jo1John Updike famously said that ‘celebrity is a mask that eats its own face’. Artist James Ostrer’s latest works follows the same disturbing vein as his Wotsit All About series. However, there’s nothing sweet about these distorted funhouse mirror images of the various celebrity icons that try to seduce us in the media with their promises of success, beauty and glamour. Ostrer describes these works as ‘honesty portraits’, an attempt at dealing with the vast amount of media data that we all consume on a day-to-day basis.

jo4Each work is titled Emotional Download followed by the number of searches that the subject has reached (at the time that the exhibition will take place) according to Google Trends data. Part of what prompted him to make the effigies is the way he feels it’s literally impossible to avoid the feeling we’re being forced to worship these hollow and contrived icons.

jo2Donald Trump may not be the presidential favourite to win the election, but he’s far and away the most-searched candidate on Google. Ostrer states, “The eyes of the world are on Trump which marked him out as my number one subject.” Ostrer’s effigy of Donald Trump comprises a honey blonde bouffant hairpiece, a real pig’s snout, actual sheep’s eyes, raw fish, crude oil, rubble that has been gold leafed, an inverted pig’s rib cage, a half eaten croissant and a mass produced, high street suit.

jo3Another instantly recognisable perma-irritant is Miley Cyrus. Ostrer says, “Cyrus seems to think she’s in control but is basically pornified by Terry Richardson.” Ostrer’s effigy of Cyrus is a face made from pig-skin complete with ox tongue arms, nose and legs. Sheep’s eyes and cow hoof horns frame a blonde mop of hair. She’s dressed in a fur coat decorated with multiple latex breasts. He says, “The Miley inspired emotional download represents the spectrum of change I have seen in the last 25 years where the portrayed ideals of female fame and sex used to be defined by a fur coat, some diamonds and a bit of flesh showing here and there to the now pneumatic pornification of women, perpetuating the apparent need to insert more and more silicon in various parts of their body and faces while removing all their natural ‘fur’.”

jo5Grotesque. Inventive. Thought-provoking. These works will make you laugh and cringe in equal measure.

James Ostrer | The Ego System
Art Central
Central Harbourfront Event Space
9 Lung Wo Road
Hong Kong
+85 2 2174 0322
First night
Monday 21 March
5pm — 9pm

General opening hours
Wednesday 23 March
12pm — 7pm
Thursday 24 March
12pm — 7pm
Friday 25 March
11am — 7pm
Saturday 26 March
11am — 6pm

Words by Anna Bang


anna bang, Donald Trump, James Ostrer, Miley Cyrus,