Artist and Associate Editor at XIBT Magazine
25 July 2019
Review of My Lean Ritual by Roanna Seekings
The relational aesthetics of the opioid crisis
Roanna Seekings recent body of work titled ‘My Lean Ritual’ confronts viewers and participants with pain and pleasure of recreational opioid use by facilitating an anonymous exchange for participants via her Instagram account. The work operates as a kind of online confessional where recreational opioid users can visually or textually share their experiences. Seekings then accumulates these experiences and reformats them in an immersive video installation that gets to poignancy of her subject. We have to come to terms with the fact that recreational drug use is as alluring and pleasurable as it is damaging. There is a sublime beauty to that which is transgressive.
Roanna Seekings is to this recent opioid epidemic what Andy Warhol was to the rise of popular culture amongst its respective commodity and celebrity fetish. Both artists draw our attention to particular consumption habits without being clearly in favour or against these habits. They deploy repetition, quantity and density to stress the elementary role that consumption inhabits within our society. However, whereas Warhol seems direct our attention to the so called ‘object of desire’ Seekings seems to direct our attention to the habits, rituals and exchanges that surround this object. This focus is much in line with Nicholas Bourriaud’s idea of relational aesthetics where the artist facilitates the open-ended cultural production of several participants rather than being at the centre of it.
This is not to say that ‘My Lean Ritual’ does not operate beyond facilitation as well. The particular way of editing the gathered video footage stages a considered aesthetic affect that refers back to the state of the participants within that footage. Zooming-in on the act of drug preparation and amplifying its noise clearly reflect the manic focus on that task. The off-beat repetition of those videos on the other hand effectuate a lack of focus one could experience while being high or ‘wavy’. This hallucinogenic appeal also applies to the footage of formless codeine solution caught in the midst of diffusion. Especially when it contrasts with the hard-edge information we read from drug-packing and phone-texts in the next few frames.
The way in which Seekings presents the contribution of her participants in her video has an immersive quality that visually consumes the spectator. This accurately sublimates the way in which the participants are consumed by their preparation and consumption of their opioids. The profound addition to this body of work is that participants become spectators, as the @myleanritual account posts the artistic variations of the received input. The behaviour of the participants is mirrored back to them without judgement nor praise. This mirroring could however reveal the nature of addiction itself in a psycho-analytic sense. A need that can never be fully satisfied despite its daily repetition and that therefor goes beyond the pleasure principle.
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