A couple of months ago Las Vegas artist Jesse Carson Smigel posted on Facebook that he was seeking people to volunteer their cats for a photo shoot that involved “(gently) tossing them at Borg Cubes.” In providing details he kindly added, “Everyone’s cats will be shot separately as to not aggravate the cats.”
Thus began the anticipation. What exactly was the guy behind the giant gnome sculptures Downtown, the Grub-Baby video (à la the ASPCA commercial) and “My Other Truck Is Jesus” bumper stickers up to? We find out in The Perfect Future Is Sanitary … The Sanitary Future Is Purrrfect at Winchester Cultural Center. The multimedia exhibit reminds us that not only does Smigel understand cats enough to know they don’t commingle well at photo shoots, but that he loves them enough to feature them profoundly in his narrative about life in the year 4013, when Earth’s population has been living in intergalactic transport housing for generations, under the rule of the Fleet Corporation.
In Perfect Future, Smigel has harnessed the marketing prowess of corporate America, the propaganda of government regimes and what could best be described as Smigelism—wild imagination, invention, artistic skill and wry, laugh-out-loud hilarity—to present life after humans destroyed Earth.
The exhibit, punctuated with sci-fi references dating back to the ’70s, includes a collection of artifacts from a Fleet vessel. Among them, a 28-by-8-foot “war tribute mural” featuring the giant space cats fighting Borg Cubes; a 3D model of the Starship Enterpaws; a looping infomercial for Smi-Gel Brand Smile Gel (featuring artists Brent Holmes and Matthew Couper) and a stuffed cat in a hyperbaric chamber (cats function as a high-valued commodity serving as both warriors and soothers).
Photos and digital renderings on chromium prints warn of the cost of unsanctioned genetic experimentation and the importance of staying clean and sanitary, each ending with the phrase, “Would you like to know meow?” followed by a play button icon. It’s the kind of world only Smigel could conjure. The opening reception even includes a laser-tag performance.
The Perfect Future is Sanitary … The Sanitary Future is Purrrfect , through July 12, Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., reception and performance May 31, 5:30-8 p.m. Winchester Cultural Center, 455-7340