The act of taking shape calls for an arrest, a decision to settle on a moment of solidification. Arguably, in this coagulation, all that was looming enters into the determined state of the material, the aesthetic, or the discursive. Once a shape has formed, it is no longer something merely possible or utopian, but instead has become an object, or a symbol, or a commodity. How then is it conceivable to transform a thought into form without being trapped in it?
While the works in the exhibition A pudding that endless screw agglomerates take place as discrete and finite objects, they are concerned with aspects and acts of transformation, mutation, and malleability. The artists Tomek Baran, Pauline Beaudemont and Nicolas Deshayes treat forms of interiorisation and externalisation as movements akin to digestion. They specifically make use of industrial and synthetic substances – among them brass, concrete, enamel, aluminium, and high-impact polystyrene – and although these objects offer especially resilient surfaces, their forms simultaneously appear as entrails, cavities and habitats.
The title of the exhibition is borrowed from a sketchy translation of a line from Alain Resnais‘ film Le chant du styrène (1958) which also lends its name to a work by Nicolas Deshayes. The Resnais film, with its voice-over of Alexandrian verses written by Oulipo-founder Raymond Queneau, is an ode to the ultra-modern industrial production of commercial plastic.
Deshayes’ Le chant du styrène (2013), composed of four powder-coated steel poles and aluminium reliefs, appears as seemingly functional (infra-)structure as well as an obstacle within the gallery space. The reliefs, resembling parametric undulations or epidermic wrinkles, have been sand-cast from wire-cut polystyrene models. Burning out the crude oil synthetic with poured molten aluminium created the metal casts by way of burial and excavation.
The embryonic lumps that snake across the generic surface of Deshayes’ Cramps (2015), a diptych of vacuumformed polyurethane guts, are shrink-wrapped into a sickly sweet veneer. The material is a non-bio-degradable, seemingly anti-organic plastic, however it is processed from fossil fuels that have formed over many million years through the degeneration of prehistoric organisms. Vacuum-forming today serves as the standard process of industrial prototyping and a method for mechanical reproduction. In Cramps, Deshayes’ idiosyncratic physical gesture of drawing with foam has been petrified underneath their stretched sterile skin.
Tomek Baran’s works, too, play on the uncanny aspect of skin and the question of what lies beneath it. Volumes and edges protuberate from the flat canvases and dictate the distribution of colour on them, suggesting a formal imperative of literal shape rather than a rationale of the pictorial on the canvas plane. The paintings edge towards a status as spatial expanse or architectural structure. Baran uses industrial enamel, imbuing his paintings with a brilliance that doesn’t so much permit an immersive gaze as it reflects light and repels dust.
The diptych #0a0a0a (2015) consists of two cardboard packaging elements – a discarded protective shell turned into a precarious stack or potential shelter. Chance, accident or material mutiny have forged Untitled (fallen curtain rail) (2015): contextualised as sculpture, the work cites the visual vocabulary of Minimalism while converting its ideologically charged and increasingly dubious ideal of aesthetic purposeless into a form of simple inoperability.
Pauline Beaudemont’s sculptures Sit, Lay, and Rest (all 2016) employ brass and concrete sourced from manufacturers of construction components, relying on the aesthetic seductiveness of the raw material while creating seemingly utilitarian objects. The works’ titles articulate corporeal imperatives that relate to intervals of arrested productivity. The apparent offering to accommodate “downtime” on the Modernist or Brutalist bling furniture doesn’t, however, facilitate relaxation, but would leave the potential sitter in a state of discomfort and restlessness. The material of this public furniture shares with Modernist aesthetics the ideal of resilience towards the grime of the real and the social. Both offer a merely anonymous and fleeting accommodation of human hosts and a desire to remain pristine.
The works in the exhibition remain in a condition of awkward slipperiness in relation to their references to a Modernist or Formalist vocabulary. Going beyond this discomfort, it seems as though acts of rough translations (as in the exhibition’s title), regurgitation and distortion suggest themselves as tools for open forms under the auspices of plasticity.
All images © Grzegorz Karkoszka, courtesy the artists and the Polish Institute Berlin, 2016
Polish Institute Berlin
A pudding that endless screw agglomerates
Tomek Baran, Pauline Beaudemont, Nicolas Deshayes
Curated by Eva Wilson
Exhibition until 02.04.2016