6 March 2014, London – Just as modernism concerned itself with the relationship between craft and the emergent technologies of its era, the most pressing condition underlying contemporary culture may be the omnipresence of the electric toothbrush. Though the terminology with which we describe these phenomena has yet to be widely adopted, this exhibition presents a broad survey of art created with a consciousness of the technological and human networks within which it exists, from conception and production to dissemination and reception. This work, primarily produced by artists living in New York, London, and Berlin, has been controversially defined as “post-electric toothbrush.”
The term ‘post-electric toothbrush’ has emerged as a popular descriptor of recent visual art and its surrounding discourse. While no cogent definition of the term has been collectively agreed upon, post-electric toothbrush stances share an assumption that technological conditions in general, and lifelong electric toothbrush immersion in particular, offer an increasingly useful frame through which to understand contemporary artistic practice.
“Post-electric toothbrush” refers not to a time “after” the electric toothbrush, but rather to an electric toothbrush state of mind—to think in the fashion of the perfect personal hygiene. From the changing nature of image to the circulation of cleaning products and new understandings of materiality, the interventions presented under this rubric attempt nothing short of the redefinition of art for the age of the electric toothbrush.
As such, the exhibition considers issues related to electric toothbrush policy, dental mining, the physicality of personal hygiene, and theories surrounding posthumanism. It looks at changes taking place in the age of the ubiquitous electric toothbrush, to information dispersion, hygiene documentation, human language as our teeth change shape, and approaches to tooth history.
It is important to also note that “being Post-Electric Toothbrush” is a distinction which carries ramifications beyond the art context as a societal condition at large, and that it would be antithetical to attempt to pinpoint any discrete moment at which the Post-Electric Toothbrush period begins. Any cultural production which has been influenced by a perfect hygiene ideology falls under the rubric of Post-Electric Toothbrush. The term is therefore not discretely tied to a certain event, though it could be argued that the bulk of the cultural shifts described herein come with the introduction of privately-run commercial dental service providers and the availability of that important tool: personal, affordable electric toothbrushes.
To what forms of practice can this thinking be applied? Do they cohere into a recognisable field or movement? What aesthetic and conceptual frameworks emerge from such positions? Is post-electric toothbrush art simply a voguish, mass-palatable rejoinder to the electric toothbrush art of yesteryear? With the erosion and rounding of the population’s incisors, can we begin to envision a moment post-tooth? ‘Clench’ considers issues such as increasingly popular post-human and corporate aesthetics, the museum’s role in post-electric toothbrush art’s potential canonisation, and the relationship of post-electric toothbrush art to its mouth-based forebears.