The drug addict and the contemporary artist share a certain flair for rebellion. And so the sight of a high tensile steel cable threaded with roaches from spliffs makes perfect sense here.
We are told that Leirner is/was an addict and that the work here in her blue-chip show at White Cube was originally put together in a three-day cocaine binge in 2010.
More paraphernalia is threaded onto further cables which cut across the upper ground floor space like an infra red beam alarm system. Like an addict we must transgress with care.
Suspended in line with the drug taking gear are pocket spirit levels, which no gallery technician can ever be without. Just as Lerner must depend on a certain equilibrium to remain an ‘artist’.
But it has been said: “Those who have taken a powder with quasi-magical effects and consider themselves quite unfettered, entirely liberated, out of this world perhaps, are still running on tracks.”*
So although this installation benefits from some of the outsiderish drama, the evidence here of years of drug use have thrown up very little new or imaginative. There is no Kubla Khan.
Instead the topic here is a gruelling relationship with repetition as months and years pass in which the artist skins up, chops out and perhaps shoots up to very little transcendental benefit.
Instead Leirner is marking time and perhaps archiving an impoverished personal history. So her resinated rolling papers could become like Plato’s pharmakon: a tool for remembering.
Of course, the pharmakon is a drug of two halves. As a repository for our past, it frees us to stop carrying around the baggage of memory, perhaps also here the baggage of sober reason.
The roaches also criss cross the room like lines of text to become a written diary. And, thanks in part to Derrida**, we know that in the opinion of Plato the written word was also a pharmakon.
Whether remedy or poison, this show called Junkie offers a meditation on the monotonous reality of drug addiction. That drug addiction possesses a ‘reality’ of its own should not surprise us.
Jac Leirner: Junkie can be seen at White Cube Mason’s Yard, London, until May 14 2016.
*Henri Michaud, quoted by David Boothroyd (Deconstructions, A User’s Guide; edited by Nicholas Royle, Palsgrave 2000).
** Jacques Derrida, The Rhetoric of Drugs (Points, Interviews 1974-1994) Stanford University Press 1995