However, in each case, such works can also convey a wry sense-of-humor and a well-honed critical distance. Apocalypse 2016 for instance, (pictured above), which will be featured in Wake Me Up When It’s Over, is a professionally made perfume that captures the odor of the ‘end of times’ as described in the Book of Revelation. "[It's] the nasal equivalent of a subsonic frequency," wrote critic Nell Frizzell after his encounter with the scent. [It's] doom, in sprayable, wearable, purchasable form.”
Other writers, such as Eddy Frankel, have written similarly of Thomson & Craighead. “There’s a chance you’ll feel like [the artists] have a direct line into your neuroses,” he wrote upon exiting one of their exhibitions; “or at the least have been monitoring your emails or something, because it all taps so perfectly into contemporary anxiety. It’s almost too real. This is aggressive, angsty art that really sticks in your throat.”
Perhaps, but one would also be hard-pressed to overlook the obvious compassion and implicit optimism that is also apparent in much of their work. Video-based projects such as Belief, A Short Film About War, and Help Yourself for example, give tactile form to an astonishing array of anonymous, disembodied voices that pervade the internet—voices that often convey the alienation, loneliness and quiet supplication that tends to dominate online life. By doing so, the artists not only celebrate and delight in the so-called 'promise' of technology, but “tell us about a networked society's gaze at its mediated self,” as Garrett has written. For writers such as Baudrillard, Postman and Eco that kind of self-reflexiveness was the very definition of hyperreality, which they dubbed the information age. “But,” as Garrett continues, “if we add a contemporary flavor to what hyperreality looks like now in a networked society we come up with hyper-mediality.”
Wake Me Up When It’s Over is just that: a taste of hyper-mediality in all its strange, woeful and endlessly beguiling glory.