TRIBE LINE > 2001-2004 (5)

This series simultaneously explores both the symbolic and the formal dimensions of iconic imagery, played across the divide between ‘advanced’ Western and ‘primitive’ tribal cultures. Seen against a clear blue sky, populated with swirling white clouds, bar graphs are transformed into a fantastic capitalist landscape: paired with the geometric forms of African tribal art, they draw attention to the surprising visual similarities between these stylized forms. Icons become recognizable through their repetition, a repetition that easily slips into the logic of the fetish, charging the image or the figure with unexpected power. While such a reading is often applied to the African masks that appear in these works, here it unexpectedly calls out the embedded meaning of Wall Street financial graphs, which represent a visualized obsession with the accumulation of wealth—our very own deeply ingrained cultural fetish. The fascination with following the market through these charts invests them with the ultimate symbolic power, rendering them the epitome in acquisitive American culture. Travanti is less interested in the specific political relationship between the First and Third worlds here than he is in creating a situation in which the very notion of signification is placed at cross purposes—and in the process, revealing the continuing power of the image in today’s (post)modern world. -- Beth Wilson, 2007