Philip Toledano has that English knack for seeing and documenting the quirks that lie at the heart of “America,” the ironies and hypocrisies behind the ideals and myths that the United States is built on. He works in various media to produce poignant reflections of a country that appears to have deep-seated confidence issues. At first I was only going to post his haunting portraits of plastic surgery victims he produced for his book A New Kind of Beauty, but then I explored some of his other collections and found them hilarious and scary at the same time. The United States of Entertainment takes us to the Machine Gun Festival in Kentucky and the giant bust of George Bush Sr. in South Dakota. America The Gift Shop gives us souvenirs of the disgusting foreign policy of The Free World. It would be awesome to see a kids birthday party with an inflatable Guantanamo Bay bouncy prison cell in the front yard. Check out his work and how he describes it below…
A New Kind of Beauty
I’m interested in what we define as beauty, when we choose to create it ourselves.
Beauty has always been a currency, and now that we finally have the technological means to mint our own, what choices do we make?
Is beauty informed by contemporary culture? By history? Or is it defined by the surgeon’s hand? Can we identify physical trends that vary from decade to decade, or is beauty timeless?
When we re-make ourselves, are we revealing our true character, or are we stripping away our very identity?
Perhaps we are creating a new kind of beauty. An amalgam of surgery, art, and popular culture? And if so, are the results the vanguard of human induced evolution?
The United States of Entertainment
I’ve always felt that the very soul of a country is reflected in the way in which it entertains itself.
So how does America amuse itself? And what does it say about the very nature of the American soul?
Spectacle. Destruction. Guns. Religion. And of course, scale, giant scale. All of it refracted through the prism of commerce.
America The Gift Shop
AMERICA THE GIFT SHOP is an installation project that reflects the foreign policy of the Bush/Cheney years through the fun-house mirror of American commerce.
My palette is the vernacular of retail tourism. Bobble head figurines. A snow globe. A cookie jar. Postcards. T-shirts, neon signs, and chocolate bars. These are all things that make up our daily existence. They have a familiar intimacy. And that’s why they make perfect vehicles to shock, disturb, and remind. Once the sugar coating of the ordinary dissolves, we are left with the grim truth about where America has been as a nation.
At the end of a trip, we buy a souvenir to remind ourselves of the experience. What do we have to remind us of the events of the Bush/Cheney regime? And who will be held accountable for what has unfolded?. How can America look to the future, when the world only sees it in the context of the immediate past?
Fingers must be pointed, and pointed publicly. Then, and only then, when the world sees America acting as they tell the world to act, will its honor be restored.