Auckland artist Richard Orjis’ works have recently approached belief systems and specifically cultic rituals. For the current Te Tuhi artist’s billboard project, Orjis typographically references the logo of the US religious cult Heavens Gate, complete with the original kitsch spiritual backdrop of galaxies and shooting stars. Made famous through the worldwide media coverage of the willful suicide of thirty-eight members in 1997, the group embodies the vulnerability of blind faith under a sinister form of control.
What is most memorable about the incident is the strange ritualistic details which were revealed about the subjects self sacrifice; for instance, they were found in matching black clothing complete with identical Nike shoes. Replacing the words ‘heavens gate’ with the letters ‘Y, E, S,’ spaced over individual billboards, evokes a similar sense of uniformity.
The openness of this affirmation also brings numerous readings to mind. Is Orjis responding to the commercial backdrop of shopping mall behind, the ‘yes men’ employees who without question follow through with everything an employer requests? In this sense the surrounding commercial landscape is one large YES. Or is this a sarcastic response? We might wonder how many ideas were negated from above before this YES. And, like a cult, who’s making these decisions?