Pilot, 2000

John Miller (1954, Cleveland, lives in New York and Berlin) is an artist and theorist who, since the beginning of the 1980s, has developed a radical critique of our society’s value systems. Like Mike Kelley and Jim Shaw, but also Tony Oursler and Stephen Prina (all shaped by CalArts programs), Miller utilizes both the tools of representation and deconstructive methods. His anti-heroic paintings, the photos he takes during the vacant time of midday, and his sculptures coated in a brown impasto, evoking the link between abjection and creation, are all forms that destabilize our relation to the image, to the creative act, and to valuation mechanisms.

The installation presented at MAMCO, which the artist offered to the museum in 2016, makes these issues explicit in an allegorical way. Entitled Pilot (as in pilot for a TV series), it offers a synthetic image of a TV game show set (podiums, “wheel of fortune,” and other display elements), of a place, that is, where the spectacularization of everyday life and the artificial creation of value are brought together. The TV game show is one of the archetypes of late twentieth-century capitalist societies: from Italian neorealist films of the 1960s up to the most recent sci-fi scenarios, the game is always the sign of a disenchantment with the world. The most unfair social codes, the violence of cultural clichés, and the vacuity of a society based on consumption are “performed,” day after day, by anonymous participants acting out a ritualization of increasingly asymmetrical exchanges. By simplifying the set into abstract elements and removing any narrative or anecdotal topics, Miller reveals the game’s devices more than he criticizes the shows themselves.

The installation is echoed in another work just offered to the museum (presented on the first floor), in which the artist reproduces the face, fraught with emotion, of a woman participating to what is nowadays called “reality TV”―exactly the opposite, that is, of what the term designates: a form of contemporary theater in which even the tears are scripted.

  • Organized by Lionel Bovier
FONDATION MAMCOÉtat de GenèveVille de GenèveJTIFondation LeenaardsFondation genevoise de bienfaisance Valeria Rossi di Montelera