They say it takes a village to raise a child. Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago that village included everyone on television, developers of commercial products, the board of education, and a few hundred comic book writers. In my adolescence it became clear to me that the majority of my life was oriented towards social training. A day in school, an episode of a sitcom, a trip to the grocery store, everywhere I turned I was being told how to act, what to value, what to shun, and how I should spend my time.
These narratives of social training are echoed in virtually every social interaction and any attempt to relate to the world around us is mitigated through a long history of social manufacturing. Models and symbols replace genuine aspects of our reality and meaning is continually deferred. In a system where meaning is precarious and malleable, concepts like authority, class, and value can be conjured up out of thin air and continually re-oriented toward the agendas of those conjuring. I am interested in highlighting the underlying systems of control that are enacted in our social experiences and how we are trained to act as conduits and perpetuators of these systems. My work juxtaposes symbols, signs, signifiers, and simulacrum in order to mimic the systems that manufacture the inference of meaning. It is my intention to convince viewers of the presence of substance and value. Then reveal the absence of content through the compounding deference of the signified and the avoidance of concrete descriptors. Left behind in stark contrast is the system of social training that led the viewer to accept and even create meaning and substance where there was none.
The Actual Company is the façade of a corporation that acts as a source of authority in a world without meaning. Through print-based sculpture, public installation, video, and interactive multi-media I am mimicking the vestiges of a functioning company without ever qualifying a single product or service. Products such as “Privilege”, “Fear”, and “Justice” have brand names, logos, packaging, commercials, and are touted, examined, and discussed by the company without any direct reference to the product’s substance or use. The difficulty in seeing this absence of substance through this forest of signs becomes apparent in hindsight. It is my hope that those who experience The Actual Company take with them a heightened scrutiny for the location of meaning in a world of social control.
Jason Wonnell's work utilizes the viewer’s familiarity with consumer culture to deconstruct the social systems that shape our perceived self-image. Through the language of consumer products and popular media Jason questions social conventions, perceived authority, and the manufacturing of knowledge. Jason's work can be seen at Ruth Baggett Gallery in Paducah, Kentucky and has shown internationally in juried exhibitions such as Sustain, juried by John Drury and Robbie Miller and Critical Forum, juried by Ivy Cooper and Paul Ha. His prints are held in the collections of Print Zero Studios, Roadrunner Press, and The Southern Graphics Council. He has been awarded The 2012 Rickert-Ziebold Trust Award and the Pegram Harrison Award for Studio Art. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Graphic Design and Printmaking at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and has recently received a Master of Fine Arts degree from Indiana University in Bloomington