Series of drawings exhibited in 2014 at Týs Gallerí, Reykjavík, Iceland.
Text by Aldís Snorradóttir
In her exhibition, Red Direction, McMahon has isolated certain symbols and fractions of images from safety information cards found on board airplanes. When the symbols are taken out of context it´s interesting to see what meaning they convey to us and try to discover if the intended interpretation of the message changes. The airplane for example is a frequent symbol where it´s shown taking off and landing, going up and coming down, up and down, repeatedly. When the airplane symbol is drawn alone or together with other airplane symbols the interpretation of it changes and it becomes an obvious phallus symbol. Feet and high-heeled shoes are common in this exhibition and have been a constant motif in the artist's previous works. The bodies that accompany the shoes are not visible so it´s impossible to say if they belong to women or men. Automatically one assumes that a foot that bears a high-heeled shoe is that of a woman and a flat shoe belongs to a man. As in McMahon's previous works speculations regarding gender politics, especially social norms and stereotypes, are an underlying theme. The airplane setting has very strong stereotypes where flight attendants are beautiful young women and the pilots are dashing men, heroes in a way, firmly in control of things in the cockpit. When norms and so-called gender roles are being considered nothing should be taken for granted and everything should be critically scrutinized. In a sense McMahon is doing just that with her works in this exhibition by examining instruction manuals. The question is, where instructions are stipulated, is it always the only way to do things?
Some of the works in the exhibition are still-lifes of electronic devices whose use is forbidden in airplanes during take off or during the entire flight and it´s remarkable how it needs to be especially stated that the use of remote-controlled cars and printers is not allowed. Considering the erotic undertone of the exhibition, many of the electronic devices McMahon depicts, e.g. video recorder, camera, mobile phone and a computer, can be connected to voyeurism and exhibitionism.
The exhibition consists of drawings and a sound piece which is done in collaboration with musician Einar Tönsberg. All the drawings are fiery red and of course there are many symbolic associations with that colour. The colour red can signify something sensual and erotic, but at the same time the it can be a symbol of something dangerous or forbidden, e.g. a red traffic light, a stop sign or a red circle with a line through a forbidden object. The red colour and the isolated symbols of the safety instructions have therefore ambiguous meanings that each viewer can interpret in her or his own way. The sound piece finalizes the atmosphere of the exhibition where the ambiguousness of the title of the exhibition Red Direction is highlighted by being sung repeatedly in a sensual voice.