We Tell Ourselves Stories In Order To Live

We Tell Ourselves Stories In Order To Live recently opened at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, having traveled from the Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland. The show brings together work by nine recent recipients of the Hallie Ford Foundation Fellowship in the Visual Arts. The title and concept for the show revolve around an idea espoused by author Joan Didion in The White Album, the idea that “anything one thinks to be true can very quickly be proven to be a fabrication.” The artists of We Tell Ourselves Stories share the skepticism necessary to find and create meaning from a world that is often perplexing and contradictory. A critical eye is turned towards “what we tell ourselves about the world around us" in order to get through the day.

The most attractive (and crazy) piece in We Tell Ourselves Stories, in addition to being the most wholly illustrative of the concept of the show, is Sang-ah Choi's “Packaging the Pink,” a collection of nine drawings centered on “our culture's obsession with consumerism [and] the value of the artist's hand in creating unique objects in a world overrun by mass-production.” The drawings are composed around sparkly kids' stickers with a narrative arc tracing “fairytale journeys all ending at a castle” and mounted in bubblegum pink plexiglass boxes. They are obsessive and kind of sickening to look at, clusters of bubbles look like blisters, and hands and limbs reach to grab through the frenzy. The drawings register as a disease, like the figures are stuck in a claustrophobic nightmare and suffer from a particularly demented shopping addiction. Choi uses this overwhelming aesthetic to attack an element of our modern lives - that we think buying is a necessity, and that the things we buy give us a better life.


“Packaging the Pink” also features an animation on a screen set into a pink pedestal facing the drawings, which is garnished with two ridiculous pink bows and set on a round pink bathmat. This absurd thing is supposed to be some kind of ironic altar to the church of shopping. The tinkly music accompanying the animation and the overwhelming pink fool the viewer into thinking this is lighthearted, when really it is only funny in a dark way. “Packaging the Pink” reminded me that it is easy to be fooled into feeling pleased and comfortable by the presence of things, and that it is a truly troubling condition that is only part of larger problem of human distraction.

Certainly our modern lives are part of an artificial system that requires a degree of lying to yourself to get through the day. But, as an antidote, real value lies in art as way to unveil meaning beyond the sad constructs of modern life, a vehicle for transcendence. This is an idea I will almost always end up at after seeing a good art show. Thanks for that, Sang-ah Choi and We Tell Ourselves Stories.

See more of Sang-ah Choi's work here