Mathias KesslerCalifornia Dreaming| Vote Code 63575

New York, NY
Mixed Media 2016

Artist Statement

The site-specific installation “California Dreaming” is concerned with the medial emergence of places. In my work I explore how the film industry creates gentrified dream-places, whether it is in a series such as “Girls,” which has contributed to the gentrification of Greenpoint in Brooklyn, or in the Hollywood classic “The Night of the Iguana” (1964), which has turned an untouched sandy beach in the Mexican state of Jalisco into a monstrous tourist destination.

But in its films Hollywood not only constructs places, it also destroys them. In the recently released film “San Andreas” the whole of California collapses in an earthquake. Disaster not only strikes within apocalyptic Hollywood plots where whole cities are swallowed by natural disasters, but also in reality through economic development. New ways of gas and oil drilling leave behind toxic waste and broken communities, for the benefit of fast-moving markets and marginal gain in the global economy.

Grand Rapids is located in Michigan in the old “Rust Belt,” and is doing far better economically than close-by cities like Flint or Detroit. The Rust Belt, once known to be one of the most prosperous regions in the world, is now declining in its economic fortune. With it whole towns disappear, or like Detroit, are shrinking from millions to a few hundred thousand inhabitants. Here I will try to look into the abandoned industrial sites, once home to the working class in the golden area of the U.S., but now a predominantly low-income area with a high crime rate.

Reflexión del Artista

La instalación California Dreaming fue construida específicamente para ese sitio y se ocupa de la aparición general de los lugares. En mi obra exploro cómo la industria cinematográfica crea lugares soñados remodelados, ya sea en series como “”Girls””, que ha contribuido a la remodelación de Greenpoint en Brooklyn, o el clásico de Hollywood “”La noche de la iguana”” (1964), que convirtió una playa de arena virgen en el estado de Jalisco, México, en un importantísimo destino turístico.

Pero Hollywood no solamente crea lugares en sus películas, también los destruye. En la película “”San Andreas””, recientemente estrenada, toda California colapsa con un terremoto. El desastre no solamente golpea en tramas apocalípticas de Hollywood en las que ciudades enteras son destruidas por desastres naturales, sino también en la realidad a través del desarrollo económico. Nuevas formas de perforación de gas y petróleo dejan como resultado desechos tóxicos y comunidades arruinadas para beneficiar a mercados cambiantes y obtener ganancias marginales en la economía global.

Grand Rapids está ubicada en Michigan en el antiguo “”Cinturón del óxido”” (Rust Belt) y económicamente le está yendo mucho mejor que a otras ciudades cercanas como Flint o Detroit. El Cinturón del óxido, que alguna vez fuera una de las regiones más prósperas del mundo, ahora sufre un declive en su fortuna económica. Y eso provoca que ciudades enteras desaparezcan, o como en el caso de Detroit, que su población se reduzca de millones a tan solo unos cientos de miles de habitantes. Aquí trataré de analizar los establecimientos industriales abandonados, que alguna vez fueron el hogar de la clase trabajadora en la época dorada de EE. UU., pero que ahora son un área predominantemente de bajos recursos con una tasa elevada de criminalidad.


Mathias Kessler is a New-York based artist who critiques and reimagines the concept of nature. Quoting from art history, philosophy and eco-political debates, Kessler re-stages representations of natural processes with humor and gravitas. Romantic painting, land art and digital renderings compete and collide in order to unhinge familiar oppositions such as nature and culture, representation and experience, and ideology and aesthetics. For instance, Arctic icebergs dramatized by cinematic lighting techniques become empty Hollywood sets. A human skull embedded with live corals flourishes as it decays. A miniature 3D print depicting Caspar David Friedrich’s painting Das Eismeer housed within a beer fridge produces an interactive social sculpture intended as a site for drinking and reflection on the architecture of food production. Kessler’s contribution to current utopian and dystopian debates is at once intelligent, grave, comic and visually stunning. Mathias Kessler received his MFA in Art Practice from the School of Visual Arts in 2012. He has exhibited internationally, including solo exhibitions at the Kunsthal Rotterdam, The Netherlands; Rosphot National Museum for Photography, St. Petersburg; GL Holtegaard Museum, Copenhagen; and Kunstraum Dornbrin, Austria. Selected group exhibitions include: Spring Show 2016, Kunsthal Charlottenburg; Landscape in Motion, Kunsthaus Graz; [UN]NATURAL LIMITS ACFNY, Hohe Dosis Fotohof, Salzburg; The Nature of Disappearance, Marianne Boesky, New York; Hoehenrausch, OK, Linz; GO NYC, Kunsthalle Krems, and The Invention of Landscape, Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City. Residencies: Cape Cod Modern House Trust, AIRE Everglades. His work has been featured in international publications, some of which include: The New York Times, Blouin Artinfo, Bloomberg Press, Kopenhagen DK, Eikon, Kunstforum, Studio 360, ORF SAT 3, Camera Austria, Die Zeit, Forbes, Prefix Magazin, and Art Bulletin.

This project was supported through an Artist Seed Grant from the Frey Foundation
Magic Mural,
Bundesministerium fuer Kunst und Unterricht, Vienna
Bill Schneider of wildtype Design,
Native Plants & Seed LTD,
Urban Roots,