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True Beauty @ First Site

Last Friday night at a party the printmaker Joel Gailer was stamping “THE TRUTH IS A COPY” on people – I got one stamped on my arm. I love the anti-Socratic statement as Socrates held that reality was but a copy of the true form. However, if the truth is not a good copy of reality than it not true.

The three current exhibitions at 1st Site Gallery at RMIT combine to further complicate any ideas you might have about truth, beauty, copies and reality.

“Render Complete” by Spencer Lai, Matthew Berka and Hamish Storrie, reflects on ideal beauty in “a society that is obsessed with the act of imaging itself and the spaces in which we inhabit.” It is like a digital Han Belmar doll with an Ikea catalogue. The digital simulacra are an ideal dream as the computerized narrator keeps on confessing in the video.

“Trashland” by Lucie McIntosh is about an enhanced reality, a better than real party. Naked Barbie dolls in glitter gimp masks, the repeated photographs of a head with all the details sprayed over except for the glitter lips, real glitter lips stuck on to the photographs. At one end of the space three television sets form “a shrine to instants passed by, trash punk, wasters and party people”. The only problem with “Trashland” is that there is not enough of it – the space is too empty to convince me that the exhibition really is over the top.

“Cardboard Cabin” by Harry Hay is an installation with a few paintings leading up to it. The installation is like a physical version of Hay’s paintings, with the same run-down Australian shed aesthetics. The installation of a cabin with furniture, tools and walls all made of painted corrugated cardboard. The photographs hanging on the wall of the shed in cardboard frames are photographs of a cardboard world contributing another level of simulacra. Creating a caricature copy of part of the world out of a different material has a special kind of appeal. (I was just watching the episode of James May’s Toy Story with the plasticine garden last night.)

Getting back to the old philosophical stamping grounds truth, beauty, copies and reality. “Render Complete” proposes that true beauty is an ideal dream that cannot be copied. Whereas, “Trashland” argues that reality can be beautiful but trashy. And “Cardboard Cabin” is an enjoyable copy of an ugly truth. I love the way these exhibitions confute (confutation, to confuse an argument, is less strong than a refutation but tactically can be just as successful as it is less aggressive) ideas of truth and beauty. I think this is one of the reasons that I love art because there is confutation in way that artists explore ideas.

“And let us not forget those auditory hallucinations which, as ‘Socrates’ demon’ have been interpreted in a religious sense.” – Nietzsche

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About Mark Holsworth

Writer, independent researcher and artist, Mark Holsworth is the author of the book Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

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