Magazine article Artforum International

Aaron Flint Jamison

Magazine article Artforum International

Aaron Flint Jamison

Article excerpt

CUBITT

In the second issue of the Dada journal The Blind Man, an anonymous editorial on Duchamp's Fountain, 1917, famously proclaimed: "The only works of art America has given are her plumbing and her bridges." Aaron Flint Jamison's recent exhibition couldn't but bring to mind Duchamp's urinal, since, upon entering, viewers confronted a luxury Jacuzzi, mounted on the wall like a three-dimensional painting. With this updating of Duchamp's gesture, the Portland, Oregon--based artist managed to forcefully reformulate the contradiction between its assertive (this, too, is art) and negative (this is just some plumbing) power.

Yet this work was only the introduction to a far more complex and elusive project, as became explicit in the next gallery, which could be reached only through a corridor housing files, boxes, spare electrics, and the like. A narrow slit in the wall at the end of this passageway led to a room dominated by the underbelly of the Jacuzzi, its abundance of plastic pipes surrounding a curiously liver-shaped foot basin. Alongside this object, with its insistent and surprisingly organic materiality, was a system of large transparent tubes that linked the Jacuzzi to a cylindrical wall-mounted machine, as well as to a conveyor belt on a wooden pedestal, which was running independently from a small motor: a detourned symbol of empty Fordist labor.

Irregularly but approximately once every hour, the larger machine sucked air from inside the conveyor belt, expelling it into the other gallery through the drain hole of the Jacuzzi. This enterprise, also, was dramatically twofold: In the rear, the sucking air disrupted the smooth motion of the conveyor belt, while in the front, in near silence, a gentle breeze blew right into the viewer's face. Again, an allegory of transmission and permeability was at work, though one that was hard to decipher, even if the change it induced in the Jacuzzi-as-artwork was undeniable. …

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