Magazine article Artforum International

Babak Golkar: The Third Line

Magazine article Artforum International

Babak Golkar: The Third Line

Article excerpt

Each work in "The Return Project" was realized through an identical series of actions. Vancouver-based artist Babak Golkar begins by purchasing a cheap, usually decorative object from a local big-box store. After taking a life-size photograph of the object in his studio, he carefully deconstructs it, removing and occasionally replacing elements, retaining the original tags and packaging materials. The resulting product, designated as art Via a discreetly placed authentication note and artist's signature, is then rephotographed--again, at full size--retagged, repacked, and returned to the store for a full refund. In the gallery, each pair of before-and-after photographs was presented as a diptych alongside an object fabricated from the "surplus" material removed from the purchased product. The conditions of display for each set of photographs and manipulated residual--the format and frames of the former, the shelves/plinths or lack thereof for the latter--were distinct, carefully considered, and highly aestheticized.

Through careful selection and clever titling, Golkar introduces a layer of symbolic meaning into each set, addressing contemporary geopolitics, recent events, and art history in indirect ways. In one set, a sleeping cherub's eyes have been opened and its wings removed and casually placed on the floor to the right of the photographic diptych; alongside these physical manipulations, the works' titles--But a Storm Is Blowing (all works 2014), for the photographs, and History, for the object remainder--transform the kitsch ornament into a meditation on historical progress by way of Walter Benjamin's famous angel of history. In another, a column of wax removed from the bottom of a scented red candle was melted down and cast into a fist making a thumbs-up. Titled Spring, the photographs obliquely lament the lost potential of the fervid pro-democracy protests that swept across the Middle East in 2011, while the new candle, called Mission Accomplished, wryly acknowledges the United States' role in the continuing instability throughout the region in its reference to then president George W. Bush's notoriously premature declaration of the. …

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