Decent Argument Over Obscene Matter
September 15 – October 14, 2012
Opening Reception: Saturday, September 15, 7-10pm
Ragen Moss’ project, “Decent Argument Over Obscene Matter”, is formulated around an equation:
arguments in support of decency and whether they may be decently posed
matters of obscenity and the matter that makes-up the obscene
Working on the predicament of visibility, in particular as visibility may be cleaved from visuality, the project conjures its moves by grinding its teeth along the backbone of legal rhetoric as it bends across aesthetics. In the exhibit, Moss melds 8mm cameras with various legal statements from judicial opinions that, in their attempt to banish the Obscene and articulate a field of Decency, actually bring obscenity to the visible fore and demonstrate the subjectivities inherent in prescribing any mode of being—legal, aesthetic or otherwise.
Borrowing from Brecht’s model of realism, feminist examinations of law and sexuality, and Habermas’ proposal that communicative processes need a cultural tradition cracking into all spheres—cognitive, moral-practical, and expressive—Moss recasts a scene of jurisprudential prohibition as one of recognition. The lines between how we see and what we see become muddled with the structures that delineate what we allow ourselves to know and how we permit ourselves to know it.
Mining the filmic formula and modeling it spatially, Moss notes the devices that steam forward the engine of narrative viewership: framing structures, sensations of luminosity, and, most evidently, the cinematic apparatus itself. Underscoring the objecthood of the 8mm camera, in a trade of places, the taker-of-images becomes the image-taken, the invisible eye becomes apparent as the object-eye. Positions of visibility are further exchanged as the “picture-to-be-seen” snaps into the “picture-that-is-watching”; a viewership that once “looked at” switches into a viewership that is “being seen”. And tense matters, here, as the past-oriented temporality of the visual (as captured, say, through cinema) hardens into the spatialized present-ness of the visible.
The result: a studied proposition on the visible, its relation to the Obscene and the Decent, and a new arc drawn from art into law.
Ragen Moss is an artist and an attorney, holding an MFA in Interdisciplinary Studio and Juris Doctor from UCLA, as well a BA in Art History from Columbia University. She has exhibited her work in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, most recently in “Chiasmus: Zones of Political and Aesthetic Imagination” at the University Art Gallery at the University of California at Irvine.