ld r o W l a st y r K e h T Exhibition catalogue includes an essay by Dr. Anna Middleton
Joel Lardner Dan Tobin Smith
Joel Lardner firstname.lastname@example.org
The Arts University College at Bournemouth
Dan Tobin Smith email@example.com Curated by: Kathleen Brey firstname.lastname@example.org Catalogue essay by: Dr. Anna Middleton, Arts University College, Bournemouth
Published by: Viewfinder Photography Gallery 52 Brixton Village London SW9 8PS www.viewfinder.org.uk
Edited by: First published December 2010 Lisa Robertson email@example.com Design by: Mandana Ahmadvazir firstname.lastname@example.org Also available as a colour, e-publication: www.viewfinder.org.uk/shop
ÂŠ The artists and authors. The views expressed in this publication are not necessarily the views of the publisher or the editors.
Catalogue essay by: Dr. Anna Middleton, Arts University College, Bournemouth
The Krystal World (Cordyceps) is a collaborative project initiated by Joel Lardner with the still-life photographer Dan Tobin Smith. Smith’s photographic archive provides a seductive sequence of images from which new meanings are formed and new worlds explored. In his book Postproduction (2007) Nicolas Bouriaud, argues that the artistic imperative is no longer: “what can we have that is new?” but “how can we make do with what we have?” Cordyceps fungi provides a way of understanding this creative process and the discourse associated with transformation and decay that permeates through this body of work. Cordyceps is a type of parasitic fungi found mainly on insects and other arthropods, a few are parasitic on other fungi. When a Cordyceps fungus attacks a host, the mycelium invades and eventually replaces the host tissue, while the elongated fruiting body may be cylindrical, branched, or of complex shape. These organic, unusual and beautiful shapes are created by the parasitic fungi invading the host body. There is a parallel here with the visual outcomes of this collaborative project. The photographs of Dan Tobin Smith are transformed and transmuted into different forms by the illustrative work of Joel Lardner in an expressive, organic and intuitive response to the original photographs. These organic forms evolve out of the photographs and depend upon them for their development in much the same way as the Cordyceps fungus invades and exploits its host for its own development and survival. The visual worlds created by Tobin Smith and Lardner are dualistic; dark, sinister and decaying yet evolving into something new, beautiful, strange and organic. The effect is of capturing a moment in time; the movement and dynamism of the evolving organic forms grow into and out from the original photographic montage. This dialectical tension in the work reflects an almost alchemical transformation of matter. Conceptually the integral dynamism in the work is maintained by the dialogue between the forms and by the two artists and their work. The fungal-like tendrils and evolving organic forms are complimented by the crystallization of the image. Photomontage images of rock crystal seem to engulf and transform the original visually created world into the Krystal World of the exhibition title. The reference evokes both popular cultural forms such as Ballard’s novel The Crystal World (1966) where the protagonist encounters an apocalyptic phenomenon that crystallizes everything it touches, as well as the Aristotelian concept of crystal spheres that made up the universe - almost worlds within worlds. Lardner’s dialogic visual response to the photographic elements develops further this element of secret worlds and hermetic encoding of the visual space.
The alchemical transformations of Tobin Smith's photographs represent a dialectical process - and again invoke the Cordyceps analogy; out of decay comes beauty. Like alchemists turning base-metal into gold, the ugly/profane into the beautiful, Tobin Smith and Lardner create worlds in which the visual images are in tension, not wholly resolved as to meaning or signification. Tobin Smith’s exquisitely photographed objects engage with the beauty of the commodity, almost fetishizing it. From commodities as diverse as a gun or a handbag these elements are photographed in a sensual, almost erotic way. The illustrative transformation of the original photographs brings into question the 'commodity fetishism' and the seductive qualities of the object and consumerism more generally. This creates a dialectical tension, the corrupted, darker signification of the fetishized/eroticised commodity being subverted by the beauty of the more organic illustrative forms. The final images do not, however, resolve that dialectical tension - the signification of desire and allure of the commodity and of beauty remain, but the darker more sinister and organic forms intervene and make more complex the viewer's relationship with the images and what they may signify. The Krystal World of Tobin Smith and Lardner reflects what Bourriaud called ‘alter-modernity’, the formation of something that is ‘on the move’. For Bourriaud, alter-modernity refers to a totality of cultural and artistic practices that connect the modern spirit with the world in which we live. The open enemy of Modernism was Traditionalism, and it made strategic use of industrial aesthetics to reach its goals. What might be its new, current enemy? Unification, levelling, product-making. Today differences and singularities are the weapons opposed to this huge standardisation from economic globalisation. The need for ‘diversity’ replaces Modernist universalism...with a generalised exoticism, a global nomadism. Artists make strategic use of the vocabulary of the media and the economy, which are the two dominant languages of our times (Nicolas Bourriaud, 2007). Thus, to enter the Krystal World is to engage with the transmutation of form and meaning, with beauty and decay, with the seduction and transgression of the visual image and ultimately to encounter the hidden worlds created by Lardner and Tobin Smith. November 2010.
Dan Tobin Smith
Viewfinder Photography Gallery 52 Brixton Village London SW9 8PS www.viewfinder.org.uk