Art Dealer is the first video I saw by Ben Pederson. I saw it in 2007 when we were working as art handlers at a blue chip gallery in Manhattan. You wouldn’t believe the buffoonery and savagery perpetrated by people in a place like that. Myself included. We all have blood on our hands. Extreme amounts money and power exist at the end of a tightrope walk between oily deference and manic hostility. In the video, which begins with him waking from a dream, Pederson performs a barbed caricature of a deranged art dealer. It is a good representation of the stress common to people in the untenable position of being simultaneously an insider and an outsider, so close and yet so far from the nucleus of power, the real capital.
Before I knew Ben, when he was in middle school, he converted a room in the basement of his parent’s house into the Ultimate Chill Zone. He hung Christmas lights and installed other trappings of psychedelic juvenilia. He and his buddies would crowd in and chug Mtn. Dew and play Zelda or something. His parents even called it the Ultimate Chill Zone when they told him they didn’t want anybody smoking cigarettes down there. It was a weird little world of its own, but ultimately under the rule of a dominant power structure, his parents.
Pederson’s latest project is Sonnets from Sculpture Island, a video series that incorporates Pederson’s sonnets, sculptures, and performance. The project is unfolding with a new video posted each week on Carets and Sticks where Pederson is the current Blogger-in-Residence.
The first video in the series, Artist, opens on an installation of Pederson’s sculptures. A masked, hooded figure is engaged in a bizarre, vaguely occult ritual. The work involves dreams, as related to both sleep and inner vision, but it also involves the art world and the academy (because that’s where people care about sonnets). See Ruin from Sonnets from Sculpture Island below.
Pederson’s work is balanced on a point where different cultures and formal structures coexist. It suggests a kind of cultural pluralism between the inner and the outer, the individual and the collective, the mundane and the mystical.
A world view like that might be a model of sustainability, a way to generate power and light the Ultimate Chill Zone without being quite so complicit in the crimes of the dominant culture, like how the Delorean runs on trash, as opposed to plutonium, when Doc Brown shows up in it at the end of Back to the Future. Among the more sensitive souls, there is an only slightly paranoid tendency to interpret the aims of the prevailing media culture as enslaving the spirit and salting the earth.
A lot of ideology and marketing is offered up by mainstream institutions and self-serving pedagogues as a chopper-lift to safety from looming irrelevance. You can get a grip on the discourse or your trip ends right here. Such a tangle of information and ideas is transformed by Pederson into an expression of individualism. His work negates the dominance/control aspect of media receivership and asserts instead a symbiotic relationship. He creates a weird little world of his own with no regulations against cigarette smoking.
See more of Ben Pederson’s work here.