lundi 20 juin 2011

2011: A Space Odyssey

Commodity culture has taught us to question whether there is such a thing as an inherent ‘object-hood’, ‘being’, ‘corporeality’ or whatever you want to call it…or is everything around us merely reduced to a series of signs and semiotics, spelling out what something stands for? A learned egoistic language, which we are able to formulate, understand and digest.
For me, a more interesting observation doesn’t concentrate on the ‘thing’ itself but rather the insistent process that drives us to search out this idea of an inherent ‘being’ within that named object. In Lacanian terms, we are driven by the process of fantasy and not the fantasised object in and of itself.
A great example of this well-versed Lacanian theory is found in Mark Leckey’s latest show at the Serpentine Gallery: SEE WE ASSEMBLE.

Leckey proclaims that he views the world as nothing more than a series of images. Nothing of particular interest here, as this card that has been played out for decades post-Warhol. Rather, the interesting part lies in the dialectical tension made evident between subject (artist / viewer) and ‘object’ (art / commodity).

In the back room of the gallery the artist has placed a tall, stone Henry Moore sculpture – it epitomises objectivity, standing proud as a Modernist totem, proclaiming its presence and authority over the viewer. Opposite the Henry Moore, stands a huge stack of speakers, equal in height and directly facing the object. At intervals throughout the exhibition, the artist bombards the sculpture with a series of sounds and noise, apparently with the aim of entering into some form of communication with the mysterious ‘thing’ - an attempt to break through it’s constructed image surface.

The rationally minded amongst us know that it is ultimately a failed endeavour to get the stone sculpture to react in some way, but I would argue that this is beside the point. We know that any reply from the sculpture, or revelation of its inherent being is the stuff of dreams and fiction – a pure fantasy – it will never happen. And this is in fact the point.

In the adjoining room, Leckey substitutes the art object (the Moore sculpture) for the commodity object (a fridge). Here, the exact same fantasy anxieties are performed out on a different stage. A large, black, talking Samsung fridge stands in the middle of the room, stylising itself on the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey. But unlike Kubrick’s monolith (that which can not be symbolised), the fridge’s identity is beyond it’s perceived function. It is 'SAMSUNG', it is pure surface and it is first and foremost, the object of our desire. – the fact that it will keep our beers cold is not at all important.

Leckey is evidently aware of his cultural references, everything from dance culture to sci-fi film. References are surrogate images, and as such they further remove us from any pretence that we can exist beyond the signifying surface level. Having said this, paradoxically it is this very surface ‘gloss’ which builds our anxiety and strengthens our drive to get ever closer to the heart of the object (if such a heart exists).

Leaving the gallery, I thought again about the fate of the Kubrik’s spacemen as they slowly approach the monolith…they too are bombarded with an excruciating noise. However, in this case it is a fatal noise, a leaking of some primordial ‘thing’ beyond the space travellers’ own symbolic order.
Leckey’s reversal of this act, back on to the object is inevitably impotent. Effectively he employs an image of an image played back on to an image.

For some reason I can't get MGMT out of my head tonight...'we're fated to pretend'…

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