Investment Position. Oliver van der Lugt 19 Oct – 10 Nov 2013. Dog Park Art Project Space.
Thoughts on Oliver van der Lugt’s Investment Position at Dog Park Art Project Space (19 October – 10 November 2013) through the lens of Sut Jhally’s mapping of “commodity fetishism” in four successive stages.
1. Utility/idolatry, in which commodities are freed from being merely utilitarian things. A precarious arrangement of generically based objects overwhelms the gallery space, offering a series of individual elements within a field of replaceable sameness. Attentions to the arrangement’s structure and aesthetic value fall away as the objects themselves define a narrative of economic references. Stacks of cheap jeans and cinder blocks sit on and around the scaffolding, with a risibly enlarged clothing store receipt draped over the top of the structure and across the floor. In one area, a pair of jeans stretches across a section of scaffolding, carrying the weight of three 20kg cinder blocks. Another pair of jeans cradles a television screen as it presents a series of short, choreographed clips utilising the jeans and blocks to display sets of non-specific, task-based actions.
2. Symbolisation/iconology, in which commodities serve as abstract representations of social values. This arrangement: compact, new, unused, colourful, textural and abstract is very much in tune with concepts of visual merchandising. Yet the undeniable presence of the discounted clothing tags and receipt emphasising the low-low prices of the jeans speaks more to the idea of a self-exposing arrangement, one that, transplanted into a retail site could be used to sell products while simultaneously undermine fast-fashion and mass-production economies. These objects as symbols in the gallery also reveal an existing discourse around the iconology of contemporary sculptural practice. So often contemporary art is concerned with how the commodity and its surrounding economy activate us. Thus “the exhibition becomes a format that enables us to see the commodity as it is.” (Neomaterialism, 21)
3. Personification/narcissism, in which they are intimately connected with the world of interpersonal relations. Just as the brand new pairs of jeans appear to be brimming with quality and value until the discounted prices become exposed upon closer inspection, the unscratchable scratchies pasted to walls and nestled in between cinder blocks seem to denote kind of personified sentiment. The investment has been made to obtain them, but their humanisation is never achieved, as they are never fully utilised. The scratchies feel desirable by nature, but seem to be rendered slightly flat when removed from their natural Lotto counter habitat that affords them a certain kind of energy and impact gives them desirability.
4. Lifestyle/totemism, in which the first three stages merge to define the group under a singular lifestyle. Although the economy as a contemporary concern appears to be the subject de jour for group and curated shows to tackle these days (examples here, here and here), the strength of this show is how van der Lugt takes this subject on from one, direct perspective. As a clear vinyl tube carries water in and around the objects, bringing them together with reference to circulation and exchange, the work as a whole does feel powerfully totemic. “Money is the ultimate representational system of value in this civilisation.” (Neomaterialism, 33)
Photo Credit: Dog Park Art Project Space
Sut Jhally, The Codes of Advertising: Fetishism and the Political Economy of Meaning in the Consumer Society (New York: Psychology Press, 1990), 51.
“The Commodity and the Exhibition” in Joshua Simon, Neomaterialism (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2013), 21-38.
Gean Moreno and Ernesto Oroza, “Generic Objects” in e-flux Journal 18 (September 2010): 1-11.