Tuesday, December 9, 2008
December's Absurd Situations
It is very well possible that human existence is absurd. If we think about the philosophy of absurdism - it can be described as, attempting to find meaning in existence purely fails, so life it self is absurd. Believing our lives have meaning or not is up for debate – what is more interesting is how we deal with these philosophical questions. Even if we are all simply wasting time until we die, what happens during the course of a life is reflected in our history, culture and art.
Brandon Boan and Janell Olah deal with the absurd to varying degrees in their work. They confront the absurd head on – deal with it through process and leave some physical manifestation of it behind in the form of art. The working methods and content of Boan and Olah create and become spaces, places, landscapes, and environments dealing with particular circumstances. These circumstances are the situations created out of the absurdity of life.
In talking about absurdity, Albert Camus notes “Explanation is useless, but the sensation remains and, with it, the constant attractions of a universe inexhaustible in quantity. The place of the work of art can be understood at this point.” This presents a harsh reality and a beautiful poetic sense of existence. Boan and Olah are not trying to explain life they are dealing with the sensations of it and the responses to it. That is much more understood than the big question of existence.
Brandon and Janell create work coming from different backgrounds – it is driven by different content, however they are strangely connected through process, approach and the general philosophy of our absurd situations in life. The work presented in Absurd Situations is directly rooted in a drawing processes and a combination of material dialogue.
Janell Olah is trained in drawing and painting, so it makes sense that the work is rooted in a drawing process. In, all our plans that lead back to beginnings, Janell has created a 30-foot wall drawing installation. She paints and draws directly on the wall in conjunction with smaller drawings on various materials. All of these ‘individual’ drawings become the vignettes in the story of Janell’s journey in life – combined together in a 30 foot long situation is a larger chunk of the absurdity of that life. Her roots in drawing are not only a process to create some representational images and patterns but also the drawn line is the linear element of time becoming philosophically cyclical. all our plans that lead back to beginnings is a more direct narrative reflection on the desire for the plans we have, we hope for, and in some ways quite absurd. The absurd situations of Janell’s work are pushed in the material combination and use. all our plans that lead back to beginnings combines traditional line drawing with the confrontation of site. She draws with the pencil, she traces patterning on the wall, she snaps chalk lines, and she uses vinyl pin-strip all as absurd plans, combined paths she takes in the situations of life.
covers over a multitude of sins is truly an absurd situation. The piece consists of a rubylith pattern projected on a section of exposed and damaged wall. Here the confrontation of the literal oddity of the wall and corner are futilely dressed up by the domestic romanticized patterning from the projector. The situation in this case, created by Janell, is truthful in both the low-tech raw presentation and absurdity. Soren Kierkegaard refers to sin as ‘intensified weakness’ – Janell Olah has intensified the weakness of the wall and the absurdity of life in covers over a multitude of sins.
Brandon Boan’s absurdity lies in the material situations he creates. A chemical reaction and state of change in materials achieved through process are what Boan refers to as his ‘material maintenance’. The process of mopping a floor while using clay and glaze leave us with the artifact Material Maintenance. In the piece Brandon has a shiny kiln fired mop head covered in glistening glaze place on the floor with an additional mop head encased in vacuum formed acrylic hanging on the wall above it. He takes the action of mopping and solidifies it into an artifact like object. He absurdly mops with clay and then fires it removing that moisture from the clay – both chemical processes absurdly forced together in the manifestation of the piece.
Le Pinchement (The Pinch) is also a work manifest through a process. Le Pinchement is a large wall drawing of a ship caught in artic ice created by using a soldering iron to burn the image into thermal paper. Again he deals with the change or manipulation of material. Surrounding the base of the ship is a swirling pattern of marks created by literally pinching clay with clamps and burning around the form marks onto the thermal paper. The inspiration for this piece is a story of a ship on a voyage in the arctic, getting trapped in ice, and the absurd activities that the crew carries out for both moral and survival. The absurdity of existence stranded in the artic is another layer in the absurdity of the chemical reactions in Boan’s bizarre material maintenance situations. Boan’s art practice is an absurd performance responding to the absurdity of existence, leaving us with a series of beautiful odd artifacts. According to Camus, “One must live with time and die with it, or else elude it for a greater life.” Perhaps the artic voyagers and Boan’s response to them is the use of time during life in any situation, no matter how absurd.
Artist/Curator, New Wilmington Art Association
1. Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc, 1955
2. Soren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980.
3. Brandon Boan, Artist Statement
4. Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc, 1955
Pictures from the opening:
at 9:53 PM