Through a pictorial and object-based work loaded with cultural references, the artist combines politics, religion and popular culture in a symbolic cocktail full of irony, social criticism and suspicion for the established tradition.
“The Big Brother” is the result of a deconstructive exercise in which the structures of power that subjugate the individual and perpetuate the traditional system are revealed and questioned. At the beginning of the XX century these mechanisms were exerted through the morality, religion and power of an omnipresent God; in the contemporary world capitalism and its seductive and facilitating codes are the new oppressors. In both, there is a “Big Brother” who, as in George Orwell’s novel, 1984, is omnipresent although no one sees him, and very efficient in maintaining and safeguarding the establishment.
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What Johnson reveals in his exhibit is the radical paradigm shift over the past two centuries. “…Thinking also of the digital revolution, Johnson proposes an end to the disciplined subjects through religious and war stories, executed for their unconditionality to the system and the reluctant, immolated for their causes. This is how today power is not posed from a personification, not even from an institution, but from the very heart of advanced capitalism, hidden or obvious, appears to us as a kind and seductive message; it is a facilitator that allows access to knowledge and well-being. We don’t need to be controlled because we evolve to self-control”, explains Arturo Duclós, curator of the exhibit.
Within this framework, the exhibition includes the series “El equipaje del colonizador” (The Colonizer’s Luggage), four folding altarpieces built by the artist with great dedication and craft and illustrated on the basis of the book Catéchisme en Images, a French text composed of 70 engravings with Catholic religious images, each with an explanation and review on the reverse side of the page, of an eminently doctrinaire nature. The pictorial and traditional is contrasted with objects of pop culture, which the artist collected meticulously throughout the world via the Internet. “They are carefully chosen goods, without intervention that sometimes take months to reach my power. I placed them strategically in my altarpieces to represent the contemporary world and the neoliberal promise of a splendorous world thanks to power and money. In the end, it’s the other side of the same coin because, like morality and religion, a Big Brother controls us in favor of the system and its continuity”, Johnson says.
In addition to the altarpieces, the artist also presents different series of paintings that deepens his critique. In “El dueño del foso” (The owner of the ditch), he uses the contingency to develop subjugated characters, such as the children abused by the power of the church or anti-systemic like Nicolasa Quintremán Calpán 1939-2013, recognized for her tenacious fight against the build of the Ralco hydroelectric power plant. In the series “Las víctimas olvidadas” (The forgotten victims), he draws inspiration from some chapters of history such as the Cold War and the coup d’ état in Chile to establish crossed narratives with the victims of Nazism and the CIA, presenting these victims through the Atlas of Anatomy of Pernkopf, with beautiful and didactic illustrations that are still used to teach. Eduard Pernkopf was director of the Institute of Anatomy at the University of Vienna and a member of the German Nazi party. He recruited artists to illustrate his dissections of bodies executed in the death camps, a task that took more than twenty years to complete. In the painted pages of this sinister atlas, Johnson added allusive stamps and relevant details linking the victims to the cruelty of power.