Title: Down Is Up
Date Created: 2019
Medium: Installations + Exhibitions
New York, NY — March 2019 – Anne Spalter, creator of Brown’s and RISD’s original digital fine arts programs in the 1990s – and author of the seminal textbook, The Computer in the Visual Arts (Addison Wesley) – is exhibiting a psychedelic mixed-media installation for her fifth presentation with SPRING/BREAK Art Show. The installation, entitled Down is Up, is curated by Venetian-raised, U.K.-based art-and-technology historian Francesca Franco.
This year, to address the fair’s theme of ‘Fact and Fiction,’ Spalter explores the absurdity of the current state of public affairs by literally flipping the world upside down: the sky on the floor (complete with six custom-printed beanbags, which visitors are invited to sit down on), and the road on the ceiling (the vinyl ceiling panels of the venue’s corporate office days have been methodically replaced with custom-printed foam core segments).
On a conceptual level, Down is Up uses Carl Jung’s early writings on UFOs as a way to visually examine the alarmingly widespread societal belief in conspiracy theories and “fake news.” The installation is packed with iconography and symbolism in what collectively becomes a sort of parallel universe with visual cues like cactuses, highway signs, and open roads reminiscent of the extraterrestrial-evangelist hotbed of Roswell, New Mexico.
Expanding on Spalter’s practice of digitally manipulating source footage with custom software, Down is Up incorporates seven framed drawings, hung salon-style, that meld traditional mark-making with digital manipulation. In each work, Spalter has punctuated the crystalline symmetry of her digital prints with an overlay of hand-drawn iconography. A tangible representation of Carl Jung’s writings, the resultant artworks contrast simple, analog truths with elaborate, digital manipulations.
While reflecting on the paradoxes connected to an alarming portion of the population’s psychological desire to believe in things (like UFOs) that may not be factually true, Down is Up also offers a vivid snapshot of today’s collective social insecurities and anxieties. In keeping with the theme of ‘Fact and Fiction,’ the installation presents a psychedelic, hallucinatory, kaleidoscopic, and mandala-like atmosphere that, in a timely analysis, touches on the need for escapism felt by large parts of society in the current political landscape.
According to a National Geographic survey, nearly 40% of Americans believe that aliens have visited earth—and a whopping 20% believe that people from earth have been abducted by said aliens. Carl Jung, in his book, Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Sky, explains the rationale behind this belief through the idea that our collective unconscious might feel a need for something strange and beautiful to come from the beyond and rescue us from troubled times. This notion is further explored by a school of modern-day psychologists, who correlate the fall-off in religious beliefs with an increase in belief in the paranormal and occult.
Back in the 1960s, Jung called UFOs “technological and salvationist fantasies;” “symbols of unconscious psychic projections.” In other words, the truth is in the mind of the perceiver. The same can be said about the current state of our country and administration; combined with constant news updates that expect again and again—to no avail—to be the “smoking gun,” we are truly living in a world where up is down and down is up.
Down is Up draws on the discourse theories of Foucault and Latour, and the psychological theories of Carl Jung, in questioning how we understand science and how “truth” is socially constructed through images, media, and technology.
Photos: Samuel Morgan Photography