Intelligible Inversions of a Tired Reality?
Published 15 September 2013, Simon Marsh.
Desire, arguably, is a fictionalised or indeed a fantastical aspiration and yet the hunger it engenders in the human psyche has the power to motivate actualisation: the power to satiate a seemingly uncontrollable appetite to possess. It is not a one size fits all, readymade human emotion and like a cut gemstone, desire exhibits a plethora of differing facets.
From the surface response of a subjective gratification, it can also scream a more sinister collective zeitgeist. Ultimately, desire has the ability to chimerically inhabit the complete spectrum of human emotional stimuli. And yet a metaphysical ‘absolute’ desire, in this case, inhabits the realm of aesthetic appreciation, irregardless of whether that appreciation is of the sublime, beautiful, line, form, purity, light or colour of the artistic object being observed.
Brisbane emerging artist Caitlin Franzmann exhibits a cognisant, intimate working knowledge of this emotional and metaphysical spectrum in her most recent offering: Dissolve, current through the 21st of September 2013 at the Institute of Modern Art, Brunswick Street Fortitude Valley.
Constructed of two distinct, separate and yet inter relating halves, Franzmann engages with and intelligibly extends the Minimalist, Literalist, Concrete, Radical and Formalist dialogue surrounding concepts such as light, surface, purity and the artistic object and surprisingly – though possibly not so surprising, in this, the centenary of Vladimir Malevich’s Black Square – the fictional logic Suprematism set in motion and the capacity, one may even suggest the necessity of the spectator to project meaning and fantasy onto artworks, in an attempt to inhabit the symbolic origin of the inherently unattainable zero of form (1) – but more on this later.
Upon entering the gallery space one cannot help but be overwhelmed by the playful yet directed inversion of the white cube. Traditionally elevating the gallery space toward an ecclesiastical hierarchy, the white cube, amongst others, acts as a mechanism to delineate the space between artworks and direct the gaze. But in this case, it casts a darkened shadow that encompasses and intimately frames the sublimely beautiful white light sculptural installation inhabiting the further most reaches of the room.
Unsurprisingly we are drawn to this embodiment of purity. However, upon closer inspection, we become aware of Franzmann’s desire for the audience to physically and psychologically interact with the work.
Encouraged to break the cardinal rule of the gallery space by wearing one of the six sculptured helmets – connected wirelessly to one of three soundscapes – to explore the combined implications of a subjective, sensual and ultimately aesthetic involvement with the space. Franzmann intelligibly navigates Adorno’s fraught divide between the autonomy of art and its systematic reduction to mere entertainment (2), and it is this, the performative aspect that the art and audience alike are asked to entertain, where the conceptual aspects of the soundscapes and spoken word create a subjective, unrelenting tension, to those of aesthetic purity, that we simply must consider an existential critique of the work: a critique where the audience becomes the arbiter of meaning (3), for this is where the show explodes into a subjective myriad of potentiality.
We enter the second space down a constructed hallway, reminiscent of entering a cinema, a space where belief is suspended, a fictional, fantastical space of consummate escapism. And this is where we must take a conceptual leap of faith, for what we are presented with is a large white rectangle of light – arguably, the zero of form – and yes whilst this rectangle of isolated purity suggests, in one sense, reminiscences of a cinema experience, it is strongly suggested, that coupled with the collision of sound and spoken word, we are more encouraged to follow a fictional Suprematist logic encompassing the ‘transformatory power of art to create a new consciousness” (4). The question we must ask ourselves is: what colour is a thought? And for that matter what shape does a thought inspire?
And so it is that through the application of Malevich’s Suprematist project, we arrive at the fictionalised linear progression of thoughts – inhabiting both colour and shape – that can be seen to be logically originating from the purity of the white rectangle – or in this case the zero of form. This in turn conceptually lends form and body to all subsequent permutations of thought that must insist on pointing toward a vision of the future.
To continue to follow this Suprematist logic, the fictionalised temporality of these permutations of thought as colour and shape can never remain static, meaning, that we are obliged to constantly move away from and back toward their point of origin, for as Malevich reasoned, to discover colour one must obliterate it. Given this, it then seems logical to ask: to know the absolute of any ‘thing’, must not that ‘thing’ likewise be obliterated? This spatial adventure into the metaphysical realm can be seen simply as testament to the all pervasive psychological emphasis that we as humans place on the concept – fictionalised or not – of the notion of the “point of origin”, of the notion of purity and absolute spirit.
In effect Franzmann encourages us to bear witness to the temporal interplay of our subjective psychological impulses as they communicate and at times collide across the spectrum of the conscious/unconscious mind.
The unremitting line of enquiry that persists surrounds whether we in fact require these fictionalised triggers to attain the metaphysical absolute of anything and if indeed we do, what then clearly defines the contemporary duality of the unreal/real? In a social order hell bent on a two byte subjective gratification in the pursuit of, or more to the point desirous of an absolute knowledge, absolute wisdom and technique, and arguably an absolute spirit, the question simply must be asked: does this receding metaphysical quest for the absolute intimate a site of immense loss? Possibly, though one thing we can be certain about is that the pure, embodied, Post Minimal, Conceptual art of Caitlin Franzmann, in this case exhibits an ‘emancipatory potential for a social order that has systematically alienated itself and its environment’ (5).
Addressing, in the main, the crisis facing the human sensorium, the crisis of perception and the radically disappearing horizons of an absolute desire, all arguably, elements comprising the metaphysical absolute of spirit: intrinsically this show must be understood as not dealing in a currency of beauty or desire governed by possession or consumption but rather the aesthetic, embodied and perceptual beauty: an absolute spirit inspired and shaped by the metaphysical reach of art.
Sources and Further Reading:
1. Fer, Briony. On Abstract Art.
2. Hamilton, Andy. Adorno and the Autonomy of Art.
3. Gibson, Ann. Abstract Expressionisms Evasion Of Language.
4. Above n1.
5. Drake, Ryan. The Death of Painting (After Plato).