New York

TODT

Kent Fine Art

The four anonymous collaborators who comprise TODT create hauntingly familiar yet unusual objects and installations in a range of media and styles. Here, they unleashed more of their personal nightmares in assemblages and dioramas that overtook the innocuous debris of civilization with the contagious paranoia of contemporary society. For all that this art is fueled by a claustrophobic private hell, the overall vision is sociologically and politically universal. TODT is ultimately effective in its communication of fear because its madness is common to society on the whole—the madness of a species intent on self-annihilation.

TODT’s art touches upon the contemporary issues and futuristic fantasies purveyed by the popular media, but with a subtle perversity that rescues its images and ideas from triteness. What was in fact creepiest of all in this installation was that society’s evils were never made explicit, but, rather, peered out from behind the mask of the pleasantly mundane. TODT borrows from earlier conservative models of public art as well as from contemporary advertising techniques and esthetics, developing these capitalist tools into eerie environments that reflect a myriad of public and semipublic spaces, including commercial window displays, civic squares, factories, home interiors, offices, and many other archetypes of the mundane.

TODT touches upon a dense network of fear in languages both inaccessible and universal, and in its installations it becomes difficult to pinpoint exactly which social concerns are being addressed. As the group plays havoc with the signals of cultural progress, specifically with our relation to technology the development of high consumerism, and our instinct for social order, it undermines our brainwashing by the media by feeding the distrust inherent in our sense of the ebbing of our individuality and of our control of our own lives. The gallery environment activated this paranoia on a number of different fronts, one of which was the fear of the machine, whereby technology overcomes the organic and displaces man. a concern evident in the hostility of the group’s mammoth pseudoscientific machines. Another general fear dealt with by the group was that of governmental authority expressed in the five billboards TODT put up around New York City for the duration of this show These billboards adopted the look and politics of fascist propaganda, redeploying it within the context of a nationalism that is wholly American.

There remains something eminently recognizable and terrifying about a genre such as TODT’s. The billboards and other allusions to contemporary advertising drew attention to our growing resentment toward manipulation by the media. Even the metal traffic railings (which by design prohibited unwanted entrance to certain areas) installed around the gallery could not help but rub one the wrong way. The effect of TODT’s art is not only to elicit fear, but also to draw out the naturally rebellious instincts of its audience.

Carlo McCormick