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The Kingston Prize 2011

The Collective

Phantoms of the Front Yard

PHANTOMS IN THE FRONT YARD is a touring art collective that brings together the work of Vancouver artists Michael Abraham, Jordan Bent, Jeremy Birnbaum, Chad Krowchuk, Marcus Macleod and Jay Senetchko boldly challenging the contemporary Canadian art scene, to revive the human subject as muse.

Figurative art has become the phantom of the fine art world, haunting both Modernism and Postmodernism with its ties to a classical tradition, refusing to be dismissed, ignored or forgotten.

Growing up in the 1990s as a“gym rat” I idolized and revered Michael Jordan along with every other basketball fan.  In addition to arguably being the most dominant individual to ever play the game, Jordan’s legacy extended beyond the realm of sports to transform the role and perception of the professional athlete.  Through endorsements such as Nike, Wheaties, and Hanes, Jordan transcended the athlete’s economy of power from athletic prowess to include that of operating as a potential financial commodity. This transformation of the athlete through branding and advertising offered fans of all ages and talent opportunities to eat his breakfast, play in his shoes…even wear his underwear.  Everyone could literally “Be like Mike”.

Jordan’s ascension to the height of professional athletics garnered him multiple aliases, most notably: Air Jordan.  Michael Jordan ceased to be human and took on the status of the Demiurge.  Watching him play on television on Sunday mornings I often heard color commentator Bill Walton refer to him as “God in basketball shoes”.  Reading articles about Jordan, writer Bonz Malone hailed him simply as “God”.  Comparisons between Jordan and the Divine were not limited to literal references: in 1989 photographer Gary Nolton photographed Wings, one of Jordan’s most iconographic images.  Youths everywhere paid homage to their walls with the cruxifition-like icon of a 26-year-old Michael Jordan palming a basketball above a William Blake inscription, and I was one of the flock.  It remains to this day one of Nike’s top selling posters.

G.O.A.T. explores the sphere of influence of the brand Michael Jordan through Wings.  Each person, imitating Jordan’s Christ-like pose, loses their individuality and is reduced to a follower paying homage to an icon.  The viewer must question then whether they are looking at an image of the Cruxifition or the incarnation of a cult of personality.  G.O.A.T. is an acronym for Greatest of All Time, a reference alluding to both Jordan’s idolization as well as the pagan substitution of his image for that of Christ.