The Shape of Things to Come

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2012: The Shape of Things to Come

English text => translated into Serbo-Croat => translated into English


Working within a hegemony dominated predominantly by the promulgation of a paradigm of what was normally seen as singular, unique, original, inspirational, patriarchal art practice we come to understand, the transformation on the viewer, by gazing upon the artefact is indissolubly linked in the originating cause and effect product. Heidegger stated in his essay, The Origin of the Work of Art.: ‘It is the work that first lets the artist emerge as a master of his (sic) art.’ If we take this perspective are we to understand therefore the originator, progenitor, producer framed as co-author is simply the body who constructs, the material realiser if you will, to whom the ultimate conceptual tag of originality and responsibility is attributed. Does it matter? Does it matter? The multiple inflection of this question can simultaneously problematize and ironize the absolutes, the fixities of any construction or indeed any deconstruction which might effect a dislocation. Indeed, a dislocation so profound as to render any text, whether visual or literary redundant in an implosion of post-modernity. In this implosion that is postmodernity, that was post-modernity. ….

Where am I going? Indeed where am I? Where have I been? Let’s start again.

Let’s start from 16 September 1977 on Queen’s Ride, (South West London). Where are you Bolan? Let’s start on 11 January 1994 on 193 Grove Road, London, E17 9BZ. OK read on! Pay attention! 

In 1993 Rachel Whiteread cast her iconic house in concrete. Suddenly a familiar internal space was transformed; the personal and private was cast in a white, inert, brutal material and exposed. The innermost, intimate spaces were laid bare, open to the elements. Ironically it had none of the used second hand qualities associated with the familiar brick constructions and being cast from the last in a line of houses that had been demolished, stood like a monolith prompting interpretation and debate regarding memory loss and personal history.

Judging by the negative reaction Whiteread’s work elicited one imagines the public is resistant to change. Yet change is something that requires our constant attention (sic). By looking away and ceasing to attend, the workings of chemistry and biology will affect a gradual, imperceptible transformation; pigment fades, patinas build, varnish cracks, works of art age. 

Anarchic preoccupations are adopted by commerce and subsumed into the morass of consumerism rendering them harmless; punk couture mutates into a fashion statement, its political aggression emasculated on the cat walk. Is this what Situationists called the democratisation of art; is this the ultimate reunification of high and popular culture. Does this ‘Recuparation’ effect change? Or does the establishment simply assimilate the radical, tame them and translate into diluted market commodities thus rendering them safe? Yet what pre-occupies is what slips through, what falls between the floorboards of life? What grows, what destroys, what intervenes, what feedback, noise entropy adds or detracts to the experience of creativity and interpretation?

What part of ourselves should we preserve and when we abandon ourselves to the elements and no longer have control, what do we become? Sally Mann’s ethereal photographs of bodies left to decompose naturally on The Body Farm, demystify the processes of decay but simultaneously prompts questions regarding what we are and whether our systems of belief, philosophy, religion are simply a superfluous addendum to the business of biological transformation and decay. Although her work still exhibits the simple strangeness characteristic in these affecting portraits we can no longer seek refuge in form as it implodes metaphorically and literally.

Interstices, borders, gaps, verges, the slightest shift transforms meaning blurring the boundaries of interpretation. If context is 99% of meaning then possibilities for disruption are endless. An artist can (attempt to) dictate what is seen and how it should be viewed, John Baldessari, for example explores the narrative potential of images and the associative power of language within the specific boundaries of the work of art. Yet words and images are purely signals and artists cannot predict the links, net and connections which will be made in the sub conscious of the viewer. Making art is in some ways translating from one context to another changing the meaning.

Barbara Kruger experiments with the idea of gender shift, how masculine and feminine definitions are unstable terms or identities easily exchanged.  Throughout her works Kruger makes the viewer re-assess, review and re-evaluate the image, the text, the artist the response and aspects of culture, belief, expectation which we bring to interpretation and the translation of ideas from the art work to our beliefs.

Mathematician Norbert Wiener developed the concept of cybernetics and thus began the exploration of ‘noise elements extraneous to a message which affect its transmission’. What we see here is how disorganisational elements or randomness become the negative of information. During the process of translation, meaning inevitably and inexorably changes; the same words have different connotations in different languages. The translator might understand or interpret things differently bringing cultural belief systems to a text which didn’t exist in the original. The text you are reading may be a translation or may even be the translation of the translation complete with noise elements extraneous to the original message and you probably didn’t notice a thing.

Fleur Axelle