Red lips mouthing obscenities might turn people on. However, Willie Baronet’s video work “SPAM,” recently exhibited at Centraltrak, baits and switches, offering sexual vulgarity delivered as deadpan reality. The video, projected on a large flat screen with headphones, displays portraits of the lips of 90 women speaking phrases gleaned from pornographic junk e-mail. The close-cropped format portrays the mouths as vagina dentata, at once objectified yet made oddly personal by the age lines, skin tones and imperfect teeth. Presenting porn without the pouty-lipped sultriness expected, the piece robs the phrases of erotic fantasy, relegating them to disturbing silliness while generating more than a few chuckles.
Participating with three other UTD Master of Fine Arts students in the exhibit “Four” at CentralTrak, Willie Baronet’s work investigates methods of cultural advertising and desensitization. “SPAM’s” title correlates fake meat with fake sex, which satirizes the false pleasures declared by persistent, if low-brow, marketing. Marketing clever and crude enough to bypass our computer filters using intentionally misspelled phrases, four of which Baronet has displayed as darkly humorous digital prints. Similar in concept to early feminist art, such as Laura Bengliss’s Art Forum ad of 1974, the pieces question common, albeit hushed or ignored, advertising practices through satire. They offer erotica, but distort it to expose its base deceptions.
Baronet also displayed a 12’ square series of cardboard signs collected from transients and panhandlers, offering a series of quips (“Why lie… I need a beer”) amongst several more somber cries for aid. The piece is a commentary on the marginalized members of society, but it is just as focused on the solicitations as advertising, how language triggers emotive impulses which seek to garner generosity. The works act as both a social reminder and humanizing agent, the best of which subvert the art’s content, offering absurdity as empowerment.