Artists find fertile ground for social commentary in ‘Other People’s Work’

Evolving the Way the World Moves – by Aeron Bergman and Alejandra Salinas

By Sarah Weinman

The title of The Luminary’s current exhibition sums up its artists’ concerns in two neat anagrams: “OPW? POW!” 

OPW is the abbreviation of the phrase “other people’s work,” the concept which the exhibition’s artists Aeron Bergman and Alejandra Salinas take very seriously. POW is not only an anagram of OPW but also implies the destruction of the way in which businesses and organizations handle, if not abuse, OPW.

The work in the show reflects the artists’ criticisms of big companies like Amazon and universities which take advantage of other people’s work. With regard to universities, throughout the show the artists sprinkled the logos of Harvard, Yale and Stanford. Many schools, not only those in the Ivy League, take advantage of the free or underpaid labor of graduate students and adjunct professors. 

The artists are also interested in how our everyday experiences are filtered through the Internet, and how we contribute time and energy to Web sites like Wikipedia in which all entries are created by volunteers. Wikipedia is just one example of the 21st-century version of other people’s work.

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Bergman and Salinas’ criticisms of Amazon crystallize in “Free Shipping”. This piece features two 120-pound kettleballs sitting on the seat of a Herman Miller Aeron Chair. The balls are attached to the ceiling with rock-climbing rope. Bergman and Salinas ordered the balls from Amazon and the items qualified for free shipping. The buyers didn’t pay for the “service” of Amazon employees and delivery-truck drivers who moved these items, but the workers paid dearly in labor and may not have been fairly compensated. 

They demonstrate the primacy of the Internet with “Evolving the Way the World Moves.” This simple work is made up of a pine tree-shaped car air freshener with the Uber logo burned into it. Here, Uber is reduced to its essence: a logo and a car accessory. Companies like Uber rely almost exclusively on the Internet and apps for their business. The ability of consumers to recognize company logos is paramount.

Finally, the artists draw attention to mixed messages we receive in society, through the piece titled “Disrupt What?” This comprises a series of 12 framed prints. Each print displays the image of a book cover on a background of what appears to be construction paper decorated with fingerpaints. Six prints on one wall focus on negative associations of disruption: children’s bad behavior, students’ bad behavior, and disruptive behavior disorders. The six prints on the other wall display book titles with positive associations of disruption such as “Disruptive Innovation” and “Disrupt You!” (about personal transformation). We punish disruptive children, but acknowledge that businesses that follow the models of the above titles can be very successful. 

OPW? POW! is on view through July 21. The Luminary is located at 2701 Cherokee Street. Gallery hours are noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday; and by appointment. For more information, call 314-773-1533 or visit www.theluminaryarts.com