Living In a Material World - as catalogue text for two person solo shows at AIRSPACE gallery: A distance between two points
Our current economy and labour are often described as immaterial flows of finances, symbols and communication. In opposition to this, Linda Persson's three piece installation Disappearance Of The World Resemblance Of The Object presented at AirSpace Gallery, articulates how things that appear as invisible or immaterial, such as value, symbols or feelings are highly material and rooted in our bodies.
(Disappearance Of The World Resemblance Of The Object I) Cradle Game consists of three televisions that have been put inside three differently shaped flesh coloured leather boxes placed on a slightly elevated platform in grey leatherette. On each screen we see a hand, painted in gold, acting out the gestures of the game Paper, Scissors, Stone over and over again. Each screen shows the same film but not simultaneously. Therefore each screen shows a different gesture of the hand and makes it look as if the three televisions, or rather the three golden hands, play Paper, Scissors, Stone against each other. Who wins? And who decides who will win – destiny or chance?
Persson's video-sculpture appears at first to merely be playing with classically loaded symbols and ideas: the hand and its different gestures can for example symbolise peace and wisdom, gold is connected with power, victory and strength, the idea of the game points towards something uncontrollable in which destiny or chance decide the outcome. The title of the piece could also refer to the cradle of humanity (which also is the title of a book by George Bataille) and so brings in another symbolical level of meaning.
Persson’s work does indeed play with symbols. But does so in a manner, which brings it to a level highly concerning the production and materials that are counterpointed with metaphysical ideas and systems of meaning. This illustrates, for example, in how the ‘game’ between the three screens and the hands functions through pure technological aspects. One film is played through two DVD players via a sync unit. Although both DVD players are set off at exactly the same moment there is something in the technology itself that makes one of them play faster or slower than the other and makes them loop unevenly. So what appears to be a play with destiny and chance is actually the direct result of a rupture or a bug in the technology. In this way the work breaks down the meaning of systems by leading them to tangible and banal material conditions.
Something else is at stake in Persson's sculpture. If one comes closer to the flesh coloured leather boxes our eyes can detect a code that has been printed or marked on it. One can also sense the smell of real leather, which makes us acknowledge that the mark comes from the butcher. While experiencing the work on a more bodily level one also notice that the grey leather platform on which the boxes rest and on the contrary, is made out of fake leather. This smell and texture is even more familiar as we encounter it everyday when wearing our (fake) leather jackets or shoes. The important thing here is that the difference between the two types of leather, and their different values, remains invisible as long as we choose not to engage with the artwork with all our senses and powers of our bodies. The representation of colours, textures and symbols are in this way mixed together.
The sculpture could also be read as a comment on Theodor Adorno’s idea that an artwork holds a specific position in capitalism. Following Karl Marx, Adorno claims that artworks are “absolute commodities”. For Marx a commodity is a fetish because it conceals the labour of which it has been produced. The commodity is therefore not valued according to the work, which has been put in to it but for how the market values it. Adorno develops this and claims that art achieves its autonomy precisely by turning this logic of capitalism upside down. The artwork in late capitalism, he argues, is so entirely subjected to the laws of exchange that the consumers mistake the exchange-value of the artwork for being the use-value, i.e. as something belonging to the physical properties of the artwork itself. The three-piece sculpture reveals the illusory effect of the artwork’s value in a materialised and embodied way. The viewer gets to know the value of the artwork by engaging through sensory input with ones entire body. Only the smell and texture can reveal its real value.
The hand is also the main protagonist in the second piece of Persson´s triptych, (Disappearance Of The World Resemblance Of The Object II) Dark Fossil. On one of the two screens that make out the piece, a close up of a hand follows the contour of what looks like an ancient stone wall or the remainders of an old building. As the hand curves and bends with the shape of the material under it, we can almost feel the ribbed hard texture against our own hands whilst watching the video. Does our seeing at this moment become sensing? On the other screen a fossil is being passed in-between two persons´ mouths, in which the two have been painted black to emphasize the ad infinitum shift and flatten the recognition of humans.
This work also contains thoughts and ideas loaded with symbolic value as its building materials: the hand climbs along what? According to the myth, this ruin was the actual birthplace of Remus and Romulus the founders of the city Rome.
A fossil, by its nature, captures animals and plants that are sediment of thousands of years within them and so inhabits history in a very concrete sense. The tongue is an organ, and a muscle, connected to sensuality and the body as much as to speech and intellectual activities. But rather than keeping these things on a metaphysical abstract level the work materialises them and bring them close to our bodies and senses. The tongue, like the hand, is one of the most tactile and sensual parts of the body. The close up of the two lizard like tongues makes it impossible not to feel the texture of the fossil in ones own mouth.
The third and last piece in the installation also articulates, although in a much more formal way, how Persson's work triggers perceptions and sensations in an almost synaesthetic way. (Disappearance Of The World Resemblance Of The Object III) 1-10 consists of a pile of coloured paper that has been cut in two unevenly shaped parts that go together like a jigsaw puzzle and are placed on two pieces of wood directly onto the floor with only a few centimetres parted from each other. Accompanied with the sound of a voice ambient in the background humming out the counting of numbers one to ten emphasize the equal quality of matter creating a blur of what you see and what you hear. The fact that the two paper stack pieces are very fragile and have been placed directly on the floor immediately makes you want to touch the work and move it. Again, seeing becomes sensing through Persson’s delicate composition of objects and materials.
So Persson's work, more than anything, materialises abstract things such as feelings, ideas and financial systems. She makes us experience them close to our bodies. The world might disappear but Persson, through her work, builds up another materialised and sensory sphere of living.