Clinton Fein's Annoy.com Exhibition: Janaury 2002
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd called it obscene and illegal, corporate trademark attorneys bristle over it, and renowned artist Lynda Benglis has dubbed it "Press Art." In April 1999, the United States Supreme Court weighed in, issuing an affirmation that upheld the basic premise of annoy.com: indecent communications intended to annoy are protected by the First Amendment of America's constitution. Clinton Fein insists that the fundamental right to annoy, even if indecently, is one of the most effective tools we have to counter apathy and challenge complacency, and annoy.com proved the ultimate test.
Fein's annoy.com is a visceral response; nothing more than an in-your-face, bitterly ironic and unapologetically wry interpretation of the events, politicians, consumer brands and media onslaught that are packaged to relentlessly permeate our consciousness and intoxicate our senses.
Originally spawned in a digital realm at the dawn of Internet commercialization, annoy.com brazenly trashed the distinction between content and conduct by challenging the constitutionality of an insidious provision of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 that criminalized any "indecent" computer communications intended to "annoy" another person. The provision in question made criminal, constitutionally protected communications among adults, including public officials.
In 1997, the launch of annoy.com mocked the oppressive attempts to limit electronic expression by linking provocative imagery to a suite of proprietary web tools designed to inspire and facilitate a dialogue that continues to test the limits and definitions of "decency" and "annoyance" today. With freedom of expression in one of the most exciting and promising mediums since the turn of the century at stake, Clinton Fein challenged Bill Clinton and his administration that ratified the Communications Decency Act by filing a lawsuit against Attorney General Janet Reno, which would wind itself all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
The images in this exhibition are the direct manifestation of that challenge, extracted from their interactive context, adjusted and translated into a static medium using a Color Cruse Camera process to create archival quality, state-of-the art color photographic Type C Prints. The images selected for the exhibition represent a snapshot of the events, people and brands that are rooted in annoy.com's already formidable history.
Post Traumatic Press Syndrome
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Osama bin Laden. 2001 Type C Print. 36" x 48"
Contemporary art gets no more incendiary than the C-prints on political and social topics...
He's made Mickey Mouse a homosexual martyr, strapped Dick Cheney to General Electric's electric chair, slapped the pope onto a perforated condom wrapper and transformed Lady Liberty into a rifle-wielding madwoman.
The site is worthy of exploration for its irreverent use of interactivity, and there are also other kinds of provocative material here -- in particular, cogent essays on media and social issues that are as edgy as anything on the Internet.
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