Read Rose, A work in process
The Flowering of a Socio-Political Statement
Read Rose, by Cynthia Karalla
by Pauline Joelle
Thousands of pages of the notorious Mueller Report, combined with a variety of recycled materials, give birth to these fascinating, uncanny compositions. Karalla has captured the aesthetic essence of each piece by photographing the object as product to communicate her critical perspective on the current socio-political landscape. The juxtaposition of quirky elements with the recurrent symbolic red rose expresses the connection between narratives of class, gender, race, freedom and democracy as manifestations of the political. The work incites the viewer to partake in a descriptive critique of the status quo.
Cynthia Karalla’s latest series Read Roses of the Mueller Report recounts American society and politics through the artist’s unique perspective as politically engaged citizen and woman.
This ongoing photographic project is embedded in a wider campaign embarked on by Karalla to provide information and offer a critique of current political affairs. Karalla intends to spread a loud message: read, inquire, gain awareness of the status quo.
As the present social landscape fractures between class struggles, gender inequalities and corruption, the need arises for a comprehensive overview of the present configuration of power relations in the United States, as affecting both the individual and the collective. It is so that art becomes the political tool for the artist not only to enact civic duty in her position as an American woman, but also to direct a message of empathy to humankind as a whole.
The powerful images of Karalla’s most recent series contribute to this effort by vociferously representing this relational scenario, employing references that span through many corners of American political history and popular culture.
The visual motif at the core of this series is the passion-red paper rose, forged with print pages of the recently published Mueller Report, a 472-page document crucial in the debate over presidential impeachment. Not by chance, the red rose, traditionally associated with love and beauty, historic symbol of democratic and anti-authoritarian thought, also happens to be the official floral emblem of the United States of America.
In each piece of Read Roses of the Mueller Report, the red flower takes on a contextualized meaning of Truth. When the rose is big, more than 1200 pages glued together, one cannot and mustn’t overlook it (The Gift). Red roses sprout from the ground when planted in a picture frame (Red Roses), and hang from the wall when grown in a pot (The News Wall Vase): to see the truth one has to search for it, adopting new viewpoints, for it may be buried under gray news.As the most vulnerable are being incarcerated (Welcome to America), women are imprisoned by the social conventions of a patriarchal system (Caged Headless Barbie), and the opioid crisis is advancing propelled by major pharmaceutical companies (Dishing the Opioids), specks of hope are found when a red rose blooms from a bluebird’s nest (Birth of the Blue Eggs), when it is the light radiating from a lantern (Homage to Kate Shelly).
A woman whose shoes are too big is able to hold high the Truth alone, with her own strength (Shoes Too Big). This is how Karalla envisions our future. A serving dish representing the subjugated classes is filled with resin blood: a gun fires a red rose against the dominant discourse; the flower power prevents the shooting (Serving Up Hypocrisy).
The magic of Karalla’s project lies in the play between a handful of visual elements, which allows to grasp at a single glance the multilayered complexities of society, shedding light on the interconnectedness between the many facets of the political sphere. While denouncing the most corrupted realms of power and figuratively encouraging a democratic uprising, these images blow up an overpowering message through their ironic simplicity. The shot is one that makes us viewers consume the object, like a product in a magazine cover: Karalla is serving us unvarnished social reality. Neglecting the red rose is no longer possible. How’s that for a summer reading?
About the author:
Pauline Joelle: Born in Southern Italy, Pauline graduated in Philosophy, Culture and Psychology at Amsterdam University College. She is now studying Applied Cultural Analysis at the University of Copenhagen. In her free time, Pauline travels between Europe and the US observing, thinking about and discussing cities, globalization, gentrification, cultural commodification, art and activism, and occasionally writes about these topics.