"DOUCHE BAG CITY"
by Blanca De La Torre
In his new work Douche Bag City, Federico Solmi’s style maintains the same admirable freshness of his early works, keeping his facet as a hardcore artist, but expressing maturity in his ideas and execution of the work. He dissects the stratum of the cultural context through a personal universe populated by a repertoire of heroes and anti-heroes, villains and swine, all in a work that disembowels the American Modus Operandi. The artist analyzes the popular counterculture that underlies Western Consumer society, masterfully mystifying elements from mass culture with concepts related to an elitist realm and high end of New York City, which is especially epitomized in the art world. In this pollution of the common with the blue chip, and vice versa, he promotes the infection of the traditional spheres of high culture with manners and modes belonging to the popular: comics, music, porn, TV, video games, violence and sex, fusing both realms into one. His new body of work, a drawing animated installation, consisting of fifteen videos, Douche Bag City, is conceived as a satire of the capitalist world immersed in the economic crisis. The protagonist, Dick Richman, an egotistical Wall Street broker, has been confined to live in Douche Bag City, where he has the mission to survive within the different chapters in a video-game like display. In each mission he ends up being killed by a different plethora of malignant creatures including spiders, monsters and zombies.
This main character could be understood as an incarnation of Bernard Madoff, the investment Wall Street manager and philanthropist, charged with an alleged fraud of $50 billion. Madoff, a figure from the core of the US financial establishment (Nasdaq), was also very well-respected for being involved in different charitable activities. Maybe both Dick Richman and Madoff only represent a Wall Street archetype who navigates through Manhattan, always present at the fundraising galas and cultural events of the Uptown. I guess the question is: how many Dick Richman’s are still out there?
A remarkable difference between Douche Bag City and Solmi’s previous works is that the optimistic flavor that typically reigned is now completely gone. The work is darker, with no possibility of redemption. The artist’s technique, painstaking and complex, combines traditional hand drawn animation with digital models, always utilizing computer gaming engines. The result is an absolutely unique hand-made texture within a real-time 3D framework. Violence, another constant in Solmi’s work, is seen again here, intensified. As Slavoj Zizek mentions in his book “Violence,” we consistently overlook what he calls "systemic" violence, objective and endemic to our socio-economic order. Solmi has an amazing capacity of aestheticization of this violence, which makes us ponder about the power of immunization of mass media, reaching what Paul Virilio has defined as “Panic City,” where the constant repetition of images of violence and disasters are anesthetized by propagated extension. Solmi designs a parallel world in the shape of a video game, which, like every video game, participates from its own system of rules, behaviors and perceptual attributes. Solmi uses video game as a medium in order to critically scrutinize the political reality of the present and generate critical thinking in the culture that is immersed. The role of the player is substituted for the one of the spectator, in which the possibility of any action is amputated. This relationship with the work is reduced until it actually adopts the role of the simulator, playing a game that already has an end. However, there is a subversion of the traditional roles with the lack of empathy for the protagonist of the game and knowing that the end is clear.
Emerging from Solmi’s work is not only the most cutting edge tendencies and cultural thinkers, but some classics as well, such as Luigi Pirandello. The dramatist and the artist coincide with the permanent and simultaneous presence of humor and fatality. Pirandello, like Solmi, is able to combine critique, irony, the comic and the pathetic, establishing a game of opponents which at first makes you laugh spontaneously and immediately after is transformed into a bittersweet aftertaste.
In short, relying on a baroque staging with a luscious texture, Douche Bag City brilliantly combines the classic and the ultramodern, culminating in a complex altarpiece of irreverent iconography. Solmi gives his epic vision through a never-ending nightmare to examine the greedy miseries of the human.
Blanca De La Torre, curator of ARTIUM, Museum of Contemporary Art in Vitoria, Spain.