Critics’ Picks

I'm Not Mad at You, I'm Mad at the Dirt, 2004.

I'm Not Mad at You, I'm Mad at the Dirt, 2004.

New York

Scott Hug and Michael Magnan

John Connelly Presents
625 West 27th Street
June 29–August 6, 2004

Scott Hug and Michael Magnan's “Boys Gone Wild”—which features a sand-covered floor, a blaring boom box, and walls teeming with drawings and collages—at first looks about as serious-minded as MTV Beach House. But this is the season of political reengagement, as artists of all stripes wage war against the Bush administration and its Middle East adventures. While George W & Co. aren’t singled out in the press release or the mass-media photo-montages, it’s difficult to miss the intent of a handpainted “God Bless America” pizza box sitting on a stack of New York Posts headlined “Liberty for Iraq.” Ditto the musical mix, which includes Orbital’s “Desert Storm,” the Cure’s “Killing an Arab,” and, of course, Duran Duran’s “Wild Boys.” Similarly pointed are a collage titled Baghdad Boogie Woogie, 2004, and the one-minute-twenty-second video Join the Resistance, 2004, with footage cribbed from Apocalypse Now, Black Hawk Down, and the US Army’s own combat footage of Iraq. Using military aggression as an aesthetic model, Hug and Magnan ignore traditional questions of whether politics make good art. Instead, they follow in the enraged footsteps of Tim Robbins (Embedded) and Michael Moore, creating a Gesamtkunstwerk that is rough around the edges but totally committed.