In her work, Bunny Rogers threads together uncanny representations of cultural icons, revealing something intimate about herself in the process. At the same time, she exposes societal norms and cultural memory for what they are: collective and constructed.
For the Statements section of Art Basel 2015, Rogers has brought together a series of objects relating to mourning. Her installation is something of an homage to the character Michael Scofield, as played by Wentworth Miller, from the TV series “Prison Break” (2005–2009). Rogers explains that, while watching the show, she developed a strong connection with Michael. When his character died just before the show ended, she became fascinated with the way that she registered his loss, that her deep care for him had peaked, and that she was left with a perpetual sense of emotional and physical detachment, which in fact always existed and always will exist. Though she experienced all this in connection to a TV character, she sees these as facts fundamental to every relationship.
The installation itself includes five wall-mounted pieces of black slate, a material reminiscent of tombstones (as well as the cold, stone walls of a prison), which have been carved with a combination of pictorial motifs and text. One text, a poem called “Stone Is Not Stone” (1957) by American author Carson McCullers represents a territory and tone similar to Rogers’s recent book “Cunny Poem Vol. 1” (2014). Another text, much shorter, derives from an amateur pattern featured on a site for needlepoint: “When someone leaves, it’s because someone else is about to arrive” (the quote is originally from Paulo Coelo’s “The Zahir”). Here too, Rogers connects the quite personal trauma of loss––the death of someone close––with a culture of production and consumption, a communal experience.
The images on the pieces of slate derive mainly from the world of Neopets, a virtual pet website complete with virtual currency that was popular among pre-teens in the early 2000s. Rogers is interested in the way that Neopets (or similar sites) can be all-consuming for users, and how users can identify with specific characters (like she did herself). She sees the Internet as having a complicated relationship to concepts such as fantasy and reality: People’s relationships, activities, and subjectivities online are affected by those offline (“in the real world”), and vice versa.
Rogers’ installation for Art Basel Statements 2015 also includes two custom-made chairs. In Rogers’ work, chairs are a recurring motif filled with symbolism, and she designed these two so that they slope forward dramatically, almost in a cartoonish way, as if pantomiming depression. The chairs, like visual stand-ins for those mourned and those who mourn, are slate grey in color. Thus, their slatted backs make a visual pun on prison bars, another connection to Michael and “Prison Break.”
Through the work’s grey palette, a couple of subtle allusions to the TV show “Prison Break,” and the fair booth’s architectural features––a concrete floor, no windows––Rogers’ installation paints a somber picture. As in her previous solo exhibition “Columbine Library” at Société in Berlin (2014), Rogers’ installation sets up a kind of purgatory. In this case, it is a situation where viewers are confronted with concerns such as death, mourning, trauma, and profound interpersonal relations––both in the highly personal case of Rogers herself, and in terms of all of our identification with icons from mainstream culture.