Salon 94 Bowery is pleased to present Jon Kessler’s The Blue Period (2007/2011), an immersive
installation featuring kinetic machines, surveillance cameras, video monitors and life-size cardboard
figures. This video-drenched panopticon is the culmination of Kessler’s longtime interest in
surveillance, alienation and spectacle. First shown in Berlin in 2007, this is the work’s first installation
in the US.
The Blue Period is a spiritual descendant of Society as Spectacle, Guy Debord’s seminal 1967 critique
of the ascendant consumer culture, and the general passivity and isolation it engenders. Riffing on
Debord and his fellow Situationists, Kessler has constructed a controlled environment in which
social relations are mediated through images of a fabricated, inaccessible reality. Cameras capture
real and fake spectators in a maze of monitors against blue splattered walls creating a fleeting sense
of community and interconnection. Processors displace this blue with wave after wave of smiling
catalog faces, setting the viewer adrift in a sea of the real and the imagined: a constant feedback
loop that has a paradoxically liberating effect. This feeling is fleeting as the viewer becomes trapped
in the immense accumulation of images, locked in an endless cycle of passivity and voyeurism.
At the installation’s center an inverted model–a gallery within a gallery–is surveyed with a miniature
camera. Large collaged portraits from Kessler’s residency at Dieu Donné hang on the walls,
supporting Kessler’s idea of the portrait as a metaphor for captivity. A bank of box monitors
imprisons familiar actors in blue-face such as Jean-Luc Godard’s Pierrot le Fou, Mel Gibson’s
Apocalypto and sequences from the Blue Man Group. Like the viewer, these characters unwittingly
become part of the work, and the act of looking and being seen becomes the de facto subject.
The upstairs gallery exhibits four recent small-scale sculptures, each featuring a different human
organ and its prosthesis: Hands (2012), Ear (2012), Foot (2012), and Eye (2012).
Jon Kessler was born in 1957 in Yonkers, New York and lives in New York City. He received a
BFA from SUNY Purchase and attended the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program. He has
had numerous solo exhibitions worldwide including MoMA PS1, New York; the Carnegie Museum
of Art, Pittsburgh; the Phoenix Kulturstiftung/Sammlung Falckenberg, Hamburg, Germany; the
Louisiana Museum of Moderne Kunst, Copenhagen, Denmark and most recently, the Fisher Landau
Center for Art, New York. In 2011, he collaborated with artist Mika Rottenberg on SEVEN, a
performance and installation work for Performa 11 and is currently working on a large-scale multimedia
commission for the Métamatic Research Institute in the Netherlands. Since 1994, Kessler
has been an influential studio art professor at Columbia University’s Scool of Visual Arts, and plays
guitar with the X-Patsys, a band he formed with actress Barbara Sukowa and artist Robert Longo.