December 1, 2018 - January 19, 2019
Artists: Mia+Máire and Jesse Meredith
Curated by Jameson Paige and Budgie Birka-White
Reckless Comfort is an exhibition that chips away at humanity’s complicity in circumstances and ideologies that appear beyond our control. Mia+Máire’s work explores issues of climate change, the bind between individual and corporate responsibility, and the exhausting pressure of living under capitalism. Stemming from their long form interest in reality television, the artists anchor this installation with their latest venture, Mad Girls Club TV (MGCTV). Video works present interviews, brand promotions, and episode teasers from the upcoming femme-focused TV show which charts six anthropologists and amateur survivalists’ journey into nature to grapple with a changing planet. This carbon-footprint obsessed exploration translates conceptually as well as materially in the exhibition, with the duo often utilizing trash, recycled items, and found objects to construct their works.
In Reckless Comfort, Mia+Máire’s six woven carpets unite to create a site-specific installation, where viewers are invited to pad around on the tufted fibers wearing booties fashioned from recycled plastic bags. This soft, interactive installation blurs digital and geographic topographies—some areas comprised of blues, browns, and greens conjure the bird’s eye views of Google Earth. One of the carpets inspiring the show’s title wryly asserts: “The recklessness of the perpetual now is no longer supported on this device.” This phrase speaks to Mia+Máire’s preoccupation with the dissonance of technology and nature, as well as their interest in digital mediation in a tech-obsessed age. Humor is the chief lubricant in their expansive practice, distinguishing their efforts from the straightforward and heavy-handed measures of a Greenpeace campaign. Instead, satire is incorporated as a tool for subversion, but also as a coping mechanism while we grapple with the feeling of futility when one considers the confounding problematization of humans’ and our relationship to mother earth.
While Mia+Máire tunnel through the complacency of climate change, mediation, and humanity’s implicated position, Jesse Meredith looks at how the process of normalization itself contains a latent divisiveness. For Reckless Comfort, Meredith has created a new series of carved tree branch sculptures resting in MDF holders that mimic the way some weapon owners store and showcase their guns. The sticks were foraged in the Chicago area and are carved with ambiguous phrases that range from comedic to antagonistic, such as: “IM NOT INSECURE / YOURE INSECURE.” Or “Nobody Likes Oppression.” These works demonstrate Meredith’s interest in exposing the comfort in ideology even as it is dictated to us, and the subsequent contradictions between private, public, and corporate opinion. In addition to these sculptures, a walk-in closet within the gallery space houses a separate installation by Meredith comprised of vinyl house siding and mirrors. However, the vinyl house siding is positioned as a barrier, limiting visual accessibility. Meredith explores how the most banal circumstances and forms– here, kitschy carved sticks, a ubiquitous tree-obscured suburbia, and neutered house siding– actually communicate an easily irritated and defensive set of politics.
For Meredith as well as Mia+Máire, text in the work plays an important role in terms of prodding the viewer to consider their relationship to the aforementioned ideas of climate change as they relate to Mia+Máire’s work, and American traditions at the intersection of nationalism for Meredith. Text plays along with the material questions posed by the artists, seamlessly conjuring different subtleties depending on how language is deployed—carved, woven, or coded. The textual medium combined with their formal acumen creates a series of duplicitous edges.
Both Mia+Máire and Jesse Meredith’s works are interested in embodying relations rather than positions. How materials, ideology, and perspectives overlap is of greater interest than their individual elements. By focusing on the mediation of politics, they elucidate the problems with sociopolitical solidification—the messiness of getting stuck in one place. Put simply, the cost of complicity might be higher than the effort towards difference.
Jesse Meredith (b. 1987 New York) grew up splitting his time between rural Gilboa, New York and Brooklyn. He received a BFA in Photography from SUNY Purchase (2009) and an MFA in Photography from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2018). He is currently a FIELD/WORK artist in residence at the Chicago Artists Coalition. He has exhibited in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and Buenos Aires. He lives and works in Chicago.
Mia + Máire (based in New York and Chicago) are the collaborative twosome: Mia Ardito and Máire Witt O’Neill. Their ten-year collaboration has focused on the intersection of reality and television, and reality television. Mia + Máire create immersive performances, environments, objects and videos exploring the overlapping metanarratives within mediated reality.
Willy Smart, “Jesse Meredith and Mia + Máire, ‘Reckless Comfort’ at Extase,” Chicago Artist Writers, 2019
Whit Forrester, “Art Beyond Cubes: DIY Small Space Galleries in Chicago,” New Art Examiner 33, No. 3, 2019.
All photos courtesy the artists // credit: Jesse Meredith