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Performance “Video Store Cicero” will begin at 7PM.

“Red Eye to Rome” is an installation about the fall of an empire and the symbols accompanying or guiding a civilization’s collapse. The exhibition is a kaleidoscopic array of objects that interact to weave a narrative that draws parallels between American consumer culture and the fall of the Roman Empire. John O’Donnell is an installation artist, performer, and printmaking professor at the University of Connecticut. He studies 18th-century representations of ancient Roman architecture through his current printmaking practice. For the last 15 years, he has been creating installations using found toys, disposable party supplies, and colorful mass-produced commodities to define space and construct open-ended narratives. This installation expands on this collage sensibility and is guided by disposable architectures, globalization, and economic collapse.

Recurring elements in the exhibition are characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Super Mario Brothers, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Terminator 2, Hellraiser, and Masters of the Universe. These familiar figures are all augmented with a singular, possibly psychotic, red eyeball. The new mutant cyclopses interact with tourist souvenirs from Rome, Italy, and New York City on colorful shelves and mirrored surfaces to symbolize the inevitable of collapse. O’Donnell says, “This work combines many different entertainment franchises to reinforce my belief that popular culture is perpetually being melted down and reconfigured to appeal to a new demographic.” This excessive and profitable drive renders new cultural symbols into hollow collages, not determined by aesthetics or lore but by potential profit. This process drains the original meaning, leaving a thin plastic shell that can be injected and morphed with any ideology.


John O'Donnell

Part of The Orange Year, curatorial climate crisis at the Neon Heater

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