Making Strange

Link to Making Strange Catalogue

Situated somewhere in-between verb and noun, Making Strange serves as both a container and methodology for making the familiar strange and the strange familiar. Much of the work in this show uses lexicons of home, adolescence, and everyday technologies to pro­duce a kind of thrownness-a feeling akin to when one experiences the uncanny. In the exhibition, strange making may incorporate strat­egies of play and detournement.

The technique of detournement, refers to Guy Debord and the Situ­ationist lnternational's practice of rerouting or hijacking language and rituals of the everyday. Detournement or culture-jamming is the cre­ative technique that utilizes qualities of another work, particularly one related to popular culture, in a subversive way that may create an entirely new message in order to complicate or contradict the origi­nal.1 This technique can be recognized as a founding principal of remix culture. In Making Strange, viewers will encounter artists who utilize detournement to (de)re-familiarize and subvert cultural nor­mativity by remixing sounds, images, and the written word.

Within many of the works, detournement functions as a type of play. In Man, Play Games, Roger Caillois discusses play as an act of lib­eration and a liminal space apart from the mundane. It is within this same liminal space that allows for a certain kind of slippage to occur. Despite society 's characterization of play as unproductive and per­haps a hindrance to a productive world-order, Caillois argues that this characteristic is the very reason that play, in its uninstitutionalized form, is an important part of social life. Play therefore becomes a strategy to invoke this kind of slippage and challenges the fixed knowledge structures.

For Caillois, play is free and its results are uncertain; it occupies a space outside the trappings of the consumer/producer dialectic. To engage in play is to disengage, at least for a moment, with productivi­ty that might otherwise put us into an economic-Darwinistic state of competition with one another. Making Strange features artists who engage in play to produce their work or asks that you engage in play with interactive pieces to complete the work.
These methodologies, play and detournement, are grounded in Viktor Shklovsky's concept of defamiliarization, wherein through vari­ous creative techniques, familiar subjects are presented through a new lens that may introduce novel conceptions of the familiar and force individuals to recognize the artistic language at play. "Shklovsky had from the start ... fought for a notion of art that hinged on the need to push beyond established models, to make things strange so that we might see the world afresh in its cruelty and splendor."

Though the conceptual foundation of Making Strange is rooted in the past, it continues to inspire a useful framework and methodology for critiquing our present in regards to certain hegemonic paradigms, structures of normativity, and cultures of commodity. To make strange is to destabilize these existing formations in order to disturb what one considers normal, subvert the status quo, and unleash secret potentialities perhaps hidden underneath a sociocultural secu­rity blanket. Familiar subjects and objects may be rendered unrecog­nizable and unfamiliar ones may become recognizable. These (de)re-familiarized forms may compel the viewer to reconsider defini­tions of home, worldview, and ultimately provoke the audience to engage in new ways of thinking and being in the world.