5th July 2007 — 18th August 2007
is a system - it is physical. Within this system, there is energy. This
system and this energy do not stand alone. They are one of many. All
systems, all physical, all energy - connected. The connection is energy
in transit. The connection is heat. The connection is work. And then,
underlying and jeopardizing it all, there is entropy. Without entropy,
there is work, an unblemished quantity of energy, pure and simple. With
entropy there is less than work, there is that which is unavailable,
there is loss.
Museum 52's group show 'Consequence' responds to the implications of entropy within physical systems. It takes as its point of departure a quotation belonging to Robert Smithson, the land artist who long harboured an interest in entropy. Smithson cites the tale of Humpty Dumpty as 'a nice succinct definition of entropy': Humpty Dumpty sat; he fell; he broke apart; he could not be put back together again. The art world equivalent of course being, as Smithson recognized, Marcel Duchamp's glass and the artist's attempt to put all the pieces back together again. He, as anyone familiar with the plight of old Humpty Dumpty will know, could not. Entropy had, at the moment the glass shattered, entered the system. There was loss.
It is loss, a sense of diminishing returns, which permeates the entrance to Museum 52 as a result of Hans Schabus' contribution to 'Consequence'. 240 Hours was originally a 150 x 5cm white candle. Burning throughout the exhibition, however, when I got to see it the dimensions were closer to 30 x 5cm candle (with additional melted and re-formed wax at the base). Despite its precarious positioning, it is held in place only by the wax that the wick and flame melts, the candle commands reverence. Pure, white and spiritual, topped by a flame that endures through the opening and closing of doors, passing curious viewers, heads bent low, seeing if breathing in and out could alter its state. It is the strength of this flame that is the downfall of the candle
Alongside Schabus' self-destroying candle, Sara VanDerBeek has provided photographic images of meticulously constructed sculptural collages that once photographed are, as the press release sinisterly puts it, 'disposed of'. The remaining glossy images are a reminder that the connection between each system - in this case the photographic and the sculptural - is not only work but also entropic loss, absolute and unsentimental: the moment these collages come into existence within the photographic system they are destroyed, they are denied the right to exist as physical assemblages.
And if there is loss, what becomes of what was? Philip Hausmeier addresses this through three pieces. Two are photographic collages that depict a diminishing image of the human head - the centre of the face cut away to reveal a smaller head with its face cut away to reveal the same, repeated not ad infinitum but enough times for the viewer to register the denial of the crucial identifying traits of the human face. This fragmenting of physical identity is reiterated in Hausmeier's third piece an impressive arch of broken mirrors held together by oozing blobs of black silicon. Cunningly positioned between the viewer and additional art works, passing through and under the irregularly arranged shards of sharp mirror is inevitable. In so doing the viewer is confronted by her own image in fragments. Angles of the self do not add up and habitual body movement is modified as the viewer crawls vulnerably through Hausmeier's piece. The sense of one's self as a recognizable visual image (one cannot help but think of Lacan) and a physically familiar corporeal being are challenged.
It is by passing under Hausmeier's almost magical arch that the viewer undergoes a transformative process, seeing entropy for herself, in relation to herself. In so doing she is better prepared to empathise and relate to the works already seen and those that remain. Frank Selby draws and redraws a dead bee with colouring and scaling up techniques never quite matching the original. Poor little dead bumble bee! Corin Hewitt provides a cast of a casting mould. A provocation, only two stages in, of what could be an endlessly receding act: a mould of a mould of a mould of a ... this time, ad infinitum. Brian Wills provides two varnished panels, Untitled 2007, dental floss and oil on basswood, the second in response to the first. This first is work, an unblemished quantity of energy, pure and simple. Yet, without the second, it is less than Untitled 2007. With the second, it is somehow more than work, something more is made available.
'Consequence' questions, at times beautifully, what comes after bringing something into being, whether deterioration or augmentation.
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London E2 7DP