Saturday, October 10, 2009
Evan Roth is a MD/DC based artist and activist interested in creating art via digital means through the exploration of popular culture and the media, ways to culture empowerment, and succeeding beyond media based laws for the purpose of transforming the dynamics between the everyday person of the public and the authority of the media and government affiliated organizations. He has been featured on numerous occasions in Sundance, various museums, and even on television.
"T.S.A. Communications" is a more performance/installation type piece that Roth has been undertaking and continuing throughout his world travels. It is based on simple 8.5" x 11" metal sheets that have messages cut into them, specifically designed to be put into his carry on luggage and sent through the X-Ray scanner of airport security, allowing the official to read the message. By doing this, Roth creates a clever way of transforming the normal airport security experience into a twisted situation, involving subtle but very meaningful dialogue between the airport patron and the security official. Examples of such messages are, "NOTHING TO SEE HERE", and, "I AM THE FRONTLINE OF DEFENSE, DRAWING ON MY IMAGINATION TO CREATIVELY PROTECT AMERICA FROM HARM". The focus here is on switching the role of the airport patron, from a very passive, no name person, floating through among the masses, to a quite active participant in the interaction between the person and security.
I think this is quite a bold thing to do as an artist especially in today's post-9/11 society, where airport securities are to be taken as seriously as possible. But Roth is not in any way a threatening antagonist who might be trying to push the boundaries between people and security in a dangerous manner. This is what I enjoy about this work. The messages are subtle, but at the same time scream loudly. The technical aspects are very basic: inscriptions on small metal sheets designed to be picked up by security X-Rays. I think Roth successfully pushes the boundaries between people and security, but only enough to make you question what it means to have a hierarchy of roles, the role of a higher, authoritative position such as a security official in contrast with the passive anonymous person of the public who must adhere to certain rules as set by the higher role. It certainly brings out the idea of freedom of speech, and how far this can be pushed and fought for in such a delicate situation. I think the ramifications of this artist's work could be very negative, leading to trouble with not just airport security but the law, although he is obviously very aware and accepting of such possible consequences. He is an activist artist, after all.