Magazine article Artforum International

Mark Leckey: BLUECOAT, LIVERPOOL, UK

Magazine article Artforum International

Mark Leckey: BLUECOAT, LIVERPOOL, UK

Article excerpt

WE DON'T NEED GOOGLE GLASS to remind us that Max Weber's diagnosis of the modern age as charcterized by the "disenchantment of the world" no longer holds true. One refreshing feature of the show recently curated at Bluecoat by artist Mark Leckey was his attention, precisely, to enchantment: to a dialectical understanding of the Enlightenment's legacy, which allowed him to relate technological advances to older lineages of emotion and desire, rationality to irrationality. As Leckey says in the wall text at the exhibition's entrance, "As it seems to me, the further technology evolves the more our minds devolve back to the imaginings of our superstitious past. Call it an animistic future or techno-atavism." This is not Vorsprung but Rucksprung durch Technik, using technology to look back rather than relentlessly move forward.

Like the artist's project Leckey devised for this magazine in 2010, with which it shares the title "The Universal Add ressability of Dumb Things," the exhibition is a Wunderkarnmer of art and non-art objects from various historical epochs and geographies, devoted to the idea of such things speaking to one another across time and space. Leckey offers two hands as the center of his exhibition: one, borrowed from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, is a medieval sculpture of a hand containing the relics of a saint, the other a prosthetic hand made by Touch Bionics in 2012. If curating through formal similarities often flattens the effect an object might have were it considered independently, here the similarities are part of the argument: This leveling is posited as a consequence of the technologization of everyday life, in which computers, cell phones, and the like have accustomed us to objects that all "appear to communicate with us."

Fittingly, then, one section of the show deals with animals. Here, among other objects, a mummified Egyptian cat is set alongside a dog-shaped speaker by the Dutch designer Sander Mulder and a cat photographed against a green screen by Elad Lassry. In another section, the many-breasted Louise Bourgeois sculpture Nature Study, 1984/2001, is installed opposite a light box displaying an engraving of William Blake's The Ghost of a Flea, ca. 1819-20, depicting a muscular, anthropomorphic flea. A gallery almost completely devoted to cars features Alex Hubbard's video of a Ford Tempo conceived as a moving painting, Annotated Plans for an Evacuation, 2010, and a clay model by Nissan. Many of the objects on view are fascinating in themselves--Miroslav Tichy's camera, a jerry-rigged contraption built using a thread spool and an elastic strap; a reproduction of Jakob Mohr's drawing Bewei[beta]e (Proofs), ca. 1910, in which human figures attract lines of a force; or the life-size replica of Sputnik, here suspended above viewers' heads in the corridor.

All this adds up to a radical stance against the idea of the autonomous object, but what happens when you replace it with an "Internet of things"? The underlying premise that technology is creating a shift in our relationship to objects (including those of art) is surely correct. Yet in equating the fetishistic qualities of the technological object, the religious object, and the art object, Leckey does not do away with fetishism; he merely converts it into a pervasive animism. …

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