Double Negative


In this sculptural piece meaning-making is revealed as inherently unstable and capricious: there is no such thing as a stable icon. Double Negative, features a sex-toy in the shape of the raised fist associated with civil rights activists, (famously with Tommie Smith and John Carlos's Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympics), is paired with the Helvetica font. The fist rises up out of a polished black shelf, perplexingly signaling both the fist of power and the fisting of sex. Its counterpart, a gleaming white shelf on which sits the monumental Helvetica typeface, (the sans-serif font invented in 1957 that rapidly became omnipresent in official, bureaucratic applications because of its legible simplicity), characteristically both illuminates and complicates things further. Both the fist and the font are iconic symbols, in their ways, yet the former originates in an intentionally charged political context, while the latter comes from a design context overtly intending neutrality. Yet, in cultural practice, they've been flipped: since its inception, Helvetica has triumphed in its quiet practicality, ubiquitously spelling out corporate and governmental power. In contrast, the Black Power salute's political heft has slipped, the symbol now problematically commodified as a sex object. The paradox here is that Double Negative does not present an alternative to the shiny, high-polish display system: both shelves are meticulously fabricated, and thus both court and expose a commodity status that borders on fetish; a combination of corporate power, politics, and sex all in uneasy proximity.