THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD
Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD
Entrance to the Sideshow of the Absurd

Installation views of "Sideshow of the Absurd" at the Fine Arts Center in Colorado Springs, October 12, 2013 - January 12, 2014.


Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD Black artificial turf, red satin and brocade
Ringmistress Cape
2001
Black artificial turf, red satin and brocade
34" x 30" x 12"

The most desirable role in the Sideshow would be the Ringmaster, the one in charge; the person who presents the acts and directs the show. That's the role the artist is playing in this Sideshow: the Ringmistress.

Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD Multi-media
Absurdities Banner, Max, The World's Largest House Cat
1998-2000
Multi-media
90" x 72" x 8"

The Absurdities Banner hangs at the entrance to the Sideshow and establishes the mood for the show. The blue fluorescent sign glows above a self-portrait of the artist at her most powerful and absurd: dressed in a leopard skin leotard she balances on red toe shoes holding Max the World's Largest Housecat overhead. This giant pussy, the unspoken focus of the show, grins like the Cheshire cat just before he disappears.
Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD Multi-media, mechanized with sound
The Garden of the Virgins
1999
Multi-media, mechanized with sound
120" x 216" x 108", Arch of Lights, 120" x 198" x 24", Each Garden, 72" x 84" diameter

The Garden of the Virgins frames the entry for this traveling carnival, the Sideshow of the Absurd. Visitors pass under a rainbow arch of lights anchored by golden unicorn statues. On fields of green Astroturf and surrounded by white picket fences, the unicorns are poised to prance through the fields of iridescent metal flake Snow Whites and Barbies surrounding them. The small dolls sway and gyrate gently as if blades of grass in the wind, or a field of elaborate sex toys. Visitors walk into what appears to be an idyllic world with beautiful golden unicorns, green grass, picket fences, swaying figures of little girls, and carnival music. Here they are introduced to one of the themes of the show: that violence lurks behind facades and the awareness of death and immortality.

The subtext to The Garden is about a fall from grace, and how in every safety there’s a danger; in every paradise, sin. The Bible, among other texts, makes reference to the special powers of the unicorn, the thrill of hunting and killing them, and their power as aphrodisiacs. According to mythology, a unicorn never dies, and the only way to capture one is with a virgin. The small swaying dolls surrounding the unicorns in this exhibit can be seen as preventing their escape, and perhaps robbing them of their power. These little figures resemble toys, mounted on popsicle sticks with childish innocence but suggest adult roles in the way they look like dildos.

Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD
Barbie & Snow White Virgins, Detail
1999
Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD


Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD Multi-media, mechanized with sound
The Lady Swordswallower
2000
Multi-media, mechanized with sound
138" x 76" x 42"

The Lady Swordswallower is a hefty 2x-scale figure carved out of wood that mechanically moves an enormous sword up and down in her throat. She seems to be an Amazonian archetype, but in a slightly lumpy bikini. A soundtrack, animated and lusty, accompanies the movement.
Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD


Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD Multi-media, with digital video and sound
Alien Fortune Teller
2001
Multi-media, with digital video and sound
108" x 54" x 42"

The Alien Fortune Teller is a revitalization of a multi-media fortune teller booth from the late 1970's. Using digital technology to hybridize an old film version of the fortune teller with the artist's video performances, the booth brings the future and the past together in a celestial time warp. Visitors seeking the wise counsel of the two-faced seer and her celestial consortium need only place a palm down over the alien hand silhouette on the counter to "magically" animate the figure in the booth. The fortunes are spoken in earth language using words taken from world leaders, manifestos and self-help books which fall humorously out of context amid this occult camp.
Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD
Alien Fortune Teller, Detail

"Beware the axis of evil wrongdoers … "

"Do not blush … Love is a common embarassment to many…

"Seize this moment for the good of the world. For peace and for freedom…"

"Do not worry. People will buy your product…"
"Your feelings about things torment you rather than the things themselves…"

Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD Multi-media, mechanized
The Baby Wheel of Fortune
1999
Multi-media, mechanized
55" diameter x 24"

The Baby Wheel of Fortune is based on one of the original gambling wheels from turn-of-the-century Coney Island. In the center of this wheel is a mechanized baby doll that moves its arms and legs when a viewer activates the work by stepping on an electric mat. Numbers and children’s book icons ring the outside of the wheel, emphasizing the fate and chance involved in maternity and our lives.
Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD


Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD Multi-media, mechanized with sound
The Strongwoman Catgirl, Pussy Marshmallow
2000
Multi-media, mechanized with sound
10'6" x 3'6" diameter

The Strongwoman Catgirl is a larger-than-life mechanical version of the absurd scenario presented on the entrance banner, except that instead of the artist, a surrogate female character — Pussy Marshmallow — is presented lifting the housecat. As the artist’s cartoon self, Pussy Marshmallow is both superhero and alter-ego to the Ringmistress (who has mysteriously disappeared to leave only her cape … hmmm). Pussy Marshmallow shows up in numerous other dangerous situations throughout The Sideshow, but like a cartoon character with an infinite number of lives, she always remains unscathed. The piece is accompanied by sounds of purring and cat fights.
Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD Multi-media, mechanized with sound
The Ball Toss
2000
Multi-media, mechanized with sound
96" x 104" x 60"

The Ball Toss is modeled after the traditional carnival game where men usually took pot shots at small objects in order to win a teddy bear for their girlfriend. The Ball Toss booth is painted with images referencing carnival "girlie" shows, which often exploited the audience's ideas of exoticism. The game features two rows of painted poupée dolls that can be knocked over with balls and then re-set using a simple mechanism. The dolls face backward, toward a world map painted with humorous vignettes that combine images of extinct species with "wildly" different portrayals of "sexy" women and "spicy" text. The soundtrack includes a barker cajoiling the public and the walls of the innocent.

Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD Multi-media, mechanized with sound
The Extinct Animals
2000
Multi-media, mechanized with sound
68" x 96" x 96"

The Extinct Animals is an exhibit of old playground equipment shaped like animals that rotate on metal bases over a ground of black artificial turf. As they turn, viewers hear sounds of buzzing flies and young women speaking about the excitement of going to a carnival.
Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD Multi-media with sound
The Torture Museum
2001
Multi-media with sound
120" x 240" x 72"

The Torture Museum and the adjoining Beauty Shoppe (You Have to Suffer to be Beautiful) is a black rubber structure enclosing an installation of beauty equipment and 70+ wooden cutting boards. Each board is burned with drawings of women in perilous situations, recalling the invincible and sexy magician’s assistant who is sawn in half, turned into an animal and back again, or stabbed with knives. The women in this Museum, however, represent the endless permutations of that magical household appliance commonly known as the housewife - she who mythically battles the Hydra of domestic danger while undergoing a harrowing beauty process. The Beauty Shoppe displays the sadistic tools and recipes used in this dungeon, and can be viewed through a small window reminiscent of a peep show.


Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD Multi-media with sound
The Adjoining Beauty Shoppe (You Have To Suffer To Be Beautiful)
2001
Multi-media with sound
120" x 48" x 72"
Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD
The Torture Museum Wall

Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD Oil on Canvas
Pussy Marshmallow as Chamunda, The Divine Mother Goddess, Destroyer of Evil
2013
Oil on Canvas
91" x 54.5"

With a deafening roar, Chamunda slays the demons of fear, doubt, hatred and anger. A powerful antidote to the ills of all ages, she is terrible, omnipotent, fierce, and at the same time can rock us in her many arms, a loving mother, supportive of that part within us which moves towards the light of consciousness, peace and universal love.
Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD


Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD Multi-media with sound
Tiny Town/Conjoined Twins
1999
Multi-media with sound
74" x 61" x 61"

The Conjoined Twins are a version of Siamese twins joined together at the back and with opposite perspectives on life. He nods "yes" while she shakes her head "no", with a tense verbal battle ensuing. They sit on a cobbled-together cinderblock pedestal one might expect to find in agit-prop theater. The base is a large and chaotic narrative drawing which combines the travel circuit of a game of Candyland with potent images of disaster: fire, cataclysm, moral degradation and animals escaping from the zoo.
Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD


Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD
The Headless Woman Scrim Wall
Mixed sizes
Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD Mixed media drawings
The Headless Woman Scrim Tent
1998-2013
Mixed media drawings
120" x 132" x 72"

The Scrim Room contains the drawings, collages and studies for The Sideshow. Small watercolor paintings were digitally enlarged to make the vinyl mesh walls of the enclosure, which is distorted to suggest an exaggerated perspective. Viewers must stoop to enter.

Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD

Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD Multi-media, mechanized
The Shooting Gallery/Balancing Bingo
2000
Multi-media, mechanized
96" x 140" x 41"

Balancing Bingo parodies an old Coney Island shooting gallery but in addition to the ducks and fish bobbing along the track, a female figure glides back and forth on roller skates, her doll's face distorted in the fun-house mirror behind her. With an elephant in one hand and a serving napkin on her arm, the wooden figure of the Original Waitress is the perfect decoy and gives the impression that she can handle anything thrown her way.

Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD Multi-media
Shelly, The Human Tortoise
2001-2002
Multi-media
87" x 60" x 18"

Shelly, The Human Tortoise is a plexiglass museum display case containing artifacts relating to the life and history of Shelly, whose body can be rotated slowly in the case for careful consideration with the touch of a button. It can be presumed that the painted sideshow banner behind the body used to draw people in to see her as a live attraction. Now she is history; her story a fairy tale mounted on the wall next to the case, the painted papyrus scroll belying the ease with which an anthropological view can become a romantic apology for an incursion into sacred space.

"In a time long ago before man, when most of the world was covered with water there was a place where turtles ruled… Ships sailed from all over … seeking the princess turtle. But the island waters were blessed by a magic spell… So for many centuries the turtles lived without any human company. Until one day a man of peaceful spirit was guided to their seas… As soon as he saw the princess, he fell deeply in love and asked for her hand…"
Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD Acrylic on canvas mesh from Watercolors
Sprayed Banners
2001
Acrylic on canvas mesh from Watercolors
Mixed sizes

Small watercolor paintings were digitally enlarged to make the large scale semi transparent hanging banners.

Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD

Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD Multi-media, mechanized with sound
Leda, The Amazing Swan Princess
2001-2002
Multi-media, mechanized with sound
120" x 96" x 40"

Leda, The Amazing Swan Princess is one of the first pieces created for The Sideshow. On a small proscenium stage, the mechanical figure of an ice skater balances a nest of baby birds on her head. A large feathered neck and swan’s beak connects her lips to the nest. A digitally imaged backdrop completes this memorial to the life and death of a mother swan with whom the artist was intimately acquainted.

Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD Multi-media with sound
Cincinnati Cleeko, The Captive Swan Boy
2002
Multi-media with sound
120" x 96" x 40"

Cincinnati Cleeko, The Captive Swan Boy combines text and images from a recent issue of National Geographic with the tragic story of a young Bushman (named Clicko after his speech patterns) who traveled as a captive attraction with one of the early Sideshows. The piece rotates to the sound of drums and the ballyhoo of a snake barker. The swan headress, a ritual artifact from the ancient Indus culture of Southeast Asia, has been hybridized with The Sideshow of the Absurd's own fetish for unicorn horns as a displaced phallic symbol.
Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD



Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD Multi-media
The Oddities Sideshow Tent
2000
Multi-media
110" x 198" x 84"

The four printed panels of The Oddities Sideshow Tent advertise a spectacle of strange body parts and mutilations that dance and sing though they have been decapitated, or have multiple limbs. These fictions remind us that if there’s any truth to advertising, it won’t be at a Sideshow.
Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD Multi-media, mechanized (one with music)
The Oddities: The Singing Torso (62" x 25" x 19"), The Dancing Three-Legged Alligator Lady (63" x 36" diameter), The Invulnerable Woman (65" x 17" diameter), The Head in the Suitcase (51" x 16" x 17")
1998-2000
Multi-media, mechanized (one with music)
Mixed sizes

Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD Mixed media
Works on Paper
2001-2006
Mixed media
Mixed sizes

The Maquette of The Strongwoman Catgirl
2000
Papier maché, multi-media,
49" x 24" x 21"
The Maquette of the Strongwoman Catgirl is the small scale model for the Grand Strongwoman Catgirl, Pussy Marshmallow.

The Maquette of the Lady Swordswallower
1999
Wood, multi-media,
50.5" x 20.75" x 31.5"
The Maquette of the Lady Swordswallower is the small scale study for the Grand Lady Swordswallower.
Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD Mixed media
Works on Paper
2001-2006
Mixed media
Mixed sizes

Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD Unity game engine, Zigfu plug-in, Photoshop, Kinect sensor and Lycra screen.
Body Scrub, Sideshow Dancers
2013
Unity game engine, Zigfu plug-in, Photoshop, Kinect sensor and Lycra screen.

Pamela Jospeh and Kurosh ValaNejad with coding by Todd Furmanski.

The Body Scrub device is a virtual fun-house mirror reflecting chorus lines of Sideshow dancers. It was developed by Kurosh ValaNejad at the USC Game Innovation Lab. Technically, this device correlates the depth information provided by the Kinect sensor to the frame of an animation sequence. In this case, the images were mined from Pamela Joseph's prints and ink drawing of Sideshow dancers.
Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD


Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD

Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD


Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD

Pamela Joseph THE SIDESHOW OF THE ABSURD


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