Joshua Citarella: Forward-Facing Politics


WASHINGTON DC - In a time framed by imminent political, climatic, and cultural disaster, what space exists to envision a better world? In Joshua Citarella: Forward-Facing Politics, this question looms as large as the works themselves. Chromogenic color prints offer different variations of unfolding dystopias. An apartment-renter, sitting aloof, surrounds himself with dried food and survivalist materials. Beyond his home, Uber helicopters deliver goods to high-rise apartments amidst a flooded city. Automated servants attend to residents, and resources are imported to and distributed from a man-made island.

The fashionings of these technological homes may be digitally composed by Citarella, but the compiled scenes closely adhere to the world envisioned by the online communities that he investigates. In September of 2018, Citarella published Politigram and the Post-Left, a book which details over two years of his research on the content produced on Politigram – politically radicalized Instagram – and other online spaces. The vast majority of individuals orchestrating these accounts are kids predominantly between the ages of 12-17 who were born on the other side of history where neoliberalism remains as their dominant economic and cultural force. As material conditions decline and Millennials and Zoomers (those part of Generation Z) continually become downwardly mobile, these users question the efficacy of mainstream political doctrines. The political center moves to the periphery and radicalization moves into their collective consciousness. As a result, hundreds of political subcultures proliferate. Although the majority of these users are teenage provocateurs – with most comment threads and posts wrought with juvenile antics and explicit hyperboles – the memes and content produced points to the anxieties that we all confront to some extent today. Being born into an era of social, financial, and environmental collapse prompts these teens to desire individual security and necessitate new political organizing. It is true that revisionist and right-wing ideas permeate these spaces that accelerate bigoted and racist beliefs, but Citarella and other users on the left do not hold onto reactionary thinking; progressive ideologies manifest just as easily. By envisioning the dystopias professed by left-politigram users, real disaster can be averted later.

Exhibiting Artist: Joshua Citarella