Through video, photography and drawing, Alex Bag has become a major influence with her video work satirizing a perspective on the complacent objectification resulting from self-important, social and political marketability. Bag’s work is multidisciplinary, with a tumbling tangle of stream-of-conscious writing considering the overlooked monotony of a diversified market and archaic social order. In her videos, Bag role-plays with characteristic dispositions, correlating to her metaphoric scripts exploiting the pressure of respective aesthetic demands. These low-budget videos formatted as television channels, recording her in DIY costumes, embody icons of American faith, and reveal the tacit truths of stylized demeanors. Bag disembodies stylizations of modern life, surrendering to the fallacy of collective truths. These aggregate types are unaware of their reiterating behavior, rotten from media gourmandizing. Bag fills their own engrossed, hollow performances with her rooted revulsion. Her characters exaggerate their flaws and reveal unspoken expectations and preferences.
In her Crack-Up series of photographs with buttons for accompanying audio tracks, Bag hides behind ping-pong eyeballs, channeling the mania of women driven into hysteria, parodying the woman’s projected state. The artist blindfolds herself with ping-pong eyeballs. Rubber buttons embedded in each frame, voice a pseudonymous monologue. Friction between her non-fading environments and a fluctuating internal state fills these works with energy. Made in 2002, these photographs echo her earlier video, Harriet Craig, 1998, in which Bag borrows Joan Crawford’s role in the 1950 soap opera, as a conniving housewife resisting the capitulation of domesticity.
Bag’s mother was the host of The Patchwork Family, a children’s show during 1972-73. In Bag’s video Untitled (Project for The Whitney Museum), 2009, Bag is her mother’s doppelganger, engaging with a similar puppet, and confessing a “suicide note to the youth of today,” as heard in a Purple Magazine interview. The disappointment in Bag’s despair seeps through the sentimental clips of children creating art with guiding teachers, and the audience inadvertently joins her in a worn sigh of deference, as her gnawing insecurities spew through the toy sitting beside her. Bag’s earlier works, like Coven Services, 2004 and The Van, 2001 use anecdotes to epitomize specific
In Untitled Fall ’95 (1995), Bag embodies an art student reflecting on each upcoming semester, with intermediary skits, descending into the desperation behind resignation. Bag flips through skits lamenting on the conforming nature of truth, and the dismality of solipsistic intellectualism plaguing the arts and foundational academia. As the semesters pass, Bag begins to reflect on the nuances missing in collectivism, and settles into a vulnerable monologue about the cheap aesthetics of an uncoordinated culture, finally breaking down in the face in the realization of unmet aspirationsidealizations upon graduation.
Bag writes these videos’ eloquent scripts, subjectively defining mass-produced products and historical events through personal applications. Bag reveals the discrepancies between intentions fueled by efficiency and the hilarious results of pillaging perfection, by advertising them in the hands of grotesque figures who appear ironic, yet capture a refined truth rejected by the dull simplification of corporate marketing, and correlating trickle-down behaviors. These low-budget films add facets to the narrow plasticity of her subjects’ appearances. In her recent show at von ammon co., I’m Sorry You All Ended Up Here, Bag records her cellphone screen’s the Instagram advertisements inaccurately targeting her, with her smooth voice sporadically attesting. Her videos sequence commercials and publicly circulated images, like Paris Hilton’s sex tape between parodies of Haliburton groupies and antidepressants for children. These low-budget films add facets to the narrow plasticity of her subjects’ appearances.
Bag’s pencil drawings are fantastical manipulations of intimidating figures in compromising positions. Bag depicts infamous icons with social, political or cultural prowess alongside revealing inscriptions that undermine their oblivious harm. Her drawing, Coven Services For Consumer Mesmerism, Product Sorcery, And The Necromantic Reimagination (?) of Consumption ®️/ Michael Jackson depicts the pop star in the cozy embrace of a caduceus, flanked by two children resembling those often in his company. Similarly, her 2007 drawing, Remote Viewing shows the debauchery of Miami art fairs. Like her videos, these intricately layered compositions of cultural phenomenons are rooted in teetering intimidations and blazon, normalized squander.
In Bag’s work, marketing drains the naiveté of youthful dreams, into calcified mementos for distribution, and despite the elaborative growth accompanying age, one’s proximity to death hollows any lessons into a slump of defeat. Bag’s multidisciplinary work subsumes writing and composition. In an interview with Kaleidoscope Magazine, Bag describes her work, “There is not ever really so much to say about it when it is done, because it’s all sort of there. It is direct communication.”
Clip from Untitled (Spring '94), 1994
Clip from The Van, 2001
Clip from Untitled (Fall '95), 1995
Clip from Harriet Craig, 1998
Bag received her BFA from Cooper Union, in 1991.
In 2009, Bag had a solo show at the Whitney Museum, with commissioned video work, and showed Reality Tunnel Vision at Elizabeth Dee Gallery. In 2011, Bag held a retrospective at Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich, and in 2018, a retrospective at Kunsthall Stavanger. In 2012, Bag showed Cash from Chaos/Unicorns & Rainbows at Team Gallery. Bag has also shown at the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh; Łaźnia (Bathhouse) Centre for Contemporary Art, Gdańsk, Poland; Zaal de Unie, Rotterdam, The Netherlands; 303 Gallery, Artpace, Gagosian Gallery, Deitch Projects, and Metro Pictures, The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Centre d’art contemporain Saint-Geneve, Geneva; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Tate Modern, London; P.S.1 Center for Contemporary Art, New York; and Pitti Immagine, Florence, Italy.
She lives in New Jersey.
The New York Times