James Gilbert is a Los Angeles based artist who works across mediums creating drawings, installations with video, and performative art. These works comment on social themes including identity and anonymity in mass media. Gilbert has exhibited nationally and internationally at galleries and museums in the U.S. and Asia. Recent 2008 solo exhibitions include: “(Don’t) Want to be Anonymous”, Los Angeles and “I Know Everything about You and We Haven’t Met”, Dallas. “The Privacy of Underpants”, Seoul and “The Privacy of Underpants- Part II”, Beijing included a catalog with essay by Charissa Terranova. He will be an artist in residence at Centraltak,The University of Texas during fall 2009.
A disaster site that is also a playground. An airplane, constructed in detached parts: nose, fuselage, and tail large enough to walk through – each house videos: three non-synchronized videos run simultaneously in the fuselage state pragmatic, cautious, rational, calm warnings and instructions that could be used for airline safety or crowd control along with ridiculous behavioral suggestions. The in-flight consoles in the tunnel of the fuselage are, at first, disorienting, then become calming as their meaning is deciphered. Fifteen additional videos in the nose and tail investigate an everyman’s psychological and quirky reasoning toward their own personal safety in everyday tasks, like sitting on a chair, walking, or sleeping.
After existing/evacuating the main fuselage one sees broken aircraft wings appearing to be dangerous objects to walk under or slides to glide down along with several life vests hanging on a wall and three life rafts. The life rafts reference Theodore Gericault’s painting “The Raft of Medusa,” a disastrous account of a ship rescue and a hurriedly constructed raft. Mutiny, cannibalism and madness aboard the raft caused international scandal. The fun rafts, equipped with slides, basketball hoops, see-saws, among other games are made from painted plywood covered with sewn transparent pink plastic sheeting, as well as the plane. The common construction materials remind us of the makeshift materials commonly used at disaster sites.
Exploring fear effectuated on public, viewers are offered a chance to create their own outlook for rescue. Positive or negative? Is it disastrous or is it a playground?
Is our cultural identity a result from the need to install endless safety and security precautions and instill over-protective behavior and legislation in our lives, which practically remove the need for common sense and sense of humor?