The French philosopher Guy Debord, in his ominous The Society of the Spectacle, observed, “Human circulation considered as something to be consumed…is a by-product of the circulation of commodities […] The economic management of travel to different places suffices in itself to ensure those places’ interchangability.” The speeding up of the post-War world, the shrinking of the globe by means of the jet engine, the veneer of post-modern plurality in which we are all citizens of the planet, has, one might argue, significantly homogenized, rather than diversified, our social constructs on both the meta and micro strata.

The “interchangability” of which Debord speaks resonates with Dana Hargrove’s own pronouncement that she is influenced by, “airports, highways, metropolitan areas and the local commercial districts,” that, “[maintain] a façade of controlled seamlessness.” In works such as those in the Strip Horizontal series, Hargrove uses the rigid stability of the horizontal orientation not only to re-enforce but also accentuate the conformity of the seamless façade, itself a mosaic of disparate yet disarmingly connected parts. Each part becomes the interchangeable, or homogenized, substitute for the other. Extrapolating this, the pretense of the diverse becomes destabilized and unmasked as corporatized sameness.

Not satisfied with merely presenting the banality of the façade, however, Dana Hargrove also critiques the systems of mass motion which take us between these destinations of the superficial. Contrasting the repetitive “order” (itself a sameness) found in Interstates with the collaged chaos of the Detour series, we find ourselves questioning the efficacy of the parameters imposed on us in the name of safety and convenience. Is this synthetic order yet another façade necessary to mask a greater chaos? As we humans are circulated between destinations of sameness, through unidentifiably different airports and train stations, across landscapes striped with highways, are we now so conditioned to the identical, the simulation, the façade that we fail to question our reasoning for our travels? In experiencing Dana Hargrove’s latest work, the answers to these questions become all too unnerving leaving us to ponder our place within the system.

Matthew McLendon, PhD
Associate Curator, Modern and Contemporary Art
The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art