Life Hack at Smart Objects, Los Angeles, January 26 – March 2, 2018
Life hacks can be motivated by desperation or a deep desire for convenience. They can manifest as a set of social interactions, as altered appliances, or as tweaked channels of a system. They can serve as quick fixes to daily problems or reveal whole new ways of living.
A life hack always operates in relation to a larger power structure. But then: in hacking, do we subvert power structures, or are we just becoming better operators under their grip? Have we found ways to more efficiently oppress ourselves? Would life hacks even exist without the ubiquitous force of late capitalism?
In Justin John Greene’s paintings, the life hacks on display toy with power dynamics and point toward uneasy change. An outmoded cyborg undergoes analogue maintenance; an unknown force enters a dimensionless restaurant; an alternative energy source proves unstable.
In Expiration Date, a patriarchal scene looms. A frightened man with a passive woman clinging to his neck – sourced from an old movie poster—looks on as smoke rises from a smartphone plugged into a bunch of priapic bananas. Even if the absurd hack is working, clearly the system surrounding it isn’t.
Greene’s paintings combine elements of film noir, German expressionism, Dada, Baroque tavern scenes, and the dreamy qualities of Marc Chagall paintings, to create contemporary caricatures and curious social allegories. The scenes, rendered in his signature tragicomic approach, exude an air of anxiety and beg one to question the dynamics at play in this moment of shifting paradigms.