Patty Chang & David Kelley
Spiritual Myopia, 2016, HD digital video. 15min
Spiritual Myopia deals with the invisible labor and desire of the residents of the oil industry boom towns of Fort McMurray in the Canadian Tar Sands and the refining town of Port Arthur Texas. The two cities are terminal nodes of the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline which would span the United States. Fort McMurray is the third largest oil deposit in the world. Its rapid pace of growth has meant a dearth of housing for its migrant workers. Port Arthur boasts the world’s largest concentration of oil refineries and its town center has nearly disintegrated from economic decline. These twin cities are related spatially as nodes in the same energy infrastructure, and temporally in their different stages of a boom or bust economy. Borrowing its title from Alfred Stieglitz’s photo Spiritual America, Spiritual Myopia speaks to the nearsightedness innate to hypercapitalism.
Filmed almost completely at night in the winter of 2016 the video uses bursts of strobe light to illuminate its scenes. It juxtaposes tracking shots of workers’ housing, strip malls, shuttered businesses, and industrial landscapes. The resulting incomplete illuminations of infrastructure, labor, and domesticity present an abstracted present tense of life in these past and present oil boomtowns. The fragmentation is further exacerbated by the visual element of glitch and sonic collision of noise and silence. In an opening night scene the camera rolls past carpenters building houses in subarctic temperatures. With each flash of strobe the camera’s digital sensor repeatedly fails to produce a whole picture; the images of houses are obscured by black lines and darkness. Near the end of the video a silhouetted figure walks away from the camera into gulf marsh grasses flashing the path ahead while obliterating her own image.
Patty Chang is an artist working in performance, video, writing, and installation. Her work has a capacity to explore complex subjects nearly simultaneously, as does life. Born in 1972 in San Leandro, California, Chang received her BA from the University of California, San Diego, in 1994. Her work has been exhibited nationwide and internationally at such institutions as the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; New Museum, New York; BAK, Basis voor actuele Kunst, Utrecht, the Netherlands; the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Fri Art Centre d’Art de Freibourg, Fribourg, Switzerland; Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester, England; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the M+ Museum, Hong Kong; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Moderna Museet, Stockholm. Her work received a 2003 award from the Rockefeller Foundation and a 2012 Creative Capital award. In 2008, she was a finalist for the Hugo Boss Prize and a Guna S. Mundheim Fellow in the Visual Arts at the American Academy in Berlin. In 2014, Chang was a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow. Her acclaimed exhibition “Patty Chang: The Wandering Lake 2009-2017” will travel to the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles in 2019. She lives and works in Los Angeles.
David Kelley’s work is a hybrid of experimental documentary and ethnographic practices that make use of imaginary, choreographic and performative strategies. His work has been shown in galleries throughout the world. Recent exhibitions include: Arrow Factory, Beijing; Museum of Modern Art, New York; White Box, Portland Oregon; and Commonwealth and Council in Los Angeles. Other recent exhibitions include The Bank, Shanghai; New Art Center; the de Cordova Biennial, Boston; BAK, Basis voor actuele Kunst, Utrecht, the Netherlands; MAAP space, Brisbane Australia, and the Jim Thompson Art Center in Bangkok. Kelley received a Master of Fine Art from University of California, Irvine, and was a 2010 -11 resident at the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program. He is currently based in Los Angeles, California and is an Associate Professor of the Practice of Fine Arts at the University of Southern California.