“There are laws, that is to say, the human universe is discoverable as that other. And as definable,” said Charles Olson. “I am an Other,” said Arthur Rimbaud. Sinan Leong Ravell’s show of photographs “DoppelgANGERS” at the L2K Gallery in Los Angeles Chinatown gives graphic proof of the propositions of the two poets just quoted.
In her artist’s statement Ravell says, “‘DoppelgANGERS’ is a series of self-less portraits that reflect our social media landscape … We become anaesthetised to yet another ‘war-torn disaster, high-school shoot-out, teen drug overdose, racially profiled police brutality, suicide bomber attack.’ We are all connected. We are ‘doppelgANGERS.’ I put myself into these pictures to show how were all connected.”
The photos on exhibit range from re-creations of famous images such as the 1968 Tet Offense execution of a suspected Viet Cong cadre to an US magazine-like portrait of the “good life” called “Bling Bling.” “LA Shooting” refers to the shooting of African American teenager Lataha Harlins by a Korean grocery store owner, a contributing factor to the 1992 Los Angeles Upraising (or riot depending on one’s politics), and the beating of Rodney King is also re-created with Revell as Sgt. Stacey Coons and his cohorts as well as King. There are also generic scenes such as “Homeless & Hungry” satirizing privilege. Most controversial of all is a photo of Saddam Hussien at he gallows: the “Beast of Baghdad” is shown going to his death with quiet dignity in an image recreated from the smuggled video of his execution.
Where does the ANGER in DoppelgANGERS come from? The corporate media crafted version of reality that allows us to become passive spectators of our lives, the transformation of people into consumers of faux realities. Revell adds, “By putting myself into all the pictures and impersonating all the figures I’m not indulging in narcissism, rather I’m trying to show that we’re all victims and victimizers. I want to questions those easy judgements we make about people like Lyndie Englund and Saddam Hussein.” The social criticism is tempered with compassion.
Revell referred to her Buddhist background in conversation at the show’s opening. The Buddhist idea of interdependence underlies the work on exhibit. This is the understanding that any phenomenon exists only because of the existence of other phenomena in an incredibly complex web of cause and effect covering time past, time present and time future, and the notion that we’ve all been here before whether as a stoic coolie rickshaw runner or an elegantly attired passenger as in the photo entitled “Rickshaw.” Phenomena arise together in a mutually interdependent web of cause and effect.
Finally, “DoppelgANGERS” is Revell’s repudiation of image mediated reality that uses passive identification with “the spectacle” (as Guy Debord described it) to supplant genuine activity.
(DoppelgANGERS. New work by Sinan Leong Revell, L2K Gallery, 990 N. Hill Street, Los Angeles 90012; 323.255.1238)