PROJECT SPACE SPARE ROOM / 28 February to 13 March 2014
Conditions of uncertainty appear to characterise much of our contemporary experience as we encounter a period marked by boundless knowledge and expanding information. And it is in this sustained exchange between the known and unknown that we are offered a way to distinguish what remains open to us ‘… a world of impermanence and interpenetration, a molecular world of becoming’. (O’Sullivan, S 2010, ‘The Aesthetics of Affect: Thinking art beyond representation’, Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities, vol. 6, n.3)
Attentive strategies for the future
Today’s emerging artists engage in a world of undisciplined contemporaneity, where within the bounds of knowledge there exists a borderless concept of art, art forms, and the role of art within society. Not surprisingly, in this new condition of ‘now-ness’ there are few familiar principles through which to support strategies for future directions.
Within the circumstances in which artists work to develop their ideas of contemporaneity, society remains focused, ceaselessly so, to a fundamental almost compulsive impetus formed within modernity – a fascination and absorption in suppositions about what may or may not be possible. Today we tend to consider the contemporary world by scrutinizing it as a type of fluctuating or unpredictable map of possibilities, yet we well and truly know that we have left behind any concept of individual will or imposed destiny. In this world it is the act of instigation that signals agency. Completion, an action that may or may not occur at some future point, is now rarely considered. Instead ours is a world of reconnaissance where we unceasingly glide across a changing surface of unending transformations, where we remain motivated by our habitual yearning to focus on the desire for some form of destiny. Therefore the legacy of the utopianism formed within modernity, the desire of a destiny, is now simply a continuing impulse inducing perpetual mobility.
Needless to say it is therefore reasonable to conclude that conditions of uncertainty characterise much of our contemporary awareness, particularly because our experience is often marked by access to limitless knowledge and expanding information that is also constantly and fearfully challenged by reactionary ideas that yearn for return and stasis (1); uncertainty forms the major characteristic of contemporary life. It seems however that within ‘… a world of impermanence and interpenetration, a molecular world of becoming’ (2), where there is a sustained exchange between the known and unknown, we are offered insights through contemporary art that aid to distinguish our mutability.
In some ways art is antithetical to knowledge because it works against what Lyotard once described as ‘fantasies of realism’ (3). Therefore, while art might well be part of the world, at the same time we consider it to be apart from the world. And this apartness, however theorised, is what constitutes art’s importance (4). Consequently, because artists currently explore the topography of unceasing change as a responsive impulse or strategy, forming vantages in order to galvanize reflections of a contemporaneity driven by unattainable desire, they document perceived truths and memories in order to re-examine and represent dialogues around most presumptions of normalization. Therefore art forms a type of ‘position of being’ in relation to society.
In this exhibition of emerging graduates from the School of Art the works are formed around ‘conversational progresses’, where the participants through objects and artistic gestures help to reinforce the sense of various-ness and difference as our actuality. And while the evocative material sense held within each of these works is a sensual gesture towards our preoccupations with desire, with objects and things, formed as they are ‘within the lived world framed by the power of commodity’ (5), they also each attentively search like ‘hunter gathers’ across the boundaries of social relations, materialisation, representation and disembodiment seeking to reflect actualisations that interrogate dominant notions of value.
Artists emerge today through many and diverse ways of working, across the span of once clearly defined ideological poles and strategies. In this environment contemporary propositions like those in this exhibition are forever posited between presenting new challenges to functional views of the world and to ideas and values within art. The only possible strategy for the future, defined in the work of these emerging artists is to remain attentive to the mutable state within which we currently exist. Oddly this strategy or reasoning is notable as a gesture to the past, as it was Kazimir Malevich’s perspicacious conviction that art must join the universal material flow that extinguishes all temporary political and aesthetic orders to enter ‘… a non-teleological, potentially infinite process which the artist cannot and does not want to bring to an end' (6).
This exhibition enables us to see various artistic gestures that through their sensuality and material-ness are ‘of the world’, but as art forms in the very best sense set themselves apart to form something equivalent, critical or reflective in order to provide various accounts of a contemporaneity, where ‘… the ultimate aim of art is perhaps what was formerly celebrated under the term of incarnation. I mean by that a wish to make us feel, through the abstractions, the forms, the colours, the volumes, the sensations, a real experience’(7) .
1. In the form of neo-conservatism man appears to suffer a fearful ‘identity dependence’ based in holding to the familiarity of constancy while subsuming foreigness. Equally, the fantasy of this control is linked to a preoccupation and fetishisation of commodities in order to hold on to a sense of the material in a de-materialsied world. (Joshua Simon)
2. O’Sullivan, S 2010, ‘The Aesthetics of Affect: Thinking art beyond representation’, Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities, vol. 6, no. 3.
3. Lyotard, J-F 1991, ‘Critical Reflections’, trans. by W.G.J., Niesluchawski, Artforum, 24/8, pp. 92–3.
4. O’Sullivan, S 2010, ‘The Aesthetics of Affect: Thinking art beyond representation’, Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities, vol. 6, no.3.
5. Simon, J 2013, Neomaterialism, Sternberg Press, Berlin, pp. 17. Joshua Simon quoting Jaques Ranciere.
6. Groys, B 2013, ‘Becoming Revolutionary: On Kazimir Malevich’, e-flux Journal, no. 47, September.
7. Bann, S 1998, ‘Three Images for Kristeva: From Bellini to Proust’, Parallax 8, Autumn, pp. 65–79.