Jon Kessler: The Palace at 4 A.M.

Oct 30, 2005–Feb 6, 2006


P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center presents The Palace at 4 A.M., a new site-specific installation by New York-based artist Jon Kessler. Created for P.S.1, this exhibition vastly expands upon a recent suite of works by the artist entitled Global Village Idiot, which opened to critical acclaim in the spring of 2004. The installation at P.S.1 is the largest and most complex Kessler has ever completed, and is his first solo museum appearance in New York. The Palace at 4 A.M. is on view from October 30, 2005 through February 6, 2006.

Referencing issues relevant to contemporary society including politics, war, advertising, propaganda, and surveillance, Kessler's work thrusts the viewer directly into a complex visual experience. Though sources of inspiration and information are varied and include kabuki, Apocalypse Now, and reality television such as The Swan, The Palace at 4 A.M. ultimately speaks to the history of image production and representations of warfare.

The exhibition explores our society's alienation from the real, demonstrated most recently by Over There, a new television drama chronicling the war in Iraq as it continues to rage. The intention is for the viewer to experience the piece as if she is putting her head inside a television that is in the process of being channel surfed. According to Kessler, "My aim is to create a kind of visual journalism of the past four years, where underneath this abundance of stimuli, what takes place is an investigation into how the images that occupy our realities and dreams are constructed and manipulated."

Based on the dual notion of deconstruction and reconstruction, this conflict and relationship is immediately apparent in The Palace at 4 A.M.'s intricate infrastructure. Based in one large gallery with adjoining exhibition spaces around the periphery, Kessler's work is comprised of a network of kinetic sculptures, each of which incorporate surveillance cameras acting in tandem with the sculptures' movements to create video imagery occurring in real time. In the center of the main gallery, or the central nerve bank, is what the artist coins a "termite mound" of imagery. Actions and images created live in peripheral areas (as well as in the main space itself) are simultaneously displayed on monitors and screens in the central nerve. This information is constantly assembled and reassembled, resulting in scenes that appear unfamiliar, disorienting, and sometimes dangerous.

All of the apparatuses used for The Palace at 4 A.M. are in plain view. Thus, the wires, gears, cameras, motors, etc. constitute the body of the work itself, creating yet another dual relationship. Though Kessler demystifies the physical structure, it also serves to further mystify his manipulations; viewers must trust themselves to ponder the power of each image despite that fact that everything is visible to the eye.

Since 1983, Jon Kessler has exhibited widely in galleries and museums through the United States, Europe, and Japan. A retrospective of his work, Jon Kessler's Asia, was mounted at the Kestnergesellshaft in Hannover, Germany, and traveled to Graz, Austria. His work has been collected by numerous institutions including The Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Walker Art Center, and both the Chicago and Los Angeles Museums of Contemporary Art. From 2000 to 2005 he served as Chair of the Visual Arts Division of Columbia University's School of the Arts. Kessler was born in 1957 in Yonkers, New York.

The Palace at 4 A.M. is curated by P.S.1 Director Alanna Heiss.



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