Intelligible Inversions of a Tired Reality

Published 21 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.

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 objecthood and possibly not so surprisingly, 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 – 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 arrival, we become cognisant of Franzmann’s desire for the audience to interact with the work. It is this, the performative aspect that the art and audience alike are asked to entertain is where the conceptual aspects of the exhibition create an unrelenting tension to those of an aesthetic purity. We are encouraged to break the cardinal rule of the gallery space….and this is where the show simply explodes into a myriad of potential readings (subjectivity).

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 – 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 text, we are more encouraged to follow a fictional Suprematist logic encompassing the ‘transformatory power of art to create a new consciousness”. 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 Malevitch’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 “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 – zero of form – or in this case the absolute purity of the white light of the rectangle, for to discover colour one must obliterate it. To know the absolute of a thing such as desire, must not desire 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 – fictionalized 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 both the collective and subjective psychological implications of desire as it communicates and at times collides across the spectrum of the conscious/unconscious mind.

The unremitting line of enquiry that persists surrounds whether we in fact require these fictionalized 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’.

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.

Header Image courtesy Caitlin Franzmann, Dissolve, Six helmets, audio, light box shelf and light installation. Fresh Cut 2013, Part 1, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane.