I recently visited London with the intention to see a lot of art. In reality I drank more coffee in hip cafes, than saw good art. But there were a couple of shows that stood out.
Blain|Southern presented a group exhibition claiming to explore emptiness and the value of absence in contemporary art.
I’m not sure about the value of absence, because I feel there is actually a heightened presence in works such as Michael Joo’s Emigrant. The title of the exhibition itself suggests a fixed presence. Not to get all you say your best when you say nothing at all, but absence is often more communicative and loaded than the presence of a heavy-hand.
This particular piece has multiple sources of content. The title is the most informing. Combined with the image of a roped of area of the gallery, Emigrant speaks of exclusion and social division. The familiar object, but formed from mirrored glass, provokes reflection and a rethinking of the accepted. The fact that it’s silver also brings forward issues of value and economy. I might be wrong. I don’t know what the artist intended, or if that even matters. But this is the problem I have with ‘absence’. It’s never absent.
And then that itself is a problem. Because when I read Blain|Southern’s handout upon visiting the gallery I find the explanation of the work over saturates it. I don’t want to be told ‘this is an art because…’. I don’t feel that’s necessary. Furthermore I find it counterproductive to the piece of work.
“An element of faith or belief is often required when encountering Tom Friedman’s (b.1965) works; the viewer is invited to engage with the idea of the work, which might not be immediately visually apparent. Upon first encounter, Untitled (A Curse) (1992) appears as an empty pedestal. However, the sculpture actually comprises an invisible globe of space, as a witch has been asked to cast a curse on an 11-inch sphere floating 11 inches above the top of the pedestal.”
I find the piece holds such a presence that I don’t need/want to read an explanation of it.
In that case, I should probably stop this explanation too.