Anonymity and Power: Marcus Jansen at PERMM

Anonymity and Power: Marcus Jansen at PERMM

Underneath a swelling torrent of social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, it would seem that we’ve forgotten the value of anonymity.  In an attempt to fill our 500+ acquaintances in on the gritty and incredibly interesting details of our daily lives, we willingly provide our precise geographic coordinates when trying out a new restaurant and share faux-polaroid glamour shots of questionable artistic merit.  We’ve convinced ourselves that power lies in celebrity, when in fact it lies with a total lack thereof.  The anonymous figure gets to say and do just as he pleases and, so long as he has no name and no distinctive characteristics, avoids any potential backlash with ease.

Anonymity and its consequences, both good and bad, are at the forefront of Anonymous, an exhibit that opened up just last Friday at the Perm Museum of Contemporary Art (PERMM) in Perm, Russia.  Florida artist Marcus Jansen, who is considered by many to be the 21st century’s response to artists like Jackson Pollock and Robert Rauschenberg, will be representing the United States with a series of paintings called “Faceless.”

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The “Faceless” paintings all depict men in suits and ties, with faces blotted out and smeared to varying degrees, and in one instance removed entirely to reveal the iconic Hollywood sign on the horizon.  Some appear to explode violently, while others are obliterated with the equivalent of a massive thumbprint, but two things remain the same throughout the series: these are all men of power, and we have no idea who they are.  Their power lies partially in their dress, but also in their lack of discernible identity.  Like the British Bankers’ Association and its anonymous committee members, who make major decisions regarding the global economy, their benevolence is much appreciated while it lasts.  But once the proverbial shit hits the fan, they can flee unscathed and unnamed while we stand by pointing fingers in the general direction of the scandal.

In addition to Jansen, 33 other artists from Russia and neighboring areas are represented by over 100 pieces of art.  Among those showing in the exhibition are Oleg Tselkov, Grisha Bruskin, Sergei Shutov, Erbol Meldibekov Richard Vasco, Michal Rovner, and D. Bratza.  Artist Lusine Dzhanyan reenacts in miniature Pussy Riot’s now infamous 2012 performance at Moscow’s Russian Orthodox Church, and photographer Katerina Smirnova creates incognito portraits of strangers as a commentary on the false personae we create when we engage in social networking activities.

More of Marcus Jansen’s work can be found on his website, www.marcusjansen.com.  For more information on PERMM and its upcoming exhibits, visit permm.ru (you’ll need to translate if you don’t read Russian!).  Drop us a line if you get a chance to see the exhibit — we’d love to hear your thoughts!

Lauren Hostetter is a 20-something Northern California native and a delinquent artist. She spends most of her time in galleries, loves to travel, and has a soft spot for contemporary Korean art. She thoroughly enjoys beer and pretzels, but could do without wine. Lauren received her BA in Studio Art and Japanese from the University of Southern California in 2010, and is currently avoiding graduate school in favor of life experience.