Amalia Ulman is presenting nine drawings of her ongoing series Monday Cartoons for her first show at Deborah Schamoni as well as new cartoons of Bob the Pigeon, which will be published in her forthcoming book, ‘A Job is a Job is a Job’.
Drawing became an integral part of Ulman’s practice in 2015, at the beginning of the US presidential election cycle, as one of the elements of her performance Privilege (2015-16) alongside photographs and videos. She taught herself to draw in order to satirize the single-panel (or ‘gag’) broadsheet cartoons of “failing” print outlets and cites the New Yorker’s Charles Barsotti as an important influence, as well as the Kastner and Partners ‘Red Bull Gives You Wings’ animations that comprise their twenty five year old energy drink campaign strategy.
Her drawings swoop from their pages to form part of her performance work Privilege started in October 2015 which follows on from her notorious instagram work, Excellences and Perfections. Both works toy with the staging and fabrication of identity but whereas in Excellences Ulman crafted a false persona based upon a lifestyle phenomenon she observed online, in Privilege she examines her own real aspirations and assumptions – those of a self-described South American “white-trash” woman, a feminist and a millennial ‘coastal elite’– and shines a light on the unbearable humiliation of being middle class. On the luxury of being white. The comforts of wealth and means are both romanticized and derided in a comedy of manners which exists not in the corridors of power, but in the cubicles of opportunity. Her protagonists, Amalia and Bob, ask us to consider who is in charge here? Are you in the business of cultural production? Well, take our card!
Bob, by the way, is a pigeon. A rock dove. The perfect urban underdog. But pigeons weren’t always the scourge of metropolitan society and have enjoyed many positions across history: messenger, meal, pet, sacrifice, sportsman and spy. The feral city pigeons of today are the descendants of refugees from long abandoned ‘dovecotes’ (traditional breeding houses introduced by the Romans to Britain, then later to mainland Europe), as reviled and Othered as any migrant or drifter.
The artist herself thinks of Bob as a kind of Holy Spirit (and pigeons are as pervasive as any manifestation of God, found everywhere on the planet except the polar icecaps) but in her work he waddles somewhere between being a personal assistant, confidante, trainee and lover. Ever the sidekick, never the boss.
As with previous projects she keeps to the confines of a strict colour palette – black, white and red. The template tones of white-collar news and propaganda, an austere rainbow of legitimacy. And as the performative aspects of labour shift from the cubicle to the cloud and middle-income inflation rises (but before all the robots take our jobs) Ulman asks us to consider our attitudes to the changing natures of work, caste, and lifestyle legitimacy from within (but pecking at) the traditional bounds of political visual communication.
To misquote Marvel Comics; with great draughtsmanship comes great responsibility. To wit, to woo.
Peace, bread and Bob. Pigeons united will never be defeated.
Text by Ella Plevin.
Photography by Ulrich Gebert, all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Deborah Schamoni, Munich.
Amalia Ulman - Monday Cartoons
eborah Schamoni, July 21 - September 19