Article originally appeared on Whitehot Magazine
Trump—Luxury—Robots: Jennifer and Kevin McCoy at Postmasters Gallery
Jennifer and Kevin McCoy
Oct 22nd – Nov 26th, 2016
By DEBBI KENOTE, NOV. 2016
As millions of voters turned out on Tuesday to cast their vote in the unprecedented 2016 presidential election—between front running candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton—the solo show Broker by collaborative duo Jennifer and Kevin McCoy at Postmasters Gallery became especially poignant. The astonishing election results, a victory from Donald Trump that even the media was unable to predict, sparked protest across the nation. The work of the McCoys at Postmasters could not have been more timely, in its thoughtful depiction of the relationship between manipulation and success.
The centerpiece of the exhibition is a 28-minute video titled Broker that was filmed in the seventy-seventh floor apartment of one of the many Trump Towers in New York City. The video, featuring actress Gillian Chadsey with sounds composed by Lori Scacco, places the work at the intersection of sound art, performance, and luxurious storytelling. In elegant fashion the McCoys bring together a scripted narrative that is both hauntingly realistic and unquestionably ridiculous.
Throughout the film, the camera follows a real estate broker (Gillian Chadsey) as she spends a day moving around the apartment she is showing to a client, a role that the viewer assumes as they engage with the work. Throughout this process Lori Scacco’s collaged sound work is present—overlaying messages from online pop-psychology marketing sites. Scacco’s composition elicits a trance-inducing, futurist sound that pairs seamlessly with the clean, “high-design” atmosphere of the apartment for sale. As the broker’s perfect smile moves robotically towards and away from the camera, psychological marketing advice is chanted like a mantra: “Influencing others isn’t luck or magic — it’s a science, there are proven ways to help make you more successful, as a marketer or politician.”
The hypnotic music functions as a technological lullaby, gently rocking the viewer to sleep with tips and tricks to success, such as: “you say yes to those who are attractive” and “give the appearance of authority, even if the authority is illegitimate.” The overall message in the ads is clear, success is a science, and manipulation acts as a spoonfull of sugar. The film makes further apparent the desired illusion of perfection as the broker is seen up close cleaning a fake orchid with a q-tip.
The narrative takes a turn as the broker slowly becomes overwhelmed in the space she is showing. The “exquisite” and “regal” apartment atmosphere begins to crumble as she is confronted with the mysterious appearance of paintings sprawled around the apartment, hidden in closets and leaning against disheveled bedding. The clear psychological break she suffers is aided by choppy edits and the occasionally skipping and repeating of the video — like a broken record. The perfection previously presented—luxury, homogeneity, and futuristic speech is interrupted by the insertion of art, aggressive mark making, and what could be interpreted as the intrusion of humanity’s inherent messiness. The eventual buckling of knees and mechanical collapse of the main character humorously ends the scene. The last line heard before the collapse —“close all the doors and information is blocked, open all the doors, let it wash over you” —highlights a recurring motif of inner and outer, not-unlike the division of the select few who can afford the apartment’s luxury Trump lifestyle and, well, everyone else.
Broker does not end here, however, and perhaps a deeper message surfaces as we watch the main character rise again and viciously tear off her white blazer and fake eye-lashes, then re-dress herself and begin cleaning the apartment. The new, obsessive mood is amplified as she licks a ring left over from a water glass off of a coffee table, restoring the space once again to meticulous perfection.
Overall, the video and other elements of the exhibition—a scaled down model of the apartment and sculptural castings in glass of after-party clutter—speak to an accelerating high-end lifestyle. The recurring presentation of strategies to sell the floor plan bring the work to both a comical and disturbing place. We are left to mull over the science of influence and—intended or not—the power these tactics hold, whether to sell a luxury floor plan or a presidential victory. WM