Sutton Project Space.
Akira Akira, Christo Crocker, Susan Jacobs, Campbell Patterson, Kenzee Patterson, Stuart Ringholt, Emma White, Marcin Wojcik and Nicki Wynnychuk.
Co-curated with Patrice Sharkey. 2011
LOOKING AND LISTING
‘A passionate equivalence: attention to the incidental, the peripheral, everything that is beside the point’- Robert Irwin
To observe the gentle curve in a wall, the way the cool light touches a room or the slightly coarse surface of a wall – Irwin’s installations encourage the audience to pause and take note. Whether subtly adjusting the lighting in a room or stretching a thin piece of wire across a room until it is taut, Irwin’s minimal interventions destabilise the eye and other senses. His practice represents a curiosity in bending the viewer’s expectations througha keen use of reduction. Often unnoticed, these elements lie in the periphery of our visual field. They also form the building blocks for Hidden Definition.
This not only denotes atmospheric qualities. It could be when you realise you have gum on you shoe – and as you walk, the bright pink elastic trail stretches from the ground to your shoe. It is the double take – ‘a gap between knowable units’ whereby we accept an open experience of the material world.
What comes to mind here is George Perec’s An attempt at exhausting a place in Paris in which the artist spent a number of days recording the hum drum and non events of a city square in Paris. An Attempt… is a list of the number of buses that passed him by; a list of the objects passerby’s carried with them. As Perec suggests, these lists constitute ‘what happens, when nothing happens’. As the list unfolds the reader begins to gain an impression of a rich cognitive awareness of the human rhythms within the square. Perec and Irwin tactics appear at first to be in opposition to one another: Irwin fine-tunes his perception through reduction, while Perec follows an obsessive process of selectively recording everything that passes him by. Perec’s notes offer the rhythms of human activity of a certain place, at a certain time; while Irwin reveals the dynamics of the place itself.
SKEWING – NOT REVEALING
The revelation of something unusual or extraordinary in the everyday seems obvious once it has been revealed – in fact, it can dramatically change the way you look at a given object or action. At the same time, forgoing representations of the material world in a truthful manner and instead wilfully tampering with reality can afford a far more destabilising experience. Take Urs Fisher’s site-specific trompe l’oeil environments where, in a maddening exercise in simulation, Fisher minutely photographs the previous exhibition of a gallery space and then turns this record into wallpaper which must compete with a new set of paintings and sculptures. This act ofvisual trickery does not attempt to disclose something innate yet unnoticed about the environments Fisher’s work inhabits. Rather, the aim is to totally upend and disorientate the viewer’s experience so that they no longer take for granted their original reality.
It is this type of skewing – where the ordinary is manipulated to produce new and unexpected relations – that draws together many of the artists in Hidden Definition. For example, as part of his Low Sculpture series, Stuart Ringholt transforms mass-produced objects into incongruous and awkward combinations that offer none of their usual convenience: impossibly skinny plastic chairs, crushed soft drink cans with spray nozzles and a sardine can that doubles as a grate. These subtly distorted objects create uncanny forms, with their perverse peculiarities only legible on close inspection.
Redesigning and exaggerating real life is also a persistent theme in the work of Marcin Wojcik and Campbell Patterson, whose performancebased practices take everyday actions and behaviours to absurd limits. Wojcik’s theatrical performances and ongoing projects have seen him build a functioning sailing boat out of little more than masking tape and recreate a glacier climber’s tools and environment. Characterised by the artist’s attention to detail, such projects involve a devoted mimicry of the behaviour, procedures and paraphernalia of his chosen sporting groups. For example, in a year-long attempt to become a professional cyclist, Wocjik created personalised racing stripes and custom-built outfits and training equipment. Under each persona (sailor, climber, cyclist) he appears to become immersed in these worlds, with his idiosyncratic impersonations often taken to unexpected heights.
Similarly, Patterson’s videos centre on the humorous quality of everyday life. Without introduction or commentary, we watch as the artist performs simple, recognisable actions on repeat – or for too long – in a variety of domestic settings. Whether lifting and holding his mother until his arms give way in front of a set of floral curtains, or clambering trees and digging hole in his parent’s backyard during the middle of the night, Patterson ultimately de-familiarises the original behaviours he plays out; these illogical gestures made even stranger given their link to suburban life.
The opening moments of Emma White’s video Instructions for a still life (snowclone) 2007 are accompanied by the subtitle ‘Think about real things’. As the video proceeds, the hand held camera pans across a table of objects: a packet of round stickers is positioned in front of a mug; this mug, with the letter ‘E’ emblazoned upon it, sits to the left of a post-it-note that is peeling off the table. It is a jumble of bits and pieces. Yet, as the camera slowly pans, your eyes begin to consider the subtitle’s suggestion.
‘Pay attention, look harder’ – instructs the subtitle and the sense that the real and the illusory are intermingled amongst the table’s objects soon develops. A pencil reveals itself to be as flat as a pancake. The texture and imperfection of the mug presented in the video is not as one might remember from their own mug that holds their morning coffee. In fact, Instructions for a still life (snowclone) presents a complex still life of mass-produced objects coupled with obsessively labour-intensive replicas. White’s finely sculpted fimo replicas encourage the eyes to follow a trail of imitation and reproduction, as White creates her own version of everyday objects.
White’s sculptural replicas reward the viewer who takes a moment to look more closely. Beyond this though, Instructions for a still life (snowclone) actively describes and teases out the dynamics of looking. The playful subtitles become an active voice, articulating the way that our eyes carve out a sense of the things around us. Indeed there are small clues littered throughout the still life objects that hint at the need for keen observation; from the note on one postit-note that reads ‘take time’, to the note pad filled with doodles of reading glasses. All these elements encourage a simple action: to look and look again.
Liang Luscombe and Patrice Sharkey