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»Great Society« a study in irony

Artist's images show humanity's conflicting ideals

By Jim Foster
The Coloradoan

Photo Sherri Barber
The whitewashed logs in the Loveland Museum/Gallery are arranged like a musical composition.
Large and, at times, overwhelming, the abstract images of dead wood appeal to a variety of senses. Which, Tom Katsimpalis says, makes »The Great Society« display, the perfect vehicle for a multimedia experiment.
»Urs Jaeggi is a very well-known artist and very prolific writer: said Katsimpalis, curator of interpretation at the Loveland Museum/Gallery.
He will perform today with Jaeggi at the museum.
He will be reading his poetry and I'll be playing a number of different musical instruments. This is something he has done in the past with other musicians around the world,« Katsimpalis says. »The session will be improvisational in nature and will take place in the art gallery where he built his installation.«
Jaeggi, born in Switzerland and now living in Berlin, installed »The Great Society« as an ironic illustration of today's society.
At the center of the exhibit are 54 sections of white tree trunks, ranging in height from 18 inches to three feet and of different widths.
Along the walls of the installation are drawings and photographs, including images of war and of the people involved in conflict.
Rounding out the exhibit is a video, shown on two small black-and-white television sets.
»Tree trunks as the pictures at an exhibition?« Jaeggi wrote of the installation. »Of course, they mean injury, encroachment, clearing to cultivate land, clearing to destroy the enemy. Memory of what was and still is. The use of chemicals to destroy life. Clearcut in society and and nature; the associations are eradications and war. And strangely, also poetry, because the color white, complex and multivalent, says more.
»Ashes are white; the bridal dress is white; in the East, white is the color of death; the landscapes and spaces in our dreams are white; obtrusively close and far away. From white, the painter gains all the colors he needs. Glowing red, transcendent gray, prison orange, and ocean blue.«
Today's improvisational evening of poetry and music will continue Jaeggi's ideas, Katsimpalis said. »All of these things work together to provoke thinking about society and the paradox of the 'Great Society,' which was a term coined in the 1960s. All of our sense are challenged by the images. There is a sense that we want to protect nature, but also that we're involved in its destruction. That's the ironic response to the installation. The imagery has many levels of meaning for anyone that is willing to contemplate it.«

Photo Sherri Barber
© Urs Jaeggi  /   Website: Universes in Universe