Evaluating Aesthetic Investments: A Conversation with Amalia Ulman and Jake Matatyaou
The work of artist Amalia Ulman operates within the triangle of commerce, leisure, and popular culture, exposing the commodification of everyday life. The personas, artifacts, and environments Ulman creates confuse one’s sense of reality and invite us to take a closer look at the promiscuous power of images as they acquire the phantasmagoric capacity to circulate on their own.
In light of our increasing dependence on social media, Ulman and Matatyaou will discuss selections from her work and consider the questions of how we distinguish between images in terms of values – whether they be monetary, aesthetic, or speculative – and how these values, in turn, shape our social, ethical, and political values.
Jake Matatyaou is a designer and educator based in Los Angeles, California. Motivated by exchanges between aesthetics and politics, his work addresses questions of material and immaterial modes of cultural production and reception. Matatyaou received a B.A. in Economics and Political Science from UCLA in 2001, a Ph.D. from the Department of Political Science at Northwestern University in 2008, and an M.Arch from Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation in 2012. He has worked in the offices of Leong Leong Architects, Bernard Tschumi Architects, and is a founding partner of the design practice JuneJuly. He liberal arts coordinator and design faculty at SCI-Arc.
Through a diverse mix of painting, sculpture, installations, smart phone apps, actions, and lectures, Amalia Ulman explores the links between consumerism and identity, class, gender, and taste. She is especially interested in a “bland” or “middlebrow” aesthetic, characterized by greeting cards, domestic items and ornamentation, plastic surgery, clothing, and other products that both shape notions and serve as the trappings of luxury, beauty, and the ideal lifestyle. In a sweeping installation titled Babyfootprints Crowsfeet (2014), Ulman commented on the idealization of motherhood and femininity, fatherhood and masculinity, and parent-child relationships by mashing up kitschy products and sentiments with darker texts and images about sex, anxiety, and inequality.