Incident No. 57:
Two Chins To
Report by Carmine Iannaccone
Even from a distance (and I am seeing it from a very great distance),
and even before the artists told me what it was, I recognized the plastic lacing. Tactile memories quickly kicked in: the
slick, vinyl feel. How temperamental the stuff is with regard to temperature: on a warm day, or after it’s been warmed
in your hands, it’s bendable and pliant; when it’s cold it gets stubborn, springs back and holds tension, no longer
molds and complies. And then, of course, how tough it is, really tough, hard to break, impossible to tear or snap. When woven
into a mat it makes a virtually indestructible surface, vulnerable only to open flame, hot irons, and sharp, stabbing instruments.
I’m not holding any in my hands right now, I have none available to me at this moment, and yet I feel I can be sure
of all these qualities, so vivid are my memories of them. Plastic lacing has impressed itself into my sensorium - and my value
system. I recognize in it the art world’s Mark of Cain: the curse of children’s crafts, the wretched lanyards
of summer camp busy-work.
But personally, I remember it more
vividly from its use on furniture, as a poor man’s substitute for rattan or wicker. Poor, plastic and hard. Take a pool
chair woven out of the cording, add a kid wearing shorts on a hot summer day, and the image of corrugated flesh will stick
with you forever. We’re talking about a material that openly declares its position in the hierarchy of things, which
is low, but unashamed. Because people don’t buy it as a substitute for rattan or wicker; people buy it for what it is:
cheap and tough. Reliable. It does not mimic anything organic. It doesn’t even try. Its colors never disguise the fact
that it is an artificial product. And when those colors are woven into patterns, no matter how complicated, there’s
always something naive and blocky about them. This is the stuff that the middle classes are made of, the stuff of the working
classes – cheerful, but pragmatic.
The artwork is installed
in Hudson, New York, but I am seeing it in Los Angeles, California, on my iPhone and my laptop. That these tactile sensations
survive the distance and the digitalization amazes me. Something about this particular plastic resists being transformed into
electronic waves and clings to the friction of the senses, the tension of muscles and nerves - even if it’s only ghostly
memories of those, as though felt through a phantom limb. I suppose it’s because these are more than memories of a funky
material, these are memories of the place I come from and cannot shed, no matter how gentrified I become, no matter how elegant
the wicker and rattan I acquire, no matter how much I buff away the regional accent of my forsaken hometown.
You have to understand: what I am seeing in this sculpture is a tabletop
from that abandoned place, that lost hometown. It’s a kitchen tabletop, broken into many planes. Broken not for the
sake of fragmentation, but in order to multiply it, to amplify it, to make it more available as a surface for pattern and
color and display. In fact, this is a celebration of that kitchen table, if such a thing is possible. The old workhorse continues
to carry food, but only notionally, as a nod to its former purposes. Oh don’t worry - its humility hasn’t been
compromised. This isn’t a working class kitchen exported into the art world; this is a working class kitchen acknowledged
as artful in and of itself. That artfulness is simply being made available for us to see. Maybe that’s why it seems
okay for me to be looking at this from a distance, just like everybody else who looks at it behind the glass panes of a storefront
that no one can enter – the experience that’s being set up here isn’t about tangible objects you can buy
or have, it’s about gaining perspective on a world that’s already there.