INCIDENT No.39: Dan Devine
On View: January, 2011
This Conversation May
Be Recorded for Training Purposes
Essay by Daniel Baird on a past exhibition of
Dan Devine's work at Pierogi Gallery, Brooklyn.
The Boyd Cycle is a military strategy developed by Col.
John Boyd in an effort to explain the success of U.S. fighter pilots in the Korean War, despite their having inferior planes.
Boyd concluded that U.S. success was rooted in the flexibility of their approach, of their ability and willingness to change
strategy based on ongoing assessments of an unfolding situation, and Boyd codified this tactic in the “O.O.D.A.”
directive – Observe, Orient, Determine and Act. Now, the complex and continuously changing evaluations prescribed by
the Boyd cycle are largely carried out by computer chips linked with elaborate networks of information-gathering satellites.
Application of the Boyd cycle is not, however, limited to military strategy: a cursory search of the World Wide Web shows
that the Boyd Cycle is regarded as a useful blueprint for an aggressive approach to competition of any kind, whether it is
enemy fighters or business adversaries. That military strategy, technology, and business are intricately intertwined should
come as no surprise.
The hanging sculptures which comprise Dan Devine’s This Conversation May Be Recorded
for Training Purposes offer a subtle, idiosyncratic, and elegant exploration of a series of metaphoric feedback loops which
take the Boyd Cycle as their conceptual point of departure. In Combat Management in a High Performance Culture (2002), crystals
real and artificial hang from a series of brass hoops, and at the top is a wireless camera and an LCD (liquid crystal display)
screen. The camera tracks the piece’s viewers, transmitting the image to the LCD, where it smolders, pale and eerie.
The piece’s title links intense commodity and art culture with military strategy, the camera implicating the viewer,
and the hanging shards, which Devine purchases on Internet auctions, create correspondences between new age mystical religion
and rarefied technologies. The suggestive title of Syntactic Attack to the Internal Logic May Cause Catastrophic Failure (2002)
points to he fragility and vulnerability of any strategic system, whether it is human consciousness or a programmed chip.
Along with the wireless camera and small LCD screen, this sculpture has both shards of crystal and agatized dinosaur bones
dangling from brass hoops. Devine’s use of material, here as elsewhere, is richly ironical. Crystal is an item of luxury
and mystical hubris as well as a scientific resource, and dinosaur bones are at once evidence of mass extinction and geological
process and collectible chachkas. Syntactic Attack to the Internal Logic May Cause Catastrophical Failure asserts the continuity
between hard, geological history, interior design, and sinister surveillance to technologies.
All of the sculptures
in This Conversation May Be Recorded for Training Purposes, as Joseph Masheck points out in the excellent essay accompanying
the show, resemble oddly cobbled together chandeliers. Not only do Devine’s sculptures link interior design with military
and corporate reason, but they are also shabby and lyrical. The past eight months or so have been a reminder of the failures
of sophisticated military and corporate strategies: terrorist conspiracies proceed unnoticed, the wrong village gets bombed,
vast corporations unexpectedly collapse. Devine’s titles speak for themselves – Cascading Deterioration Within
the System (2002), This Chip Will Disintegrate in a Deceased War Fighter (2002); his work suggests the hokey origins of technology,
the troubling proliferation of military modes of thinking, and the inevitable flaw in the heart of the system.
'Letting the Days Go By', 12"x11"x11"
made from glass, plumbing fittings, crystal, LED's and scull, 2011