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Regan Gentry: Lightness and weight

Forum > Reviews

Super Natural

Dan Arps, Regan Gentry, Nick Mangan, Euan Macdonald, Julainne Sumich, Tao Wells and Emily Cormack at The Physics Room
2 Mar 2006 - 26 Mar 2006

Lee-looking-profound-1 by Artbasher
47 Comments
Article of the Month March 2006
2006_02_24_349251 Milan Kundera's central theme in The Unbearable Lightness of Being is lightness and weight. Weight is challenge, responsibility, truth, and a burden, all bringing us closer to the Earth. Lightness is innocence, pardon, freedom, meaninglessness; soaring above the world.

Our lives (and art – or our lives as art) are suffused with this duality. It's a slippery thing, because generally we desire both simultaneously. But they are eternally in opposition to each other, which is the source of most of the problems, frustrations and challenges of life.

Kundera offers Beethoven as an example of this. His music is uplifting; it transports us beyond and above the earth. But it does so with great solemnity and weight. There is a necessity in his music that is very heavy.

A contemporary example is Woody Allen. His better movies are a seamless blend of lightness and weight. Lightly he laughs at humanity's transitory and fleeting relationships, habits and obsessions, but he also shows us how deeply they weigh upon our lives. His latest movie, Melinda and Melinda, is an illustration of this idea. The same story is told twice: once as comedy, once as tragedy. However, by separating lightness and weight so obviously, rather than blending them as he does in his older movies such as Manhattan, he denies Melinda and Melinda the splendid passion of his best films.

 
Back to the Physics Room

Regan Gentry has two works in this show. (Or maybe it's one?)

There are three polyhedrons each made of six umbrellas bolted together hanging from the ceiling by fishing wire. These rotate slowly in the breeze of a small fan. Projecting slightly over the top of them, but mostly onto the wall there is a video projection of a roll of toilet paper being carried away by the wind over a mountain pass.

The umbrellas, delicate enough anyway one might think, are made lighter by replacing the nylon with semi-transparent tissue paper. The paper edges are merely paper-clipped together. The globes float, gently spinning in the wind from a small fan.

So light are the everyday and replaceable materials. But the work is also heavy. The umbrellas like planets, their eternal geometry carrying the weight of human achievement and knowledge. Toilet paper flapping and dancing, light and flying briefly in the sky. But it soon falls to the earth, tangled in the shrub.

Lightness and weight, all rolled up into one.

Other Artists

The other work is best not mentioned, apart from Euan MacDonald's filing cabinet spewing paper. It has the light in it's reversal of the everyday, but the weight is created by the gimmick of slowing the film down – exactly the same as the last four video's I've seen at the physics room. It works, but it's such a common technique it's kind of meaningless.

Eternal Return

Tao wells is a joke right? He had an "idea" to install these sensor activated glass sliding doors, but thought it unnecessary to actually do it. There's a note on the wall and floor where they would have gone to that effect. Ha ha. Sure, light and funny.

To illustrate lightness and weight, Kundera uses Nietzsche's idea of eternal return. He proposes that because everything only happens once, this lends a lightness to life. We cannot be criticised because we cannot practice. Life is a dress rehearsal for a play that never happens. However, if time were to repeat itself over and over eternally, this would add weight to our actions. Because if you knew that every decision you made was going to resonate throughout eternity, you'd care a lot more and it would be more important what you chose. In an eternally recurring universe, art with weight would be valued far more highly. However, our universe is not eternally recurring and thus light art is favoured by many. The only problem is that when something is repeated over and over again, we realise that in this particular part of our non-recurring universe, the universe is actually repeating itself. Thus light art that repeats itself is scorned for its lack of consideration, and we demand weight in its place. Weighty art lends itself far better to repeat viewing than light. This is why serious art such as tragedies survives through the ages whereas comedies die far more quickly.

In New Zealand we demand weight in our art. As a young nation, we look to use it as an anchor for our identity. But unfortunately this can lead us to ignore the simultaneous need for lightness. This in turn leads people like Tao Wells to reject weight altogether and make joke art. What remains best however is lightness joined with weight, which artists like Regan Gentry provide.


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Comments:
1 to 20 of 47
John Hurrell
122 articles & 1507 comments since 2 Dec 2005
So AB, what do you make of Regan's earlier ' One Foot in the Door'

project? It seems to confirm what you propose as a combination of 'light' and 'heavy': the former being the joke of janmming a ruler into the door of a municipal institution; the latter being the bureaucratic and convoluted responses of many of those venues to his proposal.
Lee-looking-profound-1
Artbasher
137 articles & 705 comments since 12 Feb 2005
I'm a big fan.

I like it all.

Does it make me a hypocrite if I like art about art, because I hate the art-world with such passion?
John Hurrell
122 articles & 1507 comments since 2 Dec 2005
May the Art World bless and keep you,

and the Art World make Its face shine upon you and be gracious unto you.
Let the Art World lift up Its countenance upon you and give you peace.
Jean
3 articles & 31 comments since 7 Mar 2006
on the contrary

This exhibition, as I see it is not at all art about art. It is quite the contrary. The exhibition seems to be, as is stipulated in the catalogue and in the wall text, more about perception and affect. Two fundamentally human qualities innate to all. Whether art educated or not.
I think this exhibiton is very admirably attempting to describe without language how perception functions, and how meaning is created. It is a very free show and it brings to the surface those who are unable to loosen themselves from the rules and structures of 'guided' or hegemonic interpretation.
John Hurrell
122 articles & 1507 comments since 2 Dec 2005
Artbasher doesn't know it, but I think

he is really talking about 'art for life's sake' which has always dominated in this country. The heaviness of protestant and post-colonial guilt perhaps starts with Van der Velden, reaches a peak with McCahon, and carries on with current artists like et al.

'Light' can mean physically light as in Gentry's umbrellas or Brent Wong's platonic floating architecture. It obviously also means grace or redemption [as in Kundera's pardon/innocence -as AB has said].

I can see where 'light' as metaphor might be in this show [esp the middle slide] but 'heavy' may not be quite the appropriate term. From long distance, I don't get the sense of an all-pervading weightiness being there at all.

Maybe Jean is right? Forget the tropes, stick with perception.
allblackwinz
Flake
46 articles & 641 comments since 26 Jan 2006
Tao's is a joke Right?

I chose the work, (the idea) the curator chose its form, from two options i supplied, either a note or the actual doors. I feel the final form chosen by the curator completely annihilated my involvement, my authorship of the "idea" has in deed been rubbed out to that of delievering a joke, heard around the office. i can only dream that the joke within the joke, that of the image of the automatic doors in a "experimental gallery" glide into view,

wishful thinking. T
John Hurrell
122 articles & 1507 comments since 2 Dec 2005
Just wondering, Tao.

You provided two options for the curator to consider, right? Two possibilities for your work to exist. Like say Lawrence Weiner but with specific details in both cases on how exactly they were to be executed.

So the exhibited form was not what you wanted? They did not follow your instructions precisely so you have no ownership of the work?

Is that the situation?
Populuxe
19 articles & 495 comments since 9 Aug 2005
From the press release:

"Imagine a space with no lines. Imagine it in three dimensions. Imagine this space filled with nothing but small sparks and fluid that compelled by its own internal compulsion perpetually interacts. Infinitely. Growing, merging, expanding, unbounded, without legislation, without terminology to describe the process. Infinitely becoming. Imagine illuminating this activity, shining your wee miners light down and around at this jouissant scene. The natural in the process of realising itself as super."

What the Fuck is that supposed to mean? Not only is it crap artwank of minimal meaning, it's quite blatantly irrelevant to the artworks which are the planned products of deliberate, classically trained conscious intelligence. Sound's like cammoflage for not having any real curatorial concept to me - or someone who talks alot but says nothing.
Jean
3 articles & 31 comments since 7 Mar 2006
To me it is quite clear

what that quote is referring to. When asked to imagine a space such as the one described I do not find it difficult.
I think what the exhibiton (and that piece of writing which is actually the first paragraph of the exhibition catalogue - which explains all of these things very clearly) is describing is something that artists trained in both classical and contemporary schools - from Brunelleschi to Paul McCarthy, have always experienced and sometimes attempt to express in their work.
The free space before an idea settles, where signs and meanings can be reassigned, creating entirely new fields of knowledge. It's called the evolution of an idea, and is also a well charted field of knowldge with a trajectory from Aristotle to Deleuze (also referernced in the catalogue).
So strange how some peole want everything to be tied down with didactic anchors - refined down to meat and potatoes simplicity. Makes for a pretty limited field for people to play in I reckon.
By the way, have you seen the show?
Populuxe
19 articles & 495 comments since 9 Aug 2005
Yes I have seen the show,

but the history of knowledge is an incredibly ambiguous (not to mention elitist) conceptual framework to build an exhibition around - particularly as it is a primarily linguistic/textual methodology which various French (though notably not the Russian) schools of semiology have tried to impose upon the visual arts since the 1960s. It doesn't work because it rejects the scientific paradigm that theory comes from observation, not vice versa.

FYI Brunelleschi was an architect - slightly different and more practical methodology to an artist - working from a rational observation of the Roman Pantheon and other buildings, and then using logical deductive reasoning and slight modifications of quite standard engineering knowledge (ie. the inner dome with a cosmetic outer dome) to construct the Duomo. There were no "reassigned meanings".

To interpose any kind of teleological "trajectory" between Aristotle and Deleuze is to demonstrate a lack of any real understanding of either - they are antithetic antipoles. Perhaps you were thinking of Plotinus? Anyway, as a Wittgensteinian, I would have to say it is impossible to create frameworks of meaning without a tenuous consensus on frames of reference. There are few, if any between the artists in this show. That is the job of the curator, and I am not feeling the love.

"So strange how some peole want everything to be tied down with didactic anchors - refined down to meat and potatoes simplicity. Makes for a pretty limited field for people to play in I reckon."

So strange how some people want to invent little elites to make themselves feel better about themselves when they could be making the world such a beautiful and interesting place for everyone. While you may turn your nose up at meat and potatoes, it's what the vast majority subsist on, and to utter such Marie-Antoinette "let them eat cake" flippancies just makes you look faintly like a tosser. I'd really have to question exactly who is making the limited field and missing the oppourtunity of making many more friends.

Great visual fun / shitty curatorial hot air.


John Hurrell
122 articles & 1507 comments since 2 Dec 2005
PPLX ,you certainly have got gall telling other people they're elitist.

You are the personification of that term, and I wouldn't normally object but you insist on using the term as a trite form of hysterical abuse.

That and 'tosser' or 'artwanker'.

Put a little elegance in your argument, please....
You are capable of much better.
Jean
3 articles & 31 comments since 7 Mar 2006
Such a great discussion!


I am however dissapointed that you imagine anyone would write names and refer to schools of thought without having a well maintained grip on such things. Surely your comeback must be worth more than derrogatory insults (which are themselves extremely elitist - which seems to be your pet hate)

Anyhow, in referring to Brunelleschi I was inferring that revolutionary designs such as the cupola in Firenze's Duomo are only achieved through the combination of different elements - from across a range of disciplines. Brunelleschi trained as an artist and then combined this with knowledge gained from the burgeoning field of perspective, and employing old Roman building techniques to develope something that had never before been achieved. So yes, i do think it was a case of freeing oneself from the connotations determined by a particular mind set so as to enable ground breaking developments. Which can also be a case of reassigning meaning on an unstriated platform.

Anyhow, your classificaton of yourself as 'Wittgensteinian' tells me that there is little I can do to loosen the strictures that bind you to your books. A shame that your (totally engaging)outlook cannot be less lateral. Theories are not meant to define us, nor restrict us - of course it is essential to understand them completely (but this is not so hard) but you should really have some fun with them.

It's also really intersting that you say...
"I would have to say it is impossible to create frameworks of meaning without a tenuous consensus on frames of reference. There are few, if any between the artists in this show."
I wonder what your definition of 'frame of reference is'? Again, your desire to tie things down is really interesting. These works are - in my mind - all talking about the same thing? Seemed like a sure consensus to me. Is that not a frame of reference? Anyhow, that's how I understood the show - but each to their own.

I wonder also how you can seperate the visual fun of this exhibiton from the curatorial rationale? Do you think this is accidental? My how you underestimate curatorial practice.
Populuxe
19 articles & 495 comments since 9 Aug 2005
First of all John

do give me an example of my so-called elitism. Elitism: "The belief that certain persons or members of certain classes or groups deserve favored treatment by virtue of their perceived superiority, as in intellect, social status, or financial resources." Is it trite to find that objectionable? Are we not a liberal democracy? Intellectual elites are only ever good if they are useful to the common cause, otherwise they end up first against the wall when the revolution comes.
And pray, how do you come to the sweeping conclusion from my typing that I am hysterical? Didactic, yes. Dogmatic, certainly. A speedy composer, absolutely. Hysterical? 'Fraid not.
As for expressions like 'tosser' and 'artwanker' - clearly you have not being paying any attention to the general tone of this forum. Since it's inception, Artbash (or Artwank as one of it's template skins is branded) has revelled in its inelegance and lack of the hypocritical pieties streaming from the orifices of the art pharisees.
I'll take a telling off from Artbasher - it's his website - but not from you. As you have been frantically dominating this venue for months now and do not appear to be prepared to play by its democratic philsophical climate, perhaps you should set up your own website where you play mother to your heart's content and stop sucking all the oxygen out of the room here.
Jean
3 articles & 31 comments since 7 Mar 2006
perhaps you should

and yes you are sounding hysterical.

can we stick to the topic? or at least bash art and not each other?
So intersting how people retaliate when cornered.

I really like this idea though...
"stop sucking all the oxygen out of the room here." perhaps you're really a poet?
Populuxe
19 articles & 495 comments since 9 Aug 2005
Jean

I apologise if I have misread your response, but I can assure you there are plenty of people out there who will quite happily drop names frivolously without having any grasp of the technicalities involved. It is, unfortunately, all too common in intertextual academia. And I think the only point I could be accused of being insulting is where I use the word tosser (suitably moderated by the passive voice - whe are all used to rhino skins on here. In your accusation of my elitism, in my defence, I am quite capable of playing the game, but for the most part I find it distasteful).

I still disagree with you on Brunelleschi. Having spent some time on the matter, I find it diifcult to conclude that it was anything more than the succesful resolution of an engineering problem within a restricted set of options and assumptions.

Theory is cheery but liquor is quicker. I am only ever bound to my books in terms of historical precedent and emperical data. For the rest I prefer to use my eyes. Name dropping is for those too lazy to back away from google.

You say that you see these works as being all abou the same thing? Aside from a certain Duchampian playfulness and a general rhizomatic haze, I don't. I find the work enjoyable individually, but I feel sad time and time again when individula brilliance gets overwhelmed in a tsunami of other works in some sort of ambiguous theoretical relationship. How much of it really is just one of those pragmatic "friends of the curator" shows that lubricate the wheels of the art world?

I don't think I underestimate curatorial practice, I expect more from it. Speaking for myself and I don't expect anyone else to agree, I believe the role of the curator is to represent and display the art to the audience, to clearly narrate and fill in the gaps. I believe curation should be a necissary didactic evil, not the curatorial self-indulgence to play artist (which detracts from the artists' own work and intentions). On that I freely admit I am old fashioned and fusty, but I prefer Aristotelian patterns of logic to Deleuzian fashionable free-for-alls.
Jean
3 articles & 31 comments since 7 Mar 2006
ahhhhh

we understand each other now.

We are simply at opposite ends of the same spectrum. What fun it would be to thrash this out over a bottle of vodka.
Have you read the catalogue? I would be curious to hear your thoughts on that.

Populuxe
19 articles & 495 comments since 9 Aug 2005
Touche

"To interpose any kind of teleological "trajectory" between Aristotle and Deleuze is to demonstrate a lack of any real understanding of either"
"We are simply at opposite ends of the same spectrum."
- brilliant decoy, reverse parry and thrust with a slight twist of the handle on your part. I applaud you and concede victory to a sharper wit.
John Hurrell
122 articles & 1507 comments since 2 Dec 2005
As Jean has observed, when a certain person is backed in a corner...

What is this piffle in your last paragragh about my 'not being prepared to play by its democratic philosophical climate'? If that is not hysterical mouthing, what is? You think I thwarted that democratic climate? You're raving out of control!

Dude if I dominated it is only because I had something to say and others didn't. If I hadn't chipped in the site might have died. I provided more oxygen, not sucked it out. And I've have always maintained the more paticipants the better and welcomed any discussion. Don't damn me for my energy and enthusiasm.

And this stuff on Artbasher and his site. Stop being an sycophant and uphold that democratic climate you profess to uphold. Why not stop slurping your way round those you perceive as powerful and actually look at the argument being presented about your occasional infantile language. It doesn't suit you because actually it's your elitism and transparent insecurities that make you interesting, along with your obvious gifts with language. When you revel in your education excessively, far beyond the art historical information needed to give weight to any argument, and parade your latin at any opportunity, I think is great for the richness of the discussion, and a gutsy thing to do in our deeply anti-academic community, but it also shows how vulnerable you really feel. You don't need to constantly overdo it.
Chimp
39 comments since 27 Oct 2005
St John

For the record: I'd much rather you dominated it than Pops (which was the situation before you arrived)... at least you are willing to engage in honest and intuitive discussions, rather than the pompous (but admittedly poetic) who-knows-more-bullshit-art-theory-than-who monologue.
Lee-looking-profound-1
Artbasher
137 articles & 705 comments since 12 Feb 2005
Stipulated.

I love your use of that word Jean.

Stipulate v. To make an express demand

What a comical way to describe a text that proposes to liberate us from our habitual ways of viewing art.

I guess I'm a naughty boy for not looking at the art in the way I was told to. Tsk tsk.

I read about the first three sentences of the wall text and where it started talking about perception without language or whatever, I totally turned off. For one, if it's not about language, why the hell write or read about it, and two, Wittgenstein made some pretty solid arguments that thought without language is nonsensical.

"Oh no," you reply, "Wait, I'm talking about the free space before an idea settles, where signs and meanings can be reassigned."

Uh, sorry. Those are all words. Concepts. Go on, express me your idea without words. Well, it would be hard in this text based forum of course. How would you have me respond? Dance? Whistle a tune? Draw a picture? (oops, shouldn't have mentioned that one!) Make my own reciprocal artwork? Or perhaps just have a "feeling"?

*Fans away stench of idiotic curation*

*Is dissapointed to realise "curation" is a word*

*Refocuses on the good artworks in the show*

I never said this show was about the artworld, merely that I liked Gentry's "Foot in the Door" thingy, which was.

Geez, no one's even mentioned my wicked-as illustrations.

*Turns back on ungrateful masses*
R-2006_03_15_578026
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