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Madelyn Roehrig’s rp-shooter in Pittsburgh

Madelyn Roehrig
rp-shooter, black and white photo by Madelyn Roehrig. I have a few more photos, all by Madelyn at flickr.

My friend Madelyn Roehrig has been keeping her eye on the world from her base in Pittsburgh since she moved there a number of years ago. Madelyn, a brainy sort whose photography tends to hone in on cultural phenomena that ten years hence might be the subject of sociology classes has installed a show rp-shooter at Seton Hill University that is a photo and video essay on the ubiquity of terrorist images that come into our homes via television — and how they terrorize us. TV as an assault weapon–it’s a big theme and one worthy of discussion.

Roehrig put the show, which opened on Sept. 11 and runs through Oct. 12, in the gallery at the Catholic school because she felt the work — images of terrorism culled from her tv screen –belonged in a public context where prayer, rituals, candles and group sharing of memories would allow a social as well as personal reading.

Mary Thomas in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called the show “puzzling, ominous and quirky” which is a pretty good description of Madelyn’s art in general and definitely of this piece which I have been hearing about for years before it finally came to fruition. [Ed. Note: I have not seen the show and these images were taken by Madelyn.]

Madelyn Roehrig
Major part of the installation is the contact sheet collages that appear on the walls. Still images of the steady stream of terrorist images culled at random from what came into her house via tv.

The artist, starting four years ago on the anniversary of 9/11 — and triggered by the media’s replaying of the horror of that terrorist act — started taking photos of media stories about terrorism she saw on her tv. She set up a tripod and camera in her living room and snapped black and white photos in a random, scatter-shot way documenting the drumbeat of terrorism entering her home. School shootings, sniper shootings, Iraq shootings and bombings, the London Underground bombings…the list is long.

Madelyn Roehrig
The artist had a table set up with prints available for viewers to pick up and hold. This attempt to personalize the imagery through touching the pictures is great and was probably cathartic for many.

The idea that we are randomly but continuously bombarded by images of terrorism (is there ever a time when “breaking news” — the code words for “drop everything and pay attention this is going to scare you” — is not the screen crawl at the bottom of the all news channels?) is a thought we all know but mostly choose not to deal with.

Sociologists years hence, looking back on our time, will probably declare that the world at the millenial turnover was a victim of global post-traumatic stress whose symptoms of depression and dysfunction are manifest in
— the constant busy-ness of people;
— the complete reliance on uppers (red bull, jolt, starbucks)
— the increased reliance on downers (alcohol, drugs)
— the need for constant gastro-intestinal soothers and cardo-pulmonary assistance;
— the dropping out of participation in culture and government (we in America have pitiful turnouts even for our big elections);
— and the avoidance of thinking in general.

Certainly if we’re all globally stressed and depressed it’s because we’re being victimized not only in the real world but also by that friendly virtual visitor in our living rooms, television. I used to be ok with tv. But I’m changing my mind as the Big Brother age has dawned and there seems to be no turning back. What can you do is the question.

Madelyn Roehrig
Roehrig put candles and plants in the space to accentuate the memorial aspect of the exhibit. It also lent a homey touch to what is a large white-box gallery.

Turn the tube off might be the answer.

Madelyn Roehrig
Installation in the gallery at Seton Hill. The video monitor ran a collage of images with a voice over

Madelyn has placed this truth about tv as a friendly terrorist front and center in her installation. She is asking people to look and think. She hopes to travel the show since she is committed to the idea of the cathartic moment of understanding.

Madelyn will also have work from a different series of photographs in the 96th Associate Artists of Pittsburgh exhibit opening Oct. 26 at the Carnegie Museum of Art. That show was juried by Douglas Fogel of the CMOA who’s putting together the next Carnegie International exhibit.