Constructed culture sounds like conculture – Ellis King
The current exhibition Constructed culture sounds like conculture curated by Samuel Leuenberger at Ellis King in Dublin explores the practice of five international artists, their individual approaches to storytelling, formally and conceptually, and how the artworks they produce suggest a narratative world with its own set of rules, a constructed environment. When using the term “constructed,” one is prompted to think of a conculture or fictional culture. Constructed Culture is not synonymous with what social anthropologists define as a cultural construction; a shared understanding of some aspect of the world that exists because the people of a specific culture acknowledge and understand that thing to exist. Constructed culture sounds like conculture examines the work of five practices using various techniques to illustrate their individual, constructed worlds, which emerge out of their subjective and uncondensed experience. These experiences range from political investigations into a cultural dream, formal breakdowns of architectural elements, romantic journeys into the tropical and wild, to interests in social codes and rewriting the codes of a rollercoaster landscape.
Darren Bader, Mia Marfurt, Adrien Missika, Lydia Ourahmane and Tabor Robak all integrate popular images in their works, in which glimpses of daily life and banal social observations help building narratives where traveling to exotic destinations, computer gaming, formalism, art history and mystic afterlives become the doors to an alternate existence. Such ‘pop’ images are tightly edited in order to shape the story intended to tell, and influence its interpretation, and often propagate notions of home, identity or (be)longing.
Darren Bader‘s work (born 1978 in Bridgeport, USA) addresses social anomalies, often through a comical, yet critical portrayal of a social- political status-quo. He turns his attention on any given moment or object and highlights its inherent characteristic by dissecting or displacing its format. For this exhibition, Bader continues to explore his interests in appropriating “things”. Reattributing a foreign object, and claiming it as his own. In this instance, Bader claims authorship of another artist through a contractual agreement with the artworks’ owner. The artist went on to purchase an early 19th century woodblock print by Katsushika Hokusai and exhibits it as his own work, to be sold as Darren Bader’s current market value. Another textual work which only exists on a meta-level, e.g. its only listed on the worklist consists of four phrases, an iteration which saw already three previous version, taking on different forms (a grouping of four random objects, a grouping of four fortune cookies, a single tattoo). The current iteration would be the words only. The grouping occupies space as perceived/imagined/ignored/etc but no more. Both works challenge the notion of authorship and our understanding of what is and. In one work, Bader “re-uses” the image and simply claims it his own, on the other he distorts language into a sort of riddle and which only exists on theexhibition work-list.
Mia Marfurt, (born 1985 in Zürich, Switzerland), is a deconstructivist at heart, working around the transferal of the image, its appropriating qualities but also the inherent plagiarism brought by the commonly accepted copy-paste culture. In a stoic installation, Marfurt showcases a set of paintings, which underwent a series of technological processes, such as digital and silkscreen printing. The paintings are present in the form of two large scale silkscreens mounted on trollies, allowing them to move freely within the exhibition. The structures expose the technology of the transferal technique itself, semi-translucent the lightweight aluminium frames depict landscapes merged with digital renderings and interior shots of her Zurich studio. As a second grouping, Marfurt spread two large metal tubes, imprinted with monochromatic reproductions of classical columns in the room. Standing strong as if supporting a heavy load, these paintings wrap around the aluminium tubing as much as around the idea of what painting can be. Marfurt’s painterly interceptions take on a performative role, where complex architectural elements muddle with minimalist abstract interrogation into the emotional level of painting.
Adrien Missika (born 1981 in Paris, France) has been described as a great amateur of architecture and archaeology. His oeuvre is drawing from a “large register of artificial sceneries, comic books, science-fiction movies and postcards.” Traveling the world with the eyes of a professional tourist, Missika is in constant search for that meeting point where his travel experience mixes with his research into exotic representation, questioning the limits between reality and imagination. Always in the quest for the perfect “iconic” image, Missika’s subjective imagery flows together with all sorts of classic imagery coming out of the world of science, advertising and architecture. For this exhibition, a group of plant-tower constructions, pillar-like erections, which hold large sets of artificial plants are arranged in a skyscraper-like formation. These works are based on his research on the work of the great Brazilian garden architect Roberto Burle Marx who spent his life building exotic landscapes for public (and private) gardens or cities. With the simple notion of transposing Burle’s garden complex to the indoors, the exhibition space becomes in parts a winter-garden. In his new series of photographs entitled El Efecto Lunar, which Missika has just produced during his current stay in Mexico, he pushes the notion of abstracting his ongoing photographic series of cacti and floral portraits into a new visceral direction. Taken during moon-light nights, these handheld nature shots become an extension of an approach to keep the gesture travelling.
Lydia Ourahmane (born in 1992 in Saida, Algeria) tackles complex social political relations, such as the contrasts between the natural oil richness of the state and the more cruel facts of daily life, where the wish of many young people is to emigrate to Southern Europe, which ever way possible. The dream of giving up one’s familiar setting, in order to pursue another, better life, cumulates in her work The Land of the Sun from 2014, an installation which exudes hope but which also claims the paradox nature inherent in the oil industry, in communication, transportation and technological development at large. The piece consists of a small lemon tree which is rooted in a car tyre. The tyre floats in a bed of recycled engine oil which is set in a shallow perspex box. The lemon tree, symbol of ‘the promised land’ is traversing the sea. The tree’s small trunk is painted with white chalk, something which is meant to keep unwanted insects from infesting the plant. Ourahmane’s work often becomes the center of research into political processes, negotiations and desire, born in the virtual realm, which attempts to test itself against its physical constraints.
Tabor Robak‘s work, (born in 1986 in Portland, USA) is operating in the digital realm, where he draws no distinction between the virtual, mental and physical space, as he says himself. Drawing from the newest developments in animation and science technologies, his multi-channel installations are opening a world that gives way to 3-D modeled landscapes and simulated video-game-like stories, enthralling the viewer with the speed and rhythm of a blockbuster film, the shallow andfun world of a first-person shooter game (which is not a bad thing here) or into a complex, suspenseful and weird vision of a futuristic film. Robak only allows one way to experience his work, that of a complete immersion where the viewer sits in the front row, gaining a first person perspective into a hyperbolic, fantastical computer rendered environment experienced on a flat screen. His scenarios are often a concoction of commercially available graphic templates, standardized effects which are optimized and enhanced to the level where the simulated worlds exceed any viewer’s imagination. In his 2-channel work Algos from 2013, for example, one is invited to a front row rollercoaster ride through various spatial dimensions, through various chambers of a domestic house, floating through a large cityscape and many other environments. Rather than being stuck in one ‘realistic’ amusement park, this rollercoaster’s trajectory is changing perspective and spatial environments each time the carriage is turning a corner or reaching another peak in the track. Where the orientation changes, the background environment changing concurrently, allowing for a disorienting, fast and luscious experience.
Ellis King – Unit 7, White Swan, Donore Avenue, Dublin
6 February – 14 March 2015