san francisco art magazine archives

Shane Montgomery: Air Purity, Inc.

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214 Valencia Street, San Francisco
(between Duboce and 14th St.)
May 11 - June 3, 2001

Reviewed by Christopher Stout
Air Purity - Shane Montgomery
Air Purity - Shane Montgomery

Gallery Statement:

     Parodying the hyperbolic tone of market-driven fads (e.g., Pokeman, Susan Summer's Thighmaster, etc.), Shane Montgomery's 'Air Purity Inc.' is an ongoing project that uses a fictitious company and its products as a metaphor to question notions of social space and social interaction. Through absurdist, quasi-fascist sloganeering to promote 'lifestyle products' promising the unobtainable ideal of 'pure air,' Montgomery's project investigates the fear of impurity/contamination underlying cultural hermeticism. Ultimately, 'Air Purity Inc.' posits the liquidity of air--its ability to flow through and around barriers, to occupy space around us and even inside us--as a model for a breaking down socially constructed notions of division and autonomy.

     On a surface level, Air Purity, Inc. displays a business strategy sophistication that would render many developing corporations utterly jealous: naming, branding, market base, demographic, marketing plan, style bible, product solution--mavens in the strategy industry would laud this corporation as "spot on." And well so, the message and benefit of Air Purity has been carefully crafted and launched by founder Shane Montgomery.

Air Purity - Shane Montgomery

     --but crazy oxymoron, in studying Montgomery's bio, there is no mention of tenure at Accenture, no ivy league masters degree in business development, not even a listed stint at a local web-incubator like Razorfish or Liquid Thinking.

     Shane Montgomery is an artist.

     Shane Montgomery has built Air Purity, Inc. as his propaganda machine. Underneath the sleek lines of brilliant marketing lies a cleverly hidden message about the invasive power of such entities as corporatism, religion, politics, and society in general.

Air Purity - Shane Montgomery

     While many of Shane Montgomery's previous works tended to explore more personal issues of self insecurity and doubt, Shane makes a didactic statement about the power of outside forces upon the individual. People crave many things: community, acceptance, validation. Your mom knows this, but unfortunately, many marketing people know this too. People also share many common fears: death, sickness, unpopularity, and many times organizations will use what you are scared of to manipulate your spending or your actions.

     Shane Montgomery has taken the plentiful air that we breathe and re-branded it, through the propaganda tactic of paranoia, as something to be filtered, tested, feared. There are no blue skies at Air Purity Inc., only rats, micro-biological diseases, smog, pollutants, toxicity levels, plague, and strong-armed rhetoric about how the effects of breathing dangerous air can be averted by purchasing the elaborate filtering machine and testing products of Air Purity, Inc.

Air Purity - Shane Montgomery

     As the couch sized filtering device bellows it's vacuum-like rumbling--with it's 40 foot filtration ducts extended, a video explains the world history of airborne disease, the dangers of breathing unfiltered air, and the solution offered by Air Purity. Pictures, diagrams, surveys--the lady next to you coughs and you start to feel a little frantic, when you realize...

     It's a joke. The machine isn't real, the company isn't real. Air Purity, Inc. isn't real.

     What is real is the message that the earth is in some sense polluted by people who will spin your insecurities into their own gold.

--Christopher Stout

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Photos by Sheilah Boothby.