Jaime Cortez envisions the "Universal Remote" known as Michael Jackson
The [show's] lamps relate to the process of mythologizing from the record companies and the media — after a while, you couldn't tell if the National Enquirer was more reliable than People or Newsweek. And then on top it all was his self-mythologizing. He alternated between extreme humility and grandiose egotism. The unadulterated rotating lamps that you buy for children's rooms present a little story, one that illuminates a child's space. I felt they were the proper form for exploring a very adult fairy tale about Faustian tradeoffs.
SFBG How did the text accompanying the lamps come about?
JC I was having dinner with Gary [Gregerson] and Jill Reiter, and Gary joked, "Michael Jackson was a castrato." When he said that, I had this Tetris moment where all the blocks fell into place. When I began studying the castrati, it really got interesting. The most famous of them were basically rock stars. Women would faint or go gaga when they saw them. Women wanted to have sex with them. They looked different from other people because they developed differently from being castrated. And they had these gifts — the best of them had the lung power of a grown man coupled with a high, boyish or womanly voice.
SFBG How did you create the elaborate encasement that is the show's centerpiece?
JC It's built from a bunch of vases attached to each other with industrial adhesive. The statue is polymer modeling compound with wires for an Afro. The bubble on top is an acrylic globe I ordered from a street lamp company. On one hand, it makes him look like a specimen under a bell jar. Overall, it has a feeling of grandiosity and loneliness.
SFBG The mirror at the base adds another dimension.
JC Yes, it make the sense of space ambiguous. But most of all, I wanted to make something that looked precarious. For me, the piece is a visual analog for all the unbelievable machinery behind making a kid into a star. There's an amazing amount of publicity and technology and image management, in addition to training and performing — this amazing apparatus, all of it built around a little 70-pound kid.
JAIME CORTEZ: UNIVERSAL REMOTE
Through Feb. 19, free
3030 20th St., SF