Unreal Nature

July 29, 2016

Something Other Than

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:32 am

… what, if anything, is natural anyway.

This is from Sarah Lucas: Au Naturel, by Amna Malik (2009):

… The obvious, explicit and ordinary nature of this set of objects denoting sexual organs contrasts starkly with the sophistication implied by the title of the work — Au Naturel is a French expression that means ‘in the raw’ and ‘of nature.’ No one has ‘made’ the melons, the oranges and the cucumber. However, they are seen here not as they might be found in nature, on trees or on the ground, but are placed in particular positions in relation to other objects.

… The occupation by Au Naturel of an absent space is important, because it makes us aware of the 90-degree angle between the floor and the wall that supports it. You might even argue that without this angle the work could not exist. The mattress as the ‘surface’ of the assemblage that also supports the bodily surrogates relies for its existence as ‘art’ — as something other than a mattress — on the wall and floor of the gallery, which function as though they together formed a plinth or an armature.

Lucas_auNaturel
Sarah Lucas, Au Naturel, 1994

… The temporality of the work emerges as a dominant aspect of its meaning, as the work is subject to the laws of nature — in contrast to the space of the white cube, which acts as a hermetic seal in which art becomes static, timeless and autonomous. In this respect, there is a form of exchange being enacted here that links the autonomy of the white cube, set apart from the contingencies of everyday life, to the instability of the organic and the natural, which will inevitably decay.

… For the materials to be continually replenished repeated purchase is required, which directly and explicitly links Au Naturel to a system of exchange in the world outside the gallery. It could be called an ‘open work,’ but not in Umberto Eco’s sense. Instead of the work of art having an open-ended meaning that brings it into a permanent state of movement (for example, by allowing for multiple perspectives that result in an artist and spectator for whom perception and consciousness are in constant flux), Au Naturel‘s openness is the result of its direct connections with systems of exchange and of the way this displaces the construction of the work from Lucas herself — as her permanent availability cannot be guaranteed in the maintenance of the piece, this task must inevitably be taken over by the owner or gallery staff.

[line break added] The emphasis on a continuous need for maintenance is interesting in this regard, because it suggests that a condition of stasis is always being artificially met. That is, in order for the work to exist through constant replenishment, it must always be arrested in a state of constant vitality that is at odds with the movement towards decay and disintegration, towards the putrefaction of fruit that, like the human body, leaks and is porous.

… What is natural or of nature here, we might ask? If Lucas often inserts the spectator into a culturally specific vernacular in relation to the object, then we cannot but assume that the natural does not exist here. Indeed, Au Naturel makes us consider what, if anything, is natural anyway.

… Rather than locating the spectator in a specific subject position — such as that of the ladette — we might view the precarious balance of the objects in Au Naturel and their equally precarious positions as the starting point for thinking about play as a structure rather than a form of behavior. In approaching balance as play we can also consider how the aspiration to defy gravity in the work, the balancing act of objects placed on top of another, may also evoke the lightness of the work of art attempting to escape the confines and weight of theory.

-Julie

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