3 August 2013

Catalogue Essay - The Carpentry of Speculative Things: An Art Experiment

The concept of flat ontology is useful to the field of aesthetics and therefore to the procedures of making art and gathering works together for exhibition. If the agency of things, all things, has become multiplied and democratised in recent Object-Oriented Philosophy, then the conventional methods of judgement fall under new scrutiny. 

If we are enchanted by the object-oriented themes of egalitarian multiplicities and the Speculative Realist collapse of hierarchies and dogmatic expertise, how do we approach a new kind of aesthetics? Will aesthetics be washed away, along with the limiting dyads of correlationism, in this wave of the more-than-human? Can we think of the phenomenological art experience as another entity in the inter-connected Tardis of flat ontology? 

This exhibition does not force answers to these fundamental questions. Humans are not centrally privileged, in this exhibition, but are not absent either. There is the spectral trail of the hand of the artist in each work, the scent of what has gone before and what might happen in the future.

Drinkall’s UFO formwork are the arche-fossils of the flying machine, the evidence that requires no human witness. Haley’s fragile and immanent watercolours of gemstones remind us of a time, anterior and posterior to human existence. Pailthorpe’s silent radar is a machine agent that sees any remaining humans as the new objects. Ireland’s coded three-dimensional computer-generated poem is a reminder to consider non-human vitality. Eastwood’s model of Giorgio Morandi’s studio is a lingering speculation regarding the systems of possibility across time. All artworks retain qualities which function independently from an observer, but spectators are always welcome.

This is not an attempt to illustrate the critical issues of Speculative Realism or Object Oriented Ontology. It is not a desire to escape the Kantian bind of knowing/being only through human thought, nor is it an example of forcing work to fit a curatorial maxim. The age of speculative contingency, where the laws of nature are subject to change for no reason at all (an idea proffered by French philosopher Quentin Meillassoux), is already upon us. We are no more than tiny pulsing parts of a larger network of interactive and inter-connected forces, a hub of energies. However, this is not a reductive or materialist view. It is causal, in the spirit of Graham Harman and Tim Morton. 

How do we, as lovers of aesthetics and creators of art and art writing, proceed in this new realm that denies its own validity? Well, we work, we make, we write. We consider a world of multiple things that are both human and non-human. We participate, even when we are under threat of aesthetic collapse, due to the anti-subjective removal of limiting anthropocentrism. 

In an age of experimental art, where audience participation with new technologies and interactive electronic experience are key, these OOO concepts of democracy and multiplicity are the vanguard. There are mysterious essences and unexplainable forces, regularly experienced in the world of art, that will always defy a Meillassouxian mathematical logic or deductive reasoning. 

2-7 July, Alaska Projects, Sydney, 2013

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