How can one create objects with meaning—with integrity—in the trap of late capitalism? When turning on, tuning in, and dropping out is a luxury afforded only to the rich and/or self-destructive? When, if there’s such a thing as “outsider art,” we’ll never see it? For New York-based art collective DIS, the way to create meaningful culture is through an ambivalent and ambiguous working within the contemporary culture industry as it stands. “We are in a position where we don’t believe in alternatives,” says Marco Roso, DIS co-founder and editor, whose latest venture, DISown, opens tonight, March 6th at the Red Bull Studios in New York.
DISown is a month-long pop-up shop and/or art exhibition curated by DIS members Lauren Boyle, Solomon Chase, Marco Roso, and Davis Toro, along with writer/curator Agatha Wara. Together, DIS and Wara have produced and commissioned a series of artist-made consumer products (artists include Ryan Trecartin, Jon Rafman, Bjarne Melgaard, and Amalia Ulman), which will be available for sale on site and online (prices range from $50-$500 with exceptions). Over the next five weekends, DIS will also host a variety lectures and music events at the energy drink outpost. What’s more, Wara has edited a special issue of DIS Magazine which provides a critical apparatus for understanding the kind of market tensions DISown is addressing here.
Roso likens DIS’s approach to that of Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn, who’s stated, “I do not want to work for the art market, I do not want to work against the art market, I want to struggle to fight with and in the market.” This kind of ambivalence, Roso reasons, is important to DIS. “At the end of the day we are critical,” he says, “even with ourselves. We put ourselves in uncomfortable situations all the time.” The collective’s vision is, according to Roso, “often dystopic,” but, as Lauren Boyle rejoins, “always with a positive spin.” With DISown, that means working with a corporate entity (Redbull) to present and sell, “products that actually have meaning, to add layers to objects which are basic or necessary.”
One of Boyle’s favorite products is a DIS brand TechFit tee printed with the image of the Marxist philosopher Slavoj Žižek. Žižek is an icon, a thinker who makes a (sweaty, funny, stylish even) spectacle of himself, while saying things like (at an Occupy rally), “...the ruling system has even oppressed our capacity to dream. Look at the movies that we see all the time. It’s easy to imagine the end of the world. An asteroid destroying all life and so on. But you cannot imagine the end of capitalism.” With DISown, DIS and Agatha Wara are exercising our imaginations, using art/market tensions to get our minds in shape to dream again.