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Clinton Fein's Annoy.com Exhibition: Janaury 2002

Clinton Fein's

Opening Reception: January 3, 2002

5.30pm - 7.30pm

Exhibition continues through January 2002

Toomey Tourell Gallery
49 Geary Street
San Francisco, CA 94108

(415) 989-6444

"Greeting visitors with a rapid-fire barrage of words and images--profanity and politicians, ethnic slurs and national symbols, moral concepts and naked body parts--and a bald statement of its intention 'to annoy, to disturb, or bother,' Annoy.com is a piece of political performance art in the guise of a punk assault."
Sandra Stewart, The Net Magazine

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
by Clinton Fein
Thursday, November 8, 2001

Media Response to annoy.com

Media Response to Supreme Court Ruling

Photos of the Exhibition


Osama bin Laden. 2001 Type C Print. 36" x 48"
Ms. Liberty. 2001 Type C Print. 36" x 48"
Rudolph Giuliani. 2001 Type C Print. 36" x 48"
Dick Cheney. 2001 Type C Print. 36" x 48"
George Washington. 2001 Type C Print. 36" x 48"
George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. 2001 Type C Print. 72" x 48"
Mickey Mouse. 2001 Type C Print. 36" x 48"
Adolf Hitler. 2001 Type C Print. 36" x 48"
Carlo Giuliani. 2001 Type C Print. 36" x 48"
John Paul II. 2001 Type C Print. 36" x 48"
Uncle Sam. 2001 Type C Print. 36" x 48"
Timothy McVeigh. 2001 Type C Print. 36" x 48"
JonBenet Ramsey. 2001 Type C Print. 36" x 48"


Contemporary art gets no more incendiary than the C-prints on political and social topics...
Kenneth Baker, San Francisco Chronicle

...downright obnoxious...

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 San Francisco Examiner

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.
The Atlantic Monthly


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