RETAIL @ HARBINGER, Freyjugata 1, 101 Reykjavik.
Open until the end of May.
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“Retail” is a continuation of an ongoing series about matrices. A matrix being a term for any system that defines the contours of a reality. Which is to a say any system from within which there seems to be no outside at the moment it is experienced. The retail sector is an aspect of the contemporary matrix of material culture. It is a term used for the kind of store meant for consumers who are looking to satisfy their individual needs. It is the final destination after a product has gone through a successive chain of extraction, production, and distribution. That is to say – it is the place to look at stuff and pick something out for yourself in exchange for currency.
The sculptures on view in “Retail” take their inspiration from objects sold in stores and also from the display systems they are placed on. These are made from high gloss materials, laminated chipboard, glass and chrome. All of which were popular in the eighties. Because window displays feel like a stylistic homage to the eighties anyway. Which may be a coincidence but could also be a stylistic cue. One that reflects the point in time when the conditions of productions had been fixed into its current form.
“Retail” is therefore about the aesthetic enjoyment of commodity fetishism. It is also about the enjoyment of its weirdness. Of the way that seduction is built into the product; the expenditure of energy by a mostly nameless mass of people within the production process; the numerous rituals of monetary transaction; the eccentricities of the language of fine print, or of the colour schemes particular to each passing season. But most of all, “Retails” is an appreciation of how the act of commerce takes on its own metaphysical logic. Almost like rococo. It breeds variations in detail to the point of subdividing into fractals. Perhaps up to the point of falling into itself. Like an implosion of surfaces.
Trapezoids (Right Angle)
Two planes of laminated chipboard in the form of (right angle) trapezoids, are connected by chrome rods. The kind used to make racks for clothes to hang from. The image that hangs from the top bar a reproduction of the lower half of a panel within the Ghent Altarpiece. This particular panel shows nothing but the interior of a room and the view from its window. It is an image of a stylish interior like the kind in magazines about interior design. But in this case, it is the interior style of 15th century North Europe that is on view. Mostly it shows a tiled floor that is close to the reality of proper perspective. But misses the mark nonetheless. That visual clumsiness is endearing. Especially since everyone who knows art history can look at such a grid and deduce that is had been made not long before the technique is mastered.
The chrome poles that connect the two planes are a kind of homage to perspective. The two planes would form a rectangle if they were combined. Seen from a particular point of view, the two planes can be understood to be a single plane, though one part is closer to you than the other. That’s what perspective feels like. Knowing that one thing is closer than the other but being able to understand that only to the degree that you had seen both pieces as a whole.
Parallelograms (Costumer Complaint)
Two smaller parallelograms that intersect so as to stand upright. Their surface contains prints of the front and back of a Babylonian tablet. One that describes a costumer’s dissatisfaction with the purchase of copper. This tablet may be considered the first customer complaint in history that is still in existence. This seems somehow interesting. The fact of a customer complaining.
The reason that parallelograms, however, seems interesting is because they look like squares in perspective. Well not proper perspective. Just a roundabout way of looking like a plane laid down on its side. These parallelograms are made out of plexiglass. The material and its form call to mind that sleek aesthetic of some imaginary 80s interior decor where everything is shiny black and chrome.
“Retail Display” is an obvious homage to retail display systems. It is also a traditional minimalist sculpture. Perhaps the conceptual kind. It is also a shelf system on which to place art. One of the glass cubes from within that system carries a print on its four sides. The same object is seen from front and back, top, and bottom. That object is a virtual model of a sculpture. One that is made by attaching a photograph of a window display of a furniture store on two planes that intersect so as to form an X. There are transparent curtains attached to one of those planes in the model. The curtains are a visual gesture towards the window displayed in the image. It is also a gesture towards the trompe l’oeil of a picture of a picture of furniture in a window display.
Phrygian Cap (Wall Piece)
The wall piece depicts what in biological terms is known as a Phrygian cap. It is a fold in the gallbladder that takes its name from the hat worn as a symbol of the French Revolution that has a (Smurf-like) fold in it. The hat takes its inspiration from the one given to slaves who had been given their liberty in Ancient Rome. It is therefore a visual reference that signifies emancipation. From slavery originally and later from monarchy. But could by association imply emancipation from any system that forms the coordinates of a closed system.
The image of the gallbladder is taken with an ultrasound. Meanwhile the wall piece is a stylized rendition of a stereoscopic image (the kind in which one uses glasses with differently tinted glass on each side). This is interesting because of how the mass inside a human body becomes two-dimensional as an ultrasound image. The stereoscopic effect therefore gives the (superficial) appearance of reconstituting that mass (of the human body).
Green and Pink (Wall(s))
The walls to each side of the central wall piece is painted green and pink. Those are the colours that produce the effect of a faux stereoscopic effect in the Phrygian Cap wall piece. Those colours are there for more complicated reasons too. They are part of a system currently in development by the artist. In it each colour is placed within a system that describes the totality of existence from a materialist standpoint on the one hand, and a metaphysical standpoint on the other. Within the materialist system of organization, green signifies “commodity” and pink signifies “money.” In the metaphysical system, green stands for “knowledge” and pink stands for “virtuality.”
The texts speak for itself. That’s the nature of text. It can be added that they are also part of a larger series. The absent parts of which also deals with mundane exchanges in which commercial exchanges are involved. And then drifts off into speculations about the meaning of it all. But all under the guise of poetry. Concrete poetry specifically.