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No More Room In Hell

A note on the 2023 Carnegie Mellon School of Art MFA Thesis Exhibition

thump whoosh rumble Miller ICA, Pittsburgh March 25 - April 16, 2023

Rebecca Shapass, no more room in hell

A recent stint as a visiting guest critic for studio visits with MFA candidates at Carnegie Mellon School of Art (CMU) happened to coincide with the 2023 MFA Thesis Exhibition, so quite naturally a visit at the show venue ICA Miller was inevitable and a given. I'd surveyed some of the grad candidates' work in the past and had a rough idea about their practices and admittedly came with expectations on what to find and bring back with me from there. My studio visits were particularly very engaging and served up much food for thought. As for the exhibition at hand itself I will have to say there was a clear standout moment; one that elevated the exhibition. It was interdisciplinary artist Rebecca Shapass’s presentation no more room in hell. It’s always compelling when an artist identifies a seemingly small window from which to catapult and address larger issues which allows the entry into such to be more tangible and lowers a threshold. Being novel in your approach when concerning your work about say; ecological downfall clearly does not have to be an end in itself but given the great dissemination of knowledge and information that deltas its way to and around you it certainly cannot hurt. Sci-fi as an artistic and literary genre outside of contemporary art has in recent years been known to make a fancy entry into ”our” territories from its commonly attributed low-brow-seat in its capacity of offering alternative utopian and prophetic moduses of living (Ursula K. Le Guin was some people’s Donna Haraway, folks). Along those veins, Rebecca Shapass takes instead to the horror film genre for allegorical cues and more namely the zombie subgenre and its pioneering father George A. Romero. It’s interesting because I've been thinking of curating exhibitions that circle in the horror film genre; namely different than something that emphasizes neo goth within art itself but just that; looking outside of art at this specific genre in film. The centerpiece film of the presentation that flirts with the post-apocalyptic and uses the death/rebirth dichotomy to address a local metamorphosis that Pittsburgh as a city has been going though; from prime steeling industry of yesteryear to tech innovation. The irony of the world falling apart while the rebranding and revamping of an urban city as an innovator of the future. The hybrid visuality of the film; gorgeous and immaculate filmmaking. Last felt this inspired by film at another renowned art school; at Columbia experiencing MFA grad candidate Alison Nguyễn’s work that incidentally shares common denominators with Rebecca’s work through the automobile as a fixture and driver of the work (pun intended). Both visionnary Dara Birmbaum and Matthew Barney types of the future. Mark the words and keep a close watch.

Ashik Zaman

Rebecca Shapass, no more room in hell


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