BLISS is a newly commissioned social engagement project from the southern California-based artist collective Finishing School.
In military training, BLISS is used to help stranded or clandestine soldiers build temporary shelters. It describes ways to hide, evade, and remain safe in unknown terrain.
Specifically conceived for BMoCA, BLISS continues a multi-year series of projects by Finishing School, and reflects the collective’s longstanding interest in the semiotics of surveillance, power, and play.
Entering the exhibition, visitors will encounter three shelters (untitled) that have been engineered to conceal and help those inside evade various types of contemporary surveillance technology: photographic documentation, data transmission, sound recording, and thermal imaging. The structures are made from layers of ballistic fabric, radio frequency-shielding and sound proofing material and are freely available for public use during the exhibition.
In the second gallery a series of multimedia artworks present a collaboration between Finishing School and participants Catherine Cartwright, Meghan Chase, Adeline Jadot, Amber Jensdotter, and Dave Waite from the University of Colorado, Boulder. The collaboration took shape as a sequence of performances derived from the following idea: militarized evasion tactics and everyday acts of privacy and safety make demands on the body, expressed in intimate movements and gestures. How can exploring those gestures give us new insights into multiple meanings of the pursuit of privacy?
BLISS internalizes some of Boulder’s history relative to both wartime security and societal progress bringing together movements and architectural elements from both the Rocky Flats plant, a stand-in for the lingering social influence of the Cold War; and the Colorado Chautauqua Association, a reminder of the American drive toward experimental social optimism.
In questioning the probability of bliss in an era of pervasive surveillance, Finishing School presents unavoidable ironies—as well as physical, socio-political and technological dissonances— that meet in the terrain where personal comfort, social media, corporate interest and national security overlap.
The exhibition makes visible and provides tactics and strategies for everyday life. It offers us shelter and defense systems for privacy. In exchange, we are asked to consider our complicity in social exchange that leaves us vulnerable to evasions of our own personal privacy.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website