The window was left open though the door was shut
For the few minutes it’ll take to scan this text, let's put Duchamp and Readymades aside. To understand the lawless quality of contemporary art, let us suspend the terms. Shall we instead engage with an object's sentience for what it is? After all, art is an object in itself.
Curated by Elaine Tam & Lily Brooke
4th - 27th October
Allow me a quick digression to the frescoes and monumental bronzes that everyone (from tourists brandishing selfie-sticks, to book-y Oxbridge art historians) seems familiar with. I argue “Art Today!” has much to do with a recognisable historic legacy of representation and craftsmanship... but something about it differs wildly. There are continuities, and then there are discontinuities;
A would-be still life dithers between photorealistic and graphic qualities, committed to both and neither. The contemporary artist works from a palette of the signs and symbols, just as wide-ranging and nuanced as paint. The emblems lend themselves to action: whether compounding, layering, frying. Their poetic sensibilities are exploited and fraught with artistic imagination, opening onto new (yet still) maker-ly forms.
A marble tromp l’oeil wrapping a ledge sneaks into view. This is no marble from which the Greats sculpted myths, but a skilled confounding of surface and artifice. Dare I say more akin to the vinyl-clad tables in a builder's cafe – a beg to question material illusions! In similar simulation, a Mesoamerican obsidian mirror emulates and evokes a darkened phone screen. Teasing, thick plastic lashes invite a closer look. These visual and material cues are magick windows, through which the ordinary is warped. The pillow where our heads rest is wrought with strain - whether for wet dream or waiting tooth - it appears to us now as a slab of jesmonite, impressed upon by an invisible belt.
I warn you of the readiness of transformation present in all objects. This is a fact we are well adjusted to – call to mind the production of goods we all consume, of which art is but one. An orange lifebuoy begins its life in the same plastic as toys. Just as dollar bills are really made of cotton, the same cotton of clothes found in the streets, in the streets made of ready-mix concrete. The (genealogical) truth is that everything holds the potential for change. And instead of living among us as domestic device or design, the objects in this room have been reworked again: now housed in new ficto-realities, materialities and temporalities. Time Apart, time intertwined, time stilled.
Is the artwork an object’s endgame? Who are our future archaeologists, and how will they interpret the strange stories of our time? So “paint me a picture of life as I know it”! I point to the display of two candles, never quite ready to burn.
Olivia Brook Alfa
Sisters from Another Mister
Tenant of Culture