[image] Still from Jonathan Monaghan Escape Pod, 2015 – computer animated HD film, 20 minute seamless loop.
I have recently been mesmerized by the work of Jonathan Monaghan and I am not sure why, but I keep coming back to watch the online excerpts and previews of his animated video loops. It’s a genre that would normally not sit comfortably with me but it has me hooked. A Village Voice article concludes that “his vision of a life looped and collapsing back onto itself is like the image of a snake eating its tail: a metaphor for a world of terminal narcissism where assholes rule.” ¹
What unsettles me is that I’m not sure if it’s the hyperreal gloss of the digitally manufactured landscapes, the highly reflective interiors of artificial environments or the haunting soundscapes of the minimalist Nordic synthesized pop music, which sound more like a Hollywood sound track, a ‘Rocky’ climax, or possibly a Hal moment from 2001: A Space Odyssey, that make these animations a bit ‘wobbly’, a bit askew. Or possibly it’s Monaghan’s ability to parody contemporary social and political issues through the manipulation of pixels and software with a twisted take on truisms which fascinates me.
The title of his latest show, Escape Pod, 2015 at Bitforms Gallery in NYC, suggests a utopian failure to our reality and that hope might only lie in the digital construct of imagination. A golden stag runs endlessly towards a horizon which stretches infinitely into nowhere as virtual images of consumerism and materialism play themselves out. “In a climatic moment, the golden fawn is birthed out of a BoConcept sofa, only to be carried away, into a heavenly Duty Free Shop in the clouds. Seamlessly looped in a twenty-minute cycle, Escape Pod suggests an apocalyptic decadent future – one that is militarised, totalitarian and permeated by extravagance. It is a representation of laboured pursuits, particularly of the otherworldly or unobtainable.“ ²
In Sacrifice of the Mushroom Kings, 2012 Monaghan’s fascination with power is personified by the iconic geo-political spur which represent a historical past but is nonetheless transported into the present through the metaphors of CGI animated gaming heroes. In the preview scene, a GIJoe character taught with steroid inducing digital magic, on the verge of bursting out of his skin, creates a narrative tension as he enters the amplified gladiatorial theatre to take on the golden bull which collapses and rolls over in a submissive gesture to capital exegesis and ideological might. The symbolism is obvious but somehow the exaggerated characters and the accompanying audio creates a sense of being in-between two worlds. Its as if they have somehow escaped their own online ‘shoot-em-up’ gaming realities only to be trapped in a digital fantasy that mirrors a world which bewilders them. Its like an ‘Ivan meets GIJoe’ moment from the Clash, a post-punk rebellious juke-box in virtual 3D animation, all from the comfort of your couch.
And for a more ‘profound’ take on his work read this from the Village Voice: ¹ Ass You Like It: Jonathan Monaghan’s Playful Videos Go Deep by Jessica Dawson – Wednesday, Apr 15 2015
² Jonathan Monaghan opens Escape Pod at bitforms gallery, NY. – In Featured Events / March 22, 2015. https://anti-utopias.com/newswire/jonathan-monaghan-opens-escape-pod-at-bitforms-gallery-ny/
anti-utopias is a curated contemporary art project exploring new territories in the field of curatorial practices. The project is built around a comprehensive thematic and critical international contemporary art platform founded in 2011 by Sabin Borș, and functions as an ongoing laboratory for experimental approaches to contemporary art.