Tuesday, July 31, 2012

This is nothing new

Arranging things and objects is nothing new. Sometimes arrangements can create good fortune (風水 or Feng Shui, the Chinese practice of unlocking personal prosperity through object/geographical orientation), bring bad tidings (ominous planetary alignments) or generally bring aesthetic pleasure (生け花 or Ikebana, the Japanese art of floral design). Whether deliberate, casual or inevitable, it would appear that arranging things is unavoidable and is in many cases embraced and even glorified.

As there are many names for object-arrangement, there are as many ways of considering its aesthetic value. One such approach that is particularly sensitive to material is Mono-ha, a post-war Japanese aesthetic literally meaning ‘School of Things’. The movement was characterised by its interest in the encounter between natural and artificial materials. Consisting mostly of large-scale gestures, of which the most well known (or at least most referenced) is Nobuo Sekine’s displaced columns of packed earth, Mono-ha concerned itself with the affective relationship experienced in the presence of such contrasting materials.

While the works in Aesthetics Room do not share the same grand scale as Sekine’s imposing landmass, the artists in this exhibition work with a variety of natural and artificial materials at their disposal. The vocabulary of Mono-ha ranges from hard (iron, steel, granite) to soft (cotton wool, wax, paper), and it is clear that the more disparate the materials, the more gripping it becomes. In Aesthetics Room these five artists have selected from their immediate domestic and cultural environments, picking things that are familiar to their respective surroundings. Soft and hard almost meet in Seattle-based Sol Hashemi’s untitled (bagel) where a bagel accompanies a rock embedded on a CD spindle – an object that can be ‘life-hacked’ to serve as a bagel box. Antuong Nguyen and Adam Wood nod in the direction of Sekine with their hypercoloured reference to sedimentary layers, a playful combination of silicon, foam and Tic Tacs. Leah Jackson’s ceramic tiles hang from the ceiling, framing the space it occupies through shape and line. Their titles reveal Jackson’s interest in the artifice of reality television, specifically the carefully fashioned reality in Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Carson Fisk-Vittori employs a combination of found objects and flora, literally borrowing from her environs in Earth Friendly, a hanging planter inscribed with the word ‘stupid’ which the artist copied from a graffitied flower pot in a Chicago park. 

By presenting things in their natural state, the main objective of Mono-ha was to draw attention to the visual conversations being had by these naked objects. Likewise, the arrangements in Aesthetics Room are alluring, constructed coincidences of material and form. These are arrangements, not choreographies. I feel like to use the latter is to imply the expectation of some kind of performance from the material. There is no performance here, only conversation.

Though the language is prosaic and the objects are reassuring, these works are not meant to be reminiscent of familiar scenarios. Removed from consumption and their native environs, these objects are isolated from function. By thinking about art as being ‘arranged’ rather than made, Aesthetics Room seeks to consider the hidden potential of everyday objects. This is nothing new, but it can be new if you know how to look.

Kim Brockett

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