The world hangs on a thin thread…

Carl Jung talking about the crisis of the psyche

We live under the constant threat of what we might do and what we don’t do, taken hostage by our collective immaturity. Collective unconscious, social unconscious, the multitude: are we having a kind of (cross) cultural psychotic episode? Everything is catastrophised, the voices (and not just those in our heads) are telling us that everything is a bit fucked up. Here is Carl Jung’s dystopian prognosis writ large, and it’s no good looking for the boogeyman, it’s an inside job and only a productive disengagement as a micro-political tool, is possible. In this suicidal and self destructive psycho-geography we are nonetheless productive, producing a viscous mix of anxiety bile as conditioned fear becomes a manifest reality…our imaging is an imagining made physical reality, as we bring the collision course rogue comet from the psychic world to the physical.

“The world hangs on a thin thread…and that is the psyche of man…..”

Since Jung’s words in 1959, we have dreamed a trillion nightmares and only really understood very little about our collective selves. We seem to be gleefully unaware of our precarious grip on reality, on morals, because, let’s face it, there’s safety in numbers.

The psyche is the danger was made in 1995 from manipulated found video footage and is a vignette within the installation mix, Transcend your hidden power (1995.)

Bucky Balls (2006-present)

Bucky balls made from art packing tape

The production of Bucky Balls started as an spontaneous event during the demount of the Superstars exhibition (Kunsthalle Wien, 2005/6.) Besides the immediacy of detecting a certain formal beauty, the work responded to my situation : an artist working in the global art industry in a lateral and quasi creative way, that is, working as an art handler (preparator/technician), rather than as an artist per se.  Particularly, the work relates to a certain self re-institutionalisation, in that since arriving in Europe (1997) I found myself in a recalibration of practice : having been very concentrated on exhibition/context practice in Sydney, I found myself isolated on multiple levels and this made me focus more on the production of an often very personal creative process, rather than concentrating on making content for the next gig, or even concentrating on the anxiety of getting the next gig. The energy and impetus and dare I say joy that I gained from this made these anxieties fade into irrelevance. But as part of this process I became very critical about the roles of institutions and the wider social field of art. This culminated in the creation of the performance persona, Cindy Lutèce (see below), a process that sought to create a perpetual motion machine and that motion was away (from itself, from its artfulness, from myself, from the need for art institutions per se), in other words a destratafication and ultimately the creation of a (performative) field of immanance. However, when I came to Austria (2004) I found myself once again in a marginal and isolated space and so eventually took a part time job as an arthandler and was surprised that this provided a somewhat enjoyable exposure to the artworld, this time producing a movement away from my increasingly solipsistic art practice. My previous engagements at the industry level (besides as an artist) had been as a gallery administrator, a studio assistant, a curator and a preparator, so this wasn’t the first time that I had supported myself in this way. I embraced the opportunity to incorporate this labour into my practice and to access raw materials and space and time for art production. The moulding of Bucky Balls provided a sensual and material multitasking, a counterpoint to an often otherwise mundane routine of lifting, screwing and mathematics.

During this time I was also thinking a lot about art production in a humorous way and specifically at institutional and industry conundrums on a global level, see The (Conspiracy) Theory of Art, 2007. Bucky Balls were an aesthetic reaction to perceived inequities within the institution’s structure specifically, but extending to a wider critique of the exchange values within the art economy itself. What is the position of the art industry within the paradigm of financial capitalism and how are its value metrics generated? To a certain extent Bucky Balls are a confrontation between labour and capital. The worker/artist relationship has turned work itself into art. Modes and spaces of work have become confused as the production flows between that of art and money, it takes advantage of paid but institutionally “dead” time to create a concept and a material of art. Is this institutional critique, or institution as muse?

In my exhibition practice, I have consistently made contextual engagements, so aspects of the context are reflected back on itself. This is not simply a research project, but the making of a sensation engine : the gap between conceptual discovery, the creative impulse, (the spark, if you will) and its productive mediative processes is narrowed, enabling a vital rather than didactic relationship to the space and the audience.

bucky balls from punk exhibition

The work also functions as a documented archive, they are from exhibitions and art movements at the Kunsthalle Wien, MuMoK, Kunsthistorische, MuSA, TBA 21 and other spaces, public and private. Through their archival function, Bucky Balls are fetish objects, each one a mnemonic for the “famous” work(s) that it came with. They are the documentary remains that gather in clusters of exhibitions, mapping out global movements. Within their conceptual schema is a determination that new balls should be created from the packaging of their own exhibition movements, thus the work grows as it consumes itself.

The title Bucky Balls is the common name for Buckminsterfullerene, or Carbon 60 (C60), which is in itself named after Buckminster Fuller as the molecular structure resembles his Geodesic Domes, his structural utopias. The naming was immediate and perhaps somewhat frivilous, although I was pleased to read later that C60 is detectable after lightning strikes and is thus a neat analogy for the vital urgency of conceptual transmission.

 

Bucky Balls made of art packing tape

photo 1 Paul Green, photos 2 & 3 Scott Hayes

The Body as Sculptural Object

Cindy Lutèce 2001, photographer Robert Mann

I’ve just had the pleasure of working on two good shows at the Kunsthalle Wien of two Australian performance artists who really informed my Cindy Lutèce project (2001-2004), Leigh Bowery and Mike Parr. Obviously there were a complex set of relations and factors that brought out and drove this project, but from both Leigh and Mike, I realise that I was continuing with ideas of the body as sculptural object. In the case of Cindy, I wrote :

I started working on Cindy Lutèce in 2001 as an extension of the creation of performance personas which were used for various projects and events and in various combinations of collaborators. It became clear early on that this project was moving in a more sculptural direction, and I soon started thinking about the relationship of the self as the raw material, as I liked to put it, I was both Dr Frankenstein and the monster, in that the creature was crafted from my own flesh. A monster in the sense of degree of difficulty and general scariness, a sort of performance anxiety. At the time I was reading 1000 plateaux, so I identified with ideas of becoming as a creative impulse and strategy and, rather literally accepted that all becomings commence through becoming woman. The gender cross over obviously effected my accepted positions in relation to sexuality and created a continual and continually liberating line of flight. In relation to the actual performances I started from ideas of happenings, of interconnectivity of performer, audience, context etc, of generating the event from local conditions, spontinaity and finally containment, in other words the act of art was contained in the event and for this reason, I didn’t produce other product (videos etc) from it, although some photos exist. In all events, as the performances progressed, I mostly felt quite overwhelmed by my sculptural self and whilst my guitar playing improved, Cindy’s performances were surprisingly still, albeit at times menacing.  

The above photograph was made in Paris by Robert Mann, a photographer and musician who often appeared with Cindy under his Harry Dangler persona. Cindy and Harry at Café DoRéMi Paris, 18eme :

cindy lutece and harry dangler cafe doremi paris 2001

Cindy circa 2002:

Cindy in Paris

Art Institutions and the zombie economy

Arthandlers and zombie exhibition practice

In this image from the DDD Foundation for Contemptorary Art and Neo Liberal Social Practice, preparators uncrate the latest acquisitions for an exhibition highlighting the tension between painting and research based practice. The well dressed curator draws on extensive knowledge of primary school social science projects in order to present incisive relationships, at the same time as opening new areas for entertainment of the brain-dead and possible speculative monetisation.

(However, something artworthy is happening: note the WIP Bucky Ball)

Consumereality : The Cyberama Gestalt and The Three Stigmata

scene from The Cyberama Gestalt

This is an image from The Cyberama Gestalt, a video/photography project I made in 1993. I was reading a lot of Cyberpunk and related sci-fi at the time and was very influenced by Philip K Dick’s fantastic novel, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. The relationships of stimuli inducing materiality (ersatz, virtual, apparent), consumption and drugs questions the very nature of reality in this story from 1964, in which forced colonisation from a rapidly overheating earth leads the colonists into drug induced escapist fantasies. Initially they use a toy-like layout in order to stabalise their transubstantive translation into the hedonistic and ideal virtual world (USA 1960’s) of Perky Pat and her boyfriend, Walt. The colonists are constantly updating their layouts with the latest “fash”, expensive minitures which supplement and elevate their virtual reality experience.

One has to ask the question as to whether this is an extremely sentient articulation of what was to come. We too are trapped to some extent within our self contained masturbatory units, over-consuming trinkets in a vain attempt to provide our increasingly virtual existence some sort of materiality/meaning. We too, by the nature of the financial system, are stuck in a consumereality; an infinite loop of consumption that, because of its mathematical impossibility, must move into the virtual and that takes a conscious effort to escape from, or at least control. In the story, Palmer Eldritch returns from a deep space journey with an alternative drug which apparently frees users from the restrictions of Perky Pat’s domain and allows a god-like creativity….(no spoiler)….

Scene from the Cyberama GestaltThis work was originally made with video and then photographed direct from screen and forms part of a series of works done along these lines and with similar themes. I’ll be posting more from time to time and discussing the ideas that still, I think, hold a genuine resonance.