An act of mutiny strives to overthrow a perceived existing authoritarian power. Whether by open rebellion or steady resistance, the imperial control of those in command is at the very least questioned if not radically destabilised.
Some of today’s most extraordinary sculpture demonstrates a similar renouncing of autocratic clout through an opposition to formal hierarchy and a breaking open of aesthetic forms through the use of common humble materials, often coupled with the positioning of sculpture as experience in which its relation to space becomes an integral element to the reading of the work. The undermining of conventional trademarks is further contextualised by a conceptual framework that examines events in politics, history and socio-economic constructs.
The exhibition Mutiny Seemed a Probability underscores these currents in sculptural practice, with a play on materiality, the intrinsic qualities of fragility and instability, and an acute awareness of our current state of ideological precariousness.
Artists Alicja Kwade, Gedi Sibony and Oscar Tuazon explicitly undermine sculpture’s trademarks. In Andere Bedingung (Aggregatzustand 5) Kwade transforms traditional materials into an illusory reduction of form that plays on the materials’ physical qualities in a still-life like composition. Sibony’s use of the most modest of means – cardboard, plexiglass and plastic sheeting – manifests an aggressive ‘almost’ trace of a work, Chatterer, which underscores the potential of materials. And while the work of Sibony brings architectural idiosyncrasies into focus, references to the formal language of architecture are the cornerstone to Oscar Tuazon’s artistic practice. Alluding to the contours of intangible structures, Tuazon’s IT subverts the intended purposes of building materials to defy monumentality, function and practicability. Marco Raparelli’s The Hole more playfully disrupts the notion of stability and solidity of architecture by refusing to stay within the confines of the walls of the exhibition space.
Other artworks engage the viewer through active and sometimes unexpected participation: Esperando el apagòn (Waiting for the blackout), by Jorge Peris, creates a marked level of discomfort triggered by the positioning of the viewer within the work itself. Similarly, the phenomenological characteristics of Micol Assaël’s Elektron intentionally creates unease or downright disturbance. Simon Dybbroe Møller’s sculpture Mass, Weight and Volume (Fallen into Place) references process and scale; elaborated through a game of chance the viewer is then required to physically navigate through the work. Chance, instability and the surreptitious element of performance can also be found in Popcorner by Alessandro Piangiamore; the material elements of the work interact spontaneously, which the public may or may not necessarily be witness to.
In this moment in history ideological reference points are seemingly out of focus and previous benchmarks for understanding and interpreting political positions have become muddled and confused. Rather than a celebration, Manfred Pernice’s Untitled highlights the fact that only twenty years after the collapse of the Berlin Wall its fragments have been fetishised, and the ease with which the wall itself has become a source of commercial souvenirs undermines the grounding of political ideology and symbols of freedom. Leslie Hewitt investigates historical memory in the photographic series Untitled (Horizon Line), Untitled (Connecting), and Untitled (Hours); alluding to 17th century Dutch painting, colonialism and the socio-political framework at play in the economy of objects, Hewitt draws parallels to today offering symbols with which to interrogate culture, politics and economics. The mechanisms of economy are further underlined in Graham Hudson’s The Allegory of Commodity. The work itself is a flexible, modifiable object, installed according to the specifics of location in a propping and balancing of materials that undermine the monetary economy of checks and balances. Nedko Solakov’s The Orientation of the News delineates the inherent confusion in today’s communication spheres. Where national Italian newspapers where once considered subscribed indicators of political positions, their deviance to opposing sides lends itself to disorder and befuddlement. A questioning of power and politics is further underlined in Mona Hatoum’s Drowning Sorrows (wine bottles III). The identity of the exile is at the core of Hatoum’s art; Drowning Sorrows displays the pain of being an exile in a disquieting sculpture that evokes memories of sadness, displacement and the desire to lose oneself in drink. Natascha Sadr Haghighian’s I can’t work like this instead makes an aggressive statement using the void of a laborious process to reflect upon representation, identity and power structures; made with the most basic elements with which to hang art, the work protests against and subverts the ever-increasingly commercial system of the art world.
In the video by Cyprien Gaillard, Real Remnants of Fictive Wars, Part II, the entrance of a decaying 19th century brick tunnel is gradually consumed by a thick cloud of smoke emerging from within the tunnel, juxtapositioning a historical architectural structure with its violent negation within the landscape. Henrik Håkansson instead observes the natural landscape through recording, documentation and archival systems. In The Starlings, Håkansson documents the birds’ coordinated flight formation, a movable sculptural configuration, demonstrating the organised randomness that surrounds us. Finally, Jeff Wall’s A Sapling Held by a Post depicts a young tree in its first stages of growth. While the image calls our attention to the exquisite beauty of nature in all its fragility and vulnerability, it also bears witness to the very precarious state and status of nature.