Kessler’s Circus places the viewer inside the American war machine. An army tent pitched inside the gallery houses mechanical sculptures and barracks stacked with video monitors. The work depicts the American military-industrial complex as macabre circus, traveling from country to country, importing nothing and exporting atrocities under the veil of democracy. Rather than simply presenting a mediated spectacle, Kessler indicts the audience in the violence.
Surrounded by hand made mechanisms and surveillance cameras, the viewer becomes part of the machine. There is an induced sense of vertigo and a surge of paranoia as the viewers own faces appear in the video feed. Entering Kessler’s Circus, one is immersed in an undefined state, conflating machine and spectacle with entertainment and horror.
Kessler’s Circus updates and politicizes the experience of Calder’s Circus. Following the tradition of performative mechanized sculpture, Kessler creates a playful format for his exploration of our modern war experience. The mischievous nature of Kessler’s hand belies a dark violence that is at once captivating and frightening. The business of death as mediated spectacle exposes anxieties and complacencies concerning surveillance, propaganda, and our ravenous consumption of celebrity.