slower than slowly
11 September - 7 December 2019
Slanting and shadow-cutting a bursting stream
Trickled in gusts of gold on the shiny flagstone
Where the amber atoms in the fire gleaming
Mingled their sarabande with the gymnopaedia 1
Over the past weeks we have had the unswerving pleasure of sharing Yuko Mohri’s company on a daily basis (work, apples, dinners, some Prosecco), as she has carefully crafted her exhibition, slower than slowly, a ballet of unwilling objects conjured from thin air, right in front of us, at mother’s tankstation, Dublin. The gallery has become a kind of half laboratory, half workshop, slowly transmuting its way back to exhibition space, as things assemble and their means of assembly are cleaned away, magically made invisible. When I say ‘thin air’, in addition to well-rehearsed and established practice and an evidently experienced studio methodology, which preemptively thought to pack some curious contents into an oversized suitcase, shipped from Tokyo via Paris: tools, a trumpet, Ostrich feather dusters (for cleaning Buddha statues), a soldering iron, nuts and bolts, motors, sequencers, switches, etc. Furthermore thin air has been busily filled with and by the background deliveries from creative eBay acquisitions; vintage audio equipment, electrified candelabras… And numerous experimental ventures to opportunity and vintage shops (a silver tea set) and fascinating warehouse repositories of nerdish electrical paraphernalia, from whence transformers, a third of a kilometre of electrical cable, multiple miscellaneous bulbs and their attendant sockets have joined the thin air throng. Not to mention trips to out-of-the-way experts (obsessive’s workshops), of those skilled in fixing vintage audio equipment when it doesn’t quite function. Its durability and relatively simple rehabilitation is reassuring of the slowness, recyclability and anti-obsolescent-intent seemingly inherent to the former analogue world and engenders a few small sombre thoughts about the mysteries of life: Fix stuff.
During last night’s rather good dinner2, the subject of ‘slowness’ arose partially around the mutual experience we three had in watching a moon lazily, yet ineluctable rise from the sea – it’s magnificence was slow but unstoppable – but also the significance of slowness to Mohri’s general outlook and practice. As a point of definition Mohri quite casually enquired the linguistic differentiation between “slowly” and “slower”. Good Question; ‘slowly’ is slower than fast, but quicker than not moving at all, but less fast than a perception of a ‘normal’ speed – whatever that is. While, ‘slower’ is normally less fast than slow, or slower than slowly, but still faster than stationary – but not in ‘office supplies’ sense. The stave gets tangled…one thing leads to another, but by the time understanding ends, we are past the point of wanting it to. It’s just funny. What makes things funny, I returned to my little book on laughter by Henri Bergson3, and remembered that I had forgotten that it is one of the least funny things I had ever read. The moment one attempts to untangle the obtuse absurdity of the way things happen, bump and fall into one another that creates the comic, it tends to eat its own legs. Or as Baudelaire put it; it is a canker that is too tightly bound to itself. Don’t seem to be able to get away from the Frenchness of things…4
Humour is as crucial a vehicle to Yuko Mohri’s work as is the slower than fast, stepped-down-speed, at which things swing, circulate or dim and brighten in her fluid sculptures. Graphically powerful streams, seams, of black electrical cable circulate unseen electromagnetic power through and around the gallery, causing tiny little, out-of-proportional responses in the most unexpected and in raucously ridiculous ways. Miniature compass needles go absolutely, but almost unnoticeably, crazy on the elaborately inlaid wooden top of an old music box. The recorded sound of an ocean, ebbing, swelling, stormy, peaceful, and passed through thirty/forty or so coiled meters of electrical cable, amplified by a 1970s Japanese stereo amp cranked-up at full volume, but silent, effects a suspended magnet tinkling against a glass lens. The outcome is as reflective as a Buddhist temple bell. Voluta, an invariable feminine noun and the single-word title Mohri gives to this nature of work, has multiplicitous associations: To give into sensual, pleasure, delight (of the ordinary sort), the Italian word for the form of the scroll at the head of a violin, an oscillating light fitting (?), the intertwined golden treads of Venetian jewelry… Similarly, the outcome of reducing an ocean to a tinkle, is absurd yet poetic, sublime yet pathetic, pathos becomes bathos and right back again. The power of Fukushima in a nutshell, chaos as a stately dance.
And yet despite the side-splitting and explosive daftness of many of the works, Mohri professes that the thought of earnest, serious things is never a moment absent from her thoughts. Fukushima is always at the forefront of her mind, yet this doesn’t mean that each and every work has to be sole reference to a precise thing, rather the absurdity of chance, is a perpetual reminder that things can go wrong as easily and regularly as they go right. The entire series of Mohri’s brilliant water works, generically entitled ‘Leaky’ are a tangential comment on the state of a nation’s urban plumbing in the wake of a nuclear disaster of epic proportion. That future of everything is precarious and we have some decisions to make, if we do not make decisions, we are in danger of having no future at all… Things keep us going, but they are also an engine of loss, inexorably leading us back to the point where we began: Nothingness. Life is merely a circuit of cause and effect, the twisted stave recording a music of chance. The melodies of which use deliberate dissonances against harmony, producing a melancholy that matches the performance instructions of Erik Satie’s Gymnopédies, (the absurd hilarity of a naked dance without weapons) to play each piece, respectively; “painfully” (douloureux), “sadly” (triste), “gravely” (grave).5
1 Oblique et coupant l’ombre un torrent éclatant
Ruisselait en flots d’or sur la dalle polie
Où les atomes d’ambre au feu se miroitant
Mêlaient leur sarabande à la gymnopédie
A Sarabande is a slow stately dance from the Baroque period, with three beats to the bar. The four lines of poetry are excerpted from P.J. Contamine de Latour’s Les Antiques, first published 1888 in the magazine La Musique des familles, alongside Erik Satie’s three piano compositions The Gymnopédies. The work’s tangential title comes from the French form ancient Greek word for an annual festival where young men danced naked — or perhaps simply unarmed (?), and the exact source of the title, if there is one, has long been a subject of debate or is considered lost. The melodies of the pieces use deliberate, but mild dissonances against the harmony, producing a melancholy that matches the performance instructions, which are to play each piece, respectively; “painfully” (douloureux), “sadly” (triste), or “gravely” (grave). The first few bars of Gymnopédie No. 1, consist of an alternating progression of two major seventh chords, the first on the subdominant, G, and the second on the tonic, D, effectively twisting the stave to wring-out emotion.
2 Steak frites and a nice Ganache. The culinary quality and its management has absolutely nothing to do with me, as overall gallery project envisioner; Finola Jones’ skills, are to cooking as Yuko Mohri’s are to art.
3 Henri Bergson, Laughter, An Essay on the meaning of the Comic. Originally published in 1900.
4 Yuko Mohri also lectures at L’Ecole de Beaux Arts, Paris.
5 ibid No.1.
to-do, doing, d̶o̶n̶e̶
29 September - 14 December 2019
Cyclicity is built into the fabric of reality. From the basic components of the atom to the vagaries of complex social interactions, the identification and exploitation of cycles of various forms could be understood as the basis of all human societies. Environmental cycles have become increasingly erratic as human activity changes the fundamental properties of the earth. Carbon extraction and consumption, nuclear fuel production, and the economic structures and cycles based on resource extraction have conspired to produce an expansive crisis that threatens the basis of organised human society. No aspect of living, no social practice will remain untouched by this crisis, nor is any mode of living excluded from the network of power relations inscribed within it. These tensions animate the works included in Yuri Pattison’s to-do, doing,
done. Pattison seeks to explore both the technologies of exploitation and resistance while at the same time acknowledging the contradictions that infuse all forms of choice in the contemporary moment. While culpability for the situation may lie clearly with the historic colonial states and the ideologies that animated their rapacities, a recognition that solutions must be systemic is fundamental. In the (literally) febrile atmosphere of the 21st century, every choice has global consequences. Innocence is no one’s option.
At the centre of Pattison’s exhibition, is the work sun(set) provisioning a sculptural reiteration of the digital renderings of atmospheric conditions familiar from video game designs. In the work, a solar disk hovers at the horizon’s edge, dispersing illumination across a foreground of clouds and sky that alter according to the localised weather conditions of the place in which the sun(set) provisioning is displayed. The sculpture-internal conditions visualised on screen are produced using a uRadMonitor, which records atmospheric data which can then be reproduced visually. The monitoring programme was originally developed by a Romanian developer to provide an accessible means of monitoring atmospheric conditions independent of recourse to governments. Oil spills, ongoing toxic waste disposal and emissions manipulation scandals by corporations and national governments (sometimes in collusion with each other) have proliferated in recent years despite supposed advances in technologies of safety – not to mention the continuing consequences of the Fukushima nuclear disaster – thus the values behind the creation of the uRadMonitor: openness, accessibility, and scepticism of official information channels have come to take on even greater significance in a contemporary moment disfigured by institutional climate denial, corporate disinformation, and the hyper-individualised discourse of environmental activism. Every person’s actions may affect the totality of the globe, but no one can solve the crisis alone. sun(set) provisioning will operate in real time, responding to the weather conditions for the duration of the exhibition, recapitulating the complex relationship between observed, experienced phenomena and the mediated representation of that same information. The kind of transparency sought by the creator of the uRadMonitor, thus confronts the structural and economic mechanisms by which it has become at once nearly ubiquitous and invisible: as the primary methodology for presenting “realistic” weather conditions for the often fantastical narratives of video games. The interaction of the fantastic and the realistic is now not solely, or even primarily, the province of consumer entertainment, but has crept into the way all information is presented, distributed and consumed.
The natural cycles that lie at the heart of sun(set) provisioning also feature in true time master. This work’s inspiration is the so-called Chip Scale Atomic Clock (CSAC), developed by the US Defence Department’s infamous Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The CSAC is a miniaturised realisation of the highly accurate atomic clocks which are based on the cyclic transitions within the caesium 133 isotope. The extreme regularity of these oscillations provide the source for time-based technologies ranging from modalities of digital computing and communication to financial activities including high-frequency trading (HFT) – used to execute large scale financial transactions faster than the operation of human consciousness. Here, natural cycles which operate beyond the boundaries of human perception are exploited in ways that define not only the fundamental building blocks of the universe, but also the often seemingly equally abstract and inaccessible vagaries of the global economy. The role for human agency in the face of such macro and micro phenomena is nebulous, yet is by no means nonexistent. Such technologies are the by-product of human endeavour – albeit in highly structured, privileged, and secretive contexts – and, therefore, are not only accessible, but ultimately subservient to human ends. The question of where the individual stands in relation to these power dynamics becomes a means of exploring wider understandings of responsibility, culpability, and action.
Both works are displayed in frameworks constructed of the substance known as Dexion, a lightweight, easily transported material that was developed in the middle of the 20th century in Britain. Dexion became a protagonist in narratives of British soft power deployment during its early years, particularly as a means of facilitating disaster relief (a UK government propaganda video stresses its use in Greece – a key frontier in the early European phase of the Cold War – on the island of Ionia in the wake of an earthquake that left more than 93,000 homeless). Pattison’s use of the material is inscribed with a technological melancholia; yesterday’s technologies of tomorrow have fallen into a present day abeyance, rendered all but obsolete by discourses of austerity and capital generation that sneers at the (paternalistic) idealism of the Post-War zenith of Keynesian welfare-capitalism. The end of that economic cycle and the rise of Neo-Liberalism has coincided with the rising awareness of the damage growth-based economic ideologies have wrought on the planet. Such awareness – perhaps ironically, perhaps fittingly – was first articulated by oil industry scientists whose findings drove companies like Exxon to develop alternative narratives about the status of carbon in the atmosphere all the while deepening global dependency on fossil fuels. The term used to describe this dynamic in economics, whereby measures are taken to reinforce existing economic conditions rather than check them is pro-cyclicality.
If the natural cycles within which the biosphere has evolved are changing, they remain as central as they ever have been to the capacity for the living earth to survive. Being able to conceptualise these cycles, to begin to come to terms with how they have been rendered visible or comprehensible to past generations, and how they are (mis)represented in the present day will be crucial to addressing the implications of this interplay of forces and symbols. While Yuri Pattison’s works do not seek to provide answers to the challenges created by changing climate, they provide a means of address toward the structures that define and direct the human endeavour. Seeing the architecture of the crisis begins by seeing its component parts, and understanding the range of tools that may be brought to bear upon it. Time itself is one such tool, as the powers of repression and domination well understand. Visualising the structures they have built with this tool may provide the beginnings of a way to dismantle them. The task is overwhelming and necessary; time, as ever, is running out.
Portions of true time master were developed during the LUMA Arles Residency Program.