Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe. Scenario in the Sha...

Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe. Scenario in the Shade

Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe manipulate the history and culture of the real world to create imaginary but strangely credible settings through labyrinthic site-specific installations. At MAAT in Lisbon, the New York duo presents Scenario in the Shade, a combination of a video trilogy and the multi-spatial installation of some of the sets that appear in the film orchestrating an immersive setting that plays on ideas of hypertrophic urban planning, communities, rituals and psychopharmacology. This is the second European presentation of the project, which after having debuted at the 2017 Istanbul Biennale curated by Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset, has been exhibited at the Kunsthal Charlottenborg in Copenhagen.

The exhibition is set in the imaginary region of San San Metroplex, born from an idea of ​​the futurist Herman Kahn who in the book The Year 2000 (1967) hypothesized that the coastal area between San Diego and San Francisco would become a single giant metropolis, called San San. Based on this fiction, Freeman & Lowe build a mysterious parallel world that includes an endless variety of objects, ephemeral settings and architectural scenarios. Each society has its own youth cultures, within which communities and self-expression are closely linked and manifest through recreational activities, artistic styles, sports, goods, jargon and niche clothing. Scenario in the Shade is an architectural and cinematographic articulation of fictitious youth cultures in California, a world of accelerated subcultural development, materialized through the staging of a sequence of underground habitats.

In Scenario in the Shade, a wing of the MAAT is transformed into a tunnel of claustrophobic interiors that can be accessed by crossing the entrance of a chemical bath that leads into a dilapidated Victorian apartment and continues in a maze of makeshift homes, each dedicated to a different youth micro-culture. California has long been a place where many subcultures coexisted: from surfing to New Age therapy, from counter-cultural experiments with drugs and psychedelia to countless musical styles like punk, reggae and surf pop. Each room in the installation is associated with a specific group of the metropolis of San San. The Fort is a hybrid of Rastafarian and techno-hippies, Bamboo Union is an Eastern European smuggling network that consumes opium cough syrup while listening to a mix of heavy metals and EDM. Disco Creeps retail a new methamphetamine that blends light-based narcotics with the latest counterfeit luxury goods.

Among the environments we find an agglomeration of slums, a hybrid computer that occupies a whole room, a black neon market and a gallery of anime built with beach towels. The passage through these interiors suggests a disturbing intersection between the contemplation of an architectural ruin and the “behind the scenes” of a simulated theater world. Like Alice entering the rabbit hole, visitors are invited to explore the clues and indications of a parallel reality that echoes the current developments of cities and their aggregative organizations. Scenario in the Shade imagines a dystopian future in which the hedonism of the Californian counterculture of the 1960s is engulfed by a sort of lolcat incarnation of internet subcultures. DIY workshops, post-internet art shops, vintage attics, acid greenhouses: the latest atypical world of Freeman & Lowe is a hallucinogenic theme park for mental explorers who challenge conventions, another dive without fear in the depths of the provocation of art and the celebration of excess.

The videos show a cycle of hypnotic performative actions and occasional reports set in a sprawling science-fiction metropolis: the camera crosses various rooms: homes equipped and personalized by each subculture. The soundtrack includes original compositions by musicians such as Jennifer Herrema, Royal Trux, Psychic Ills, Mayo Thompson, Kurt Vile, Devendra Banhart, MGMT, Alexis Taylor and Bobby Gillespie. While describing the processes of cross-pollination that have always favored mutation and cultural expansion, the work humorously evokes the fragmentation of identity in today’s society. By exploring projections and suggestions of psychedelic cultures and the growing atomization of contemporary lifestyles, the project directly involves the multiple meanings of the term “scenario”. As such, this may look like a theatrical staging, the concept of a potential situation, but also the military anticipation tactic that initially came from Hollywood screenplay techniques. In a hallucinogenic mirror game, Freeman and Lowe recreate the settings for sequences of film, playing on the ambiguous question of who precedes the other. At the same time, they divert the museological language of the period room or the visual equipment of television commercials to dispel any sense of narrative and stimulate a subjective reflection on the role of urbanization and its by-products in today’s society.


Jonah Freeman & Justin Lowe. Scenario in the Shade
7 Nov 2018 – 25 Feb 2019
MAAT – Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology

Jonah Freeman & Justin Lowe

Scenario in the Shade, installation view at MAAT

Scenario in the Shade, installation view at MAAT

Scenario in the Shade, installation view at MAAT


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