USA / Duration 4m 24s / 2012
The user of social media partakes in a silent simultaneous conversation between voyeur and exhibitionist. The “profile” a loose simulacrum of the self as a by-product of accumulated facts and disjointed connections, serves as an entry into a world of perceived connection. But the collective web does nothing to ameliorate our loneliness, and functions as little more than a sterile echo chamber where we know more and tell more, but care less.
Coalfather Industries represents a shared vision between artists Kara Jansson and Craig Newsom. The character of The Coalfather–developed during an online chat–infuses and informs their collaboration. While the work of Coalfather Industries is, at least in part, a kind of commentary on the contemporary experience, it is also a direct result of that same contemporary experience. Since Jansson and Newsom live in two different parts of the United States, all collaboration takes place over the internet and the phone. These processes necessarily frame the work within the technological language of software and devices. In effect, communication is the work and the viewable artifacts of that communication are merely a by-product.
The viewable artifacts of this communication take the form of video, still images and narrative dialogue. A recurring theme is the pervasive dual sensation of confusion and despair that accompany the most banal and seemingly pointless aspects of everyday life. Mobile and low-end devices are used to capture brief yet ordinary moments for repurposing into new contexts. The narration is the product of text to voice software readings of online chats between Jansson and Newsom.
We live in a world where an animatronic Abraham Lincoln, a ferris wheel, assorted assault weapons and fresh fudge exist under the same megastore roof. With Coalfather Industries, Jansson and Newsom juxtapose the mundane aspects of everyday life, removing them from their original context to highlight their absurdity. Coalfather is a social critique of waste, of blind consumerism, patriotism, the guzzling of gas, factory farmed meat, and 99 cent products made in Chinese sweat shops and sold at big box stores.