Apr 3rd 2010

I’m OK You’re OK: The Art of Self-Improvement

@ Concertina Gallery

2351 N Milwaukee Ave, 2nd floor, Chicago, IL 60647

Opening Saturday, April 3rd, from 7PM - 10PM

On view through Sunday, April 18th

A group exhibition of six artists who explore appropriations of popular self-help and healing techniques. Neither entirely mocking new age and self-help trends nor blindly subscribing to their alluring promises, each artist approaches their subject in an exploratory manner.

Gregg Louis‘s Home Made Self Help series offers simple solutions to complex problems. Louis was inspired to create this series after stumbling upon letters by different psychic mediums offering solutions to debt and unhappiness. By reconstructing age-old wisdoms in digitally fabricated book jackets, Louis investigates how self-help formulas—the language they use, the promises they make, and the type of audience they attract—contribute to the economics of healing.

Habby Osk, a film and performance artist originally from Iceland, strenuously, and at times painfully, portrays the struggles of maintaining a happy face in her endurance video GREAT. Her non-stop grin at the camera slowly becomes a grimace as her face contorts as she attempts to hold a smile for 70 minutes, emphasizing the complicated relationship between criticality and sincerity that exists throughout the exhibition. Jill Pangallo, a persona-based film, installation and performance artist creates an earnest but fumbling character in the creative healer Natia. Natia states: “I would like to lead you into the presence of your own healing. Join me in building a river of hope where all your fears are washed away. Dance with me as you find meaning in a confused world.” Natia has the best of intentions, but one can’t help but feel underwhelmed by the futility of her actions.

Chicago-based multimedia artist Jacob C. Hammes has been practicing as a hypnotist for a number of years. His audio installation records a session with a subject suffering from writer’s block, who describes a fictional meeting between Sigmund Freud, Ana Mendieta, and Jack London while under hypnosis. Jaimie Henthorn and Faith La Rocque’s collaborative works focus on themes of ritual, health, belief, and commodity. In the seemingly spare installation Massage Portal, the gallery visitor is invited to lie on a portable massage bed and, by peering into the face-rest, experience an otherworldly view.

In this exhibition the art of self-improvement takes a multitude of forms, reminding us of the struggles and triumphs, nonsense and breakthroughs that constitute psychic and physical growth.

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