Aksioma, Institute for Contemporary Art - Ljubljana
27 / 03 / 2013 - 12 / 04 / 2013
Airports are the (non)places where the surveillance apparatus shows off its muscles. Airports are where security systems are first tested and fully employed. Airports are where privacy is immolated on the altars of control. Airports are the physical version of an information network. As such, airports have always fascinated artists, and they are the perfect playground for an artist who also happens to be a graffiti artist, a hacker and an open source coder, an artist such as Evan Roth.

Since 2007, Evan Roth – an American artist currently living in Paris and often traveling around the world – has been using airports as a platform on which to make art and deliver it to an audience in the form of micro-interventions that locate themselves between conceptual art, activism, media hacking and sabotage.

Skymall Liberation (2007 – ongoing), for example, is a series of collages using Skymall – a magazine distributed for free on American flights – as their source, and the small seat trays as their support. Roth organizes the images found on the magazine as starting points for ironic ethnographic data visualizations, such as “White vs Non-White”, or “Apple Products vs Non-Apple Products”. How To Keep Motherfuckers From Putting Their Seats Back (2008) is a short video tutorial showing us how to resist against economy class discomfort. See You See Me (2009) is a two-channel video taken from inside airport security X-ray devices.

Finally, TSA Communication (2008) is a project that alters the airport security experience, inviting the government to learn more about passengers than just the contents of their carry-on bags. Messages are cut into thin 13” x 10” sheets of stainless steel designed to comfortably fit inside airline carry-on baggage. During the X-ray screening process, the technology normally designed to view the contents of a traveler’s baggage is transformed into a communication tool for displaying messages aimed at airport security.

The content of the plates varies from flight to flight, but includes “NOTHING TO SEE HERE”, an image of the American flag and the TSA’s (Transportation Security Agency’s) mission statement as listed on its website, “I AM THE FRONTLINE OF DEFENSE, DRAWING ON MY IMAGINATION TO CREATIVELY PROTECT AMERICA FROM HARM”, and “MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS”.

Evan Roth is an American artist based in Paris who applies a hacker philosophy to an art practice that visualizes transient moments in public space, online and in popular culture. Roth makes work simultaneously for the contemporary art world and for the “bored at work” network. His work is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art NYC and has been exhibited at various institutions, including the Centre Pompidou, the Kunsthalle Wien, the Tate, the Fondation Cartier and the front page of YouTube.

In 2012, Roth was awarded the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award. Roth is also co-founder of the Graffiti Research Lab and the Free Art & Technology Lab (F.A.T. Lab), a web-based, open source research and development lab. In the words of his friend and collaborator Aram Bartholl: “I only know a few artists who have been that influential for a whole generation of Internet aware artists and art aware coders in the recent past. I always admired Evan for his radical openness. It takes a lot of guts as an artist to open up and share your artist practice to such an extent. Creating tools, generate and share open source code that enables everyone to make and distribute art online or in public space is Evans mission. His work is full of hacks for the browser and the city.”

Thanks: Roman Ulčnik, Adria Tehnika d.d. for lending aircraft seats.