The Immortal at Queens Nails Projects
A low-frequency tone permeates Queens Nails Projects. It’s a dreadful hum: doomy and gloomy, a humid sort of white noise hanging heavy in the atmosphere. Paintings and other objects hang, are propped or stacked, or lean against one another and the white walls. Fist-sized holes in these objects allow viewers to see the collages, screen-prints, and hand-markings on canvases partially hidden beneath. In each work and throughout the exhibition, these holes speak to their remnants: positive and negative spaces yearn to be one and the same. Simultaneous presence and absence is the logic that rules in artists Facundo Argañaraz’s and Chris Hood’s exhibition, The Immortal.Sheets of MDF bisecting chair frames transform into three-dimensional partitions and surfaces on which to mount images. Walls become paintings on which more paintings hang or lean, becoming sculptures in their own right. Paintings become walls with peepholes through to other flat images. Sculptures and stacked paintings become pedestals and, alternately, housing for books. Sotheby’s auction catalogues, science fiction novels, old guidebooks to contemporary art, architecture, and living environments are neatly clustered within the works, like Easter eggs. Every object is both an obvious prop of high art and, simultaneously, a fetishized version of itself. Their presentation here obfuscates the relationship between an original and its copy by not ascribing priority to either. It unhinges the act of reproduction and pries open the fluid, temporal relationship between production and reception of an art object, an ideology, or a commodity.In light of this, a perceived subservience to the culture industry comes into question as the driving force behind The Immortal. In the short story, from which the exhibition takes its title, Borges writes, “Indoctrinated by a practice of centuries, the republic of immortal men had attained the perfection of tolerance and almost that of indifference. They knew that in an infinite period of time, all things happen to all men.”1 Through use of such a Modernist framework, the gallery becomes a monument, a reminder of an ancient paradigm that is and always was mere stylistic variation in the face of means-ends rationale of late-stage capitalism. On the whole despondent in tone, The Immortal implies that a willful removal of primacy from all objects and images in the space might illustrate the junctures between objecthood, ideology, fetishization, and commodity. The end result, however, is that of a psychic tomb, where such ideas are co-opted—where everything has already eaten itself, vomited itself, and eaten itself again.
Though in some ways compelling, visually clever, and potentially conceptually terse, The Immortal raises one question in the wake of the futility it illustrates—why use art to make this point? Doing so engages in an artistic trumping game, where the end result is either to render the mode of production dead or to resurrect it; the crux of this game lies in the same old boring, calculated, and circular topical discussion of art school rhetoric. By critiquing the problems inherent in the production and reception of art within the bubble of ideological frameworks, Argañaraz and Hood’s strategies, working wittily from the inside out, may not be enough to evoke the concept that such a resistant ideological framework is never separate from the commodity culture that initially produced it. At its logical extreme, The Immortal offers viewers yet another set of readily consumable objects.
NOTES: 1. Borges, Jorge Luis, “The Immortal,” in Labyrinths, ed. Yates, Donald A. & James E. Irby (New York: New Directions Publishing, 1964), 114.
Images courtesy of the artists.
The Immortal was on view at Queens Nails Projects, in San Francisco, CA February 4-26, 2011.