On "Teen Paranormal Romance," an Exhibit at the ACAC / by Chris Hall

Kathryn Andrews, Friends and Lovers, 2010, part of "Teen Paranormal Romance" on display at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center.

Kathryn Andrews, Friends and Lovers, 2010, part of "Teen Paranormal Romance" on display at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center.

Young adult fiction, as typified by books such as “Twillight,” “Divergent,” “Hunger Games,” and the Harry Potter series, is a fantasy genre populated with wizards, werewolves, vampires, and super humans. While marketed toward teens, it is also widely consumed by adults looking for a cheap escapist fix.  Industry analysts estimate that over a half of its readers are over 18.  Because of its expanded fan base, the genre has become very profitable for book publishers, who seem to churn out the books at ever increasing rate.  Mindful of these profits, many of the books have been translated into blockbuster films.  Like it or not, it seems YA fiction has entered our popular culture zeitgeist and shows no sign of waning.  I have no problem with teens reading Young Adult fiction, but adults should consider growing up and reading something more challenging, more to their level, or better yet, get out of their escapist fantasy space and do something better for the community. “Teen Paranormal Romance” does make this critique, in its own way, by making a critique of consumerism within the genre and by distancing itself from all things within the realm of the unconscious, which exhibit curator Hamza Walker defines in “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” the essay accompanying the show, as “an internal psychic space . . . a derelict playground where there are no children, only weeds.”  But it is a real shame that many artists today have abandoned the unconscious, a real well-spring for the imagination and a source for psychic truths, and the only reference to it in our cultural zeitgeist is a superficial escapist preoccupation within young adult fiction.  Instead many of today’s contemporary artists opt for a different set of aesthetics, in the case of the artists in “Teen Paranormal Romance,” that would be the machine like, empty language of consumerism and popular culture.  For the most part, all the work in “Teen Paranormal Romance” have abandoned any kind of psychic inquires or emotional pathos.   In this way, “Teen Paranormal Romance” is typical of the cold, cerebral investigations in contemporary postmodern art practices today.  

I will not take the time here to describe to you the works within the exhibition.  If you are interested in learning more about the work within “Teen Paranormal Romance,” you can read Jacquelyn OCallaghan’s excellent review of it for burnaway.org here:  Parsing the Psychosexual in "Teen Paranormal Romance" at the ACAC.