Truth Or Dare In Las Vegas

Truth Or Dare In Las Vegas, HD video, 3:00 min., 2018

Made in collaboration with Professor Asma Kazmi. In 2018 Kazmi and myself were fellows at the Art and Research Center at UC Berkeley and received a grant that enabled us to go on a research field trip to Vegas. We were interested in the close proximity of religious establishments to the “Strip,” what that can tell us about the religious/secular binary as well as the high/low and real/fake.

In the video a hand is knocking on various objects and surfaces, most of them are statues or parts of buildings. The knocking is a symbolic act of inquiry, trying to detect the materials from which these objects are made. Each of the fourteen objects in the video is made from a different material than the one it asks to resemble (mostly plastic or concrete instead of metal, brick, marble or stone). The sound in the video was recorded in a sound studio and produced from a variety of found materials (a ceramic pot, a sugar bag, a broom, tiles etc.). Las Vegas is widely regarded as a fantasy city and known for its grandiose replicas of other places and times. Our interest in the material landscape of the city was the blurred line between the real and the counterfeit. We are considering the impacts (physical and mental) of these structures, regardless of their ontological stance, on both the lives of the people who maintain it and those passing through. The medium of video and the folly construction point to the inability to discern, and perhaps the futile (re)quest to do so.

Untitled (The Neon Museum), archival inkjet print, 16”x23”, 2018

These photographs were taken at The Neon Museum in Vegas, a large graveyard for old and dysfunctioning iconic neon signs. The tension between the grand and luxury these signs pointed to in their hay days and the broken-down state they are in today is evident, but we found new beauty in their current state and the fact no one had the heart to throw them away.

Untitled (Eternal Sunset), archival inkjet print, 16”x23”, 2018

These photographs were shot in “The Forum Shops”, an extremely large shopping mall associated with Vegas’s Caesars Palace hotel. In several places, through the mall, the ceilings were painted depicting the golden skies of a sunset and its reflections on Roman buildings. It seems the intention is to make one lose a sense of time and place and immerse themselves fully in the act of blissful shopping. The paintings are quite realistic but the fire sprinklers uncover we are engaged in an illusion.

Untitled (The Neon Museum) + Untitled (Eternal Sunset) archival inkjet print, 16''x23'', 2018