The British artist on Felix the Cat, reliquaries and a really big penis
The Turner Prize-winning British artist, Mark Leckey, known for his work with found footage such as in his 1999 video, Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore (a commentary on underground dance culture in the UK throughout the 70s-90s), has curated the latest of the Hayward Gallery's Touring exhibitions. Titled 'The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things', the new show is a conceptual assemblage of unique objects, representing the ever-expanding overlap between the virtual and the real world.
As technology becomes frighteningly more sophisticated and invasive, where objects can communicate with us, phones talk back to us, cars direct us and websites anticipate our desires, the concept of techno-animism where the inanimate 'comes to life' is fast becoming a reality. Juxtaposing contemporary art pieces from the likes of Louise Bourgeois, Prunella Clough, Jim Shaw and William Blake to visionary machines as well as archaeological artefacts including an Egyptian cat mummy, Temple Grandin's Squeeze/Hug Machine, and a mandrake root, the exhibition operates as a network of objects in communication, talking to one another, and us.
My favourite thing in the exhibition is this mediaeval reliquary of a hand from the V&A. It's a silver hand that contains the bones of a saint. I chose it for a few reasons, for one it's really exquisite, and there's something strange about it. The Catholic church made these as fossils of saints called speaking reliquaries because they 'speak' of the bones that they contain. It's essentially a magical totem and its finish makes it look very science fiction. [In the exhibition] I've put it next to a bionic hand, which is this modern, electronic prosthetic hand which connects with Bluetooth. So these two objects basically hold the span of the show - from magical qualities and the idea that something in the Mediaeval times that something could be enchanted, could contain magic, and this bionic hand which is kind of magical. This is what the show is about. How technology takes us back to a time of things [that were magical.] Everything is connected to the network; a tin can, car, a fridge, the idea that everything is connected and can be contacted - The IP address - networked - it takes us back to an older mindset where everything is in this great connection and communication. Technology evolves, it boomerangs us back to this much older space of being. The animal, hand, the body, and machine.
This is a big balloon of Felix the Cat. That's something to do with my own history - I did this talk called 'In the Long Tail' and that began with this event that took place in the 1920s when the first image that was ever broadcasted on TV was a doll of a Felix the Cat and ever since then I've obsessed with him. This kind of avatar, this figure of something that can be broadcast anywhere - he's like this magical figure, I wanted him to be this huge like god. I'm hoping people will leave offerings to him.
There's a John Gerrard piece, it's called Luftkin? It's basically a 3D rendering of an oil derrick, a nodding donkeys - those oil pumps out in Texas. He's done a 3D replica of an existing oil derrick - a virtual version while the real one runs 24 hours a day, day to night, and carrying the cycle on. I like the idea that something virtual exists at the same time with the real. This is also what the exhibition is about, these two states existing side by side, the real and the virtual coexisting.
I've also got Herman Makkink's Rocking Machine in there. You know in The Clockwork Orange, there's this scene where Alex beats a woman to death with a giant penis? This piece is called the Rocking Machine, and is essentially a giant penis that rocks on its own - it rocks back and forth like a perpetual motion machine. I wanted a prosthetic penis in the show, to do with the body, I wanted all these body parts like there's a head, and feet, there's the uterus vase, all these different parts and limbs and organs - so they all have their separate lives - separate addresses, and they all exist as part of a body but also on their own.
This is a piece by David Musgrave which essentially, is a Snoopy, a 3-Dimensional model of Snoopy but he's been sliced in half, and it's showing his organs. I like that because I like this idea of a cartoon having real viscera, these kind of internal organs as if it's a live thing 'cause we believe Snoopy is alive - well I do anyway, in the same way I feel Felix is a potential god.
The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things, curated by Mark Leckey at the Bluecoat, Liverpool 16 Feb – 14 Apr 2013