An Enquiry into those Kinds of Distress which excite agreeable Sensations (1773): Slater Bradley and Banks Violette

Team Gallery will present a two person exhibition entitled An Enquiry into those Kinds of Distress which excite agreeable Sensations (1773). Made up of recent videos, photographs, sculptures and graphite drawings by Slater Bradley and Banks Violette, the show will run from the 6th of September through the 11th of October 2003. Team is located at 527 West 26th Street, between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues, on the ground floor.

The exhibition’s title comes from an essay by J. and A.L. Aikins, first published in 1773, which attempted to comprehend the pleasure derived from objects of terror. Philosopher Noel Carroll, who analyzes works as disparate as those of Shakespeare, Bram Stoker, Goya and George Romero, refers to these cultural properties as “art horror.” Why anyone would want to indulge in art forms whose purpose is clearly to disturb, is the enigma under investigation. 

Carroll’s contemporary project defines horror as the gap that separates an ideal and moral outcome from its probability. In his view, as an author decreases the likelihood of a “correct” social resolution so does the level of distress increase in the spectator.Carroll’s formulation, put forth in his The Philosophy of Horror, takes into account the spectator’s demands on art and how those expectations, in turn, reveal the moral stance of the viewer rather than that of the author. What we expect from art and how artists both meet, and fail to meet, those expectations creates a tension in our readership which some label negatively but which others cite as a cause for celebration.

Our attraction to the problematic — the way that the repulsive can glitter — is part of the dread-pleasure that operates in the works of both Slater Bradley and Banks Violette. The themes that have been central to the work of both artists, and which have been mined throughout their appearances at Team, are suicide, ritual murder and the allure of youth culture. Bradley uneasily mates a youthful magazine-friendly aesthetic with an almost obsessive interest in suicide, while Violette looks at the image mechanics that decorate the will to murder.

Terror and melancholy, the aspects of Shakespeare’s work which attracted the Aikins’ in 1773, are more than clearly evidenced in Bradley’s beautiful images of decomposing whales and in Violette’s dissections of Americana, Alcoholism and Annihilation — in Bradley’s anxiety-provoking dissections of “acting” and in Violette’s glamorous, colorless renderings of landscapes and logos alike.