At first glance, his creation, called “Trance Icon 2” appears to be a condemnation of the current president. Situated in the large street-side window of the storefront gallery, “Trance Icon 2” features a small box with a photograph of George W. Bush in front of spinning “hypno-disc,” the likes of which are used in B horror movies to induce a hypnotic state.
The photograph, however, is not just a photograph, but a lenticular image that changes from a depiction of the president when he was young to a demonic perversion of that same image, with bright red eyes and what Durning describes as “bleeding teeth like he just ate a baby.”
Though this may seem like a political display, it is only a small part of the larger piece. Small speakers behind the display repeat the tinny, monotone voice that says, “This is your president!”
Surrounding this tiny, gear-filled wooden box is a full window’s worth of words denouncing the media for manipulating the American public into accepting the terms of the 2000 presidential election. A lengthy screed against the corporate-controlled media and how it influences and determines everyday life is peppered with the mantra, “The Media Lies.”
“I’ve created a spinning motorized hypnosis machine that convinces you that George W. Bush is our president,” said Durning. “He didn’t win the election, and I don’t care who called it.”
He built the piece shortly after the results of the 2000 election, and says that rather than voters or any political party, it was the media that decided the results.
“The media, which is controlled by three companies, is manufacturing your consent,” he said. “Opinion polls don’t reflect our belief, but rather create them.”
Durning was born and raised in Brooklyn and has been a working artist for his whole life. He is an animator by training, and still teaches the subject at Long Island University and the New York City College of Technology, and has been working with mixed media for the last 15 years. He is also an independent filmmaker and hosts a radio show discussing new media on WPS1.
“Trance Icon 2” was created shortly after the 2000 election and in the past eight years has been shown around Brooklyn, but at the Clinton Hill Art Gallery it may have found its best location.
Located on Vanderbilt Avenue just off Myrtle Avenue, the piece shines out of the small gallery window and onto a very busy section of street.
“Kids that walk by the piece love it,” said Durning. “They usually get it before their parents do.”
The gallery’s location near a bus stop means that ordinary commuters have an opportunity to engage with Durning’s message.
“When people wait out there, they can’t help but fell the presence of the piece,” he said.
After eight years, the end of President Bush’s second term, and a very tight election to replace him, Durning felt that this would be good time to revisit his piece.
“I think this will be a perfect send-off to his administration, and I’m hopeful that it is a sendoff,” he said.
The Clinton Hill Art Gallery held an opening/artist talk with Daniel Durning and artist Lydia Malloy. Their work will be on display at the gallery until October 31. The Clinton Hill Art Gallery is located at 154 Vanderbilt Avenue. Prints of “Trance Icon 2” are available.