James Ostrer explores race, greed and the tribal elite through forthcoming show at Gazelli Art House Johnny Just Came. This installation, Johnny Just Came is a compendium of provocative art-works, encompassing performance, photography, film, multimedia installations and sculpture, all triggered by his journey for the first time to the continent of Africa.
In 2016 world-renowned curator Azu Nwagbogu invited James to show his 2014 Wotsit All About series in Lagos, Nigeria. Naturally, Nwagbogu expected Ostrer to come along with his fetishised junk food portraits that had warned the west of over-consumption. Ostrer’s reaction in his own words was, “instant excitement for an ambition I never knew I had. However, this quickly turned into nervousness and suspicion”. He states, “I experienced perfectly and more clearly than ever before how the pervasive impact of racial cultural conditioning towards otherness affects us in terms of human divide through fear.” Even while aboard the plane to West Africa, the flight attendant amplified this sense of worry, warning him of the dangers of Lagos, explaining that the airline staff only travelled under armed guard.
The greed-laden pursuit of the ultra-extreme wealthy is one that perpetuates a gross insensitivity to the feelings and actual needs of others. Ostrer argues that you cannot increase your disproportionate ownership of global resources without becoming extremely emotionally detached.The show, according to Ostrer, isn’t just simply a reflection of his own behaviour but ultimately about the consequence of the emotional dysfunction of the tribal elite.
Even though it is increasingly believed that we are getting a fairer balance of representation within society – and now even a multicultural member of the royal family – Ostrer argues, “The control is being synthesised into an even more perfect subordination of the masses than ever before with digital technology.” Ostrer further explains, “The reality is it’s not just white men retaining the power but it’s actually the even more emotionally disconnected white men of Silicon Valley who are absorbing all the global top-line power.”
Throughout the show Ostrer collages and layers both sculptural and photographic elements together to create disrupted and often disturbing images. Within the vast footwear installation is his most recent photographic series, Currentsee. For the central protagonist he transforms himself into a dominant tribal leader, a powerful chieftain of all other subjects. Meanwhile, women are tied-up and restricted in movement, their natural bodies obscured by consumerist debris. For the first time, Ostrer will also present a trio of sculptures – synthesising the topics of gluttony and excess from his two previous shows, Wotsit All About and Ego Systems – with the current exhibtion.
Ostrer will also preview his unsettling short film Snuffling for love Truffles. This moving image work takes the form of self-portrait where Ostrer acts out the role of Piggy, the absolute visual extremity of his own self-loathing and over-consumption. Filmed as a metaphor for self-annihilation, the film shows the piggy endlessly wanting more – and whether it’s about more pizza, chocolate, Rolex watches or wealth – Ostrer is certain that it leads to a cul-de-sac of emotional detachment and a lack of care for others. He says, “Control of assets now is through data and the corporations are trying to make us more like the piggy in the video. Because if we’re controlled and addicted to what the elite are selling us, we won’t challenge them and the pathways of their power will be greater protected.”
WHAT? Johnny Just Came an exhibition by James Ostrer, curated by Azu Nwagbogu
WHERE? Gazelli Art House, 39 Dover Street, London W1S 4NN
WHEN? From June o7th till July 16th