Tag Archives: Plato

Jac Leirner, The End (2016)

leirner

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

Brent Wadden, Alignment #53 (2015)

wadden

There’s a great warmth that comes from the ragged, woolly presence of Brent Wadden’s large (two by two and a half metres) woven work. You might even say its tactile qualities are cosy.

But the design is less comfortable: irregular, patched together in haste, an austere black and white. He doesn’t use much technology, but Wadden has borrowed the look of a glitchy piece of software.

Software and soft furnishings; weaving and, as has been often pointed out, coding. There is a correspondence between this ancient form of craft and the digital times we live in.

In the critical theory of weaving* we find this: “Freud believed weaving and plaiting to be the only technique ever invented by women (no small invention if it leads to computers).”

(Had Freud lived to see the arrival of abstract expressionism, he might have been agog to find, in thirtysomething Wadden, a male artist with such a feminine take on a macho genre.)

But as anyone could tell you, having seen the Viennese psychologist’s famous couch, Freud was not averse to making you comfy with a rug or two, a cushion or three.

There’s something about the welcome in his consulting room which finds an echo in the work under discussion. This dense piece of stitching allows the viewer to unravel a little.

Or at least to grow absorbed in the varying yarns and shades of the panels which make up the whole. This was at least as absorbing as a neurotic monologue about my mother might have been.

But unlikely as it seems, weaving is also widely political. Caroline Rooney’s theoretical essay on weaving also mentions The Statesman by Plato, where weaving is a metaphor for good government.

And so as s/he, “weaves the good and serviceable threads together to produce the unified, harmonious social fabric”, the ideal head of state is, of course, closer to a mill worker than a banker.

Brent Wadden: How Long is Now? can be seen at Pace, London, until 31 October 2015.

*Deconstruction and Weaving, Caroline Rooney, from Deconstructions: A User’s Guide, ed. Nicholas Royle