Alien Passions, a solo show of the art collective The Bureau of Melodramatic Research (Irina Gheorghe and Alina Popa), introduces two parts of a trilogy of works: Protect Your Heart at Work (2012) and Lovegold. Contemporary Alchemy (2013) which is the latest from the series. The trilogy investigates the role of melodrama’s key elements – emotions – in contemporary social mechanisms.
At the core of these works is the effort needed to follow and capture the momentum of economic changes in a context which uses emotional capital in the process of production. The title refers to the way Marx’s concept of alienation plays out in contemporary economy but also to alien, weird, unhuman forms of affectivity in the age of the Anthropocene.
Protect Your Heart at Work (2012, HD video, 28 min) was created using the vocabulary of work health-and-safety instructions during a residency in the Centre for Contemporary Art at Ujazdowski Castle in Warsaw. The video focuses on post-industrial economics, where goods are immaterial and feelings of fun and personal satisfaction are put to work to create value. The first part of the trilogy demonstrates how to acquire this attitude, which is nowadays essential in the work process. The thought underlying the work could be connected to what is called a theory of media of success (Erfolgsmedien), whose main feature is highly efficient communication skills that can, under certain conditions, be transformed into an efficient tool of manipulation. In the artists’ video these are subverted by instructions for adopting a perfect smile.
The video Lovegold. Contemporary Alchemy (2013, HD video, 25 min, premiere) makes use of a cooking programme as a framing device, proposing cosmic cooking as a model for today’s material-immaterial economy which does not start or end with the human element. The work articulates the significance of a love-gold composite in the dynamics of a society desiring positive economic results and comfort. Cooking is a metaphor for creativity, upbringing and production, while the qualities of love are equated with gold. Love is the new gold.