Can’t you see how big those snails are?
21 November 2015 – 23 January 2016
Can’t you see how big those snails are? is an installation of film and language alongside architectural and sculptural works.
Occupying the lower space at Chert is a forest and you are invited to inhabit this environment for as long as you wish. You can recline on the seating banks and let the sounds and senses of the organic welcome you. Now we are all here. There are no edges (becoming) is a place maker within Can’t you see how big those snails are? The forest is a setting, an idea, a smell, a sound. It is a place where organisms cohabit; where a bee, a fly, a grasshopper and a gnat can all share the same pollen source at the same time. Becoming is used in relation to a sense of mutual reciprocation, an affection experienced from an extended period spent in the company of a forest and its inhabitants. A feeling of slowness, of looking: of sharing space and time.
You can then move upstairs into the light. Moving through and past weavings made from used, soft materials of plastics, boy’s sports trousers and high visibility clothing. These items are composited, repurposed and overlaid. Only four 12 year old boys were harmed during the making of this work and Stop the pain and move on are architectural dividers of space: reconstituted materials of an unwanted or overproduced status. The materials chosen were originally engineered to enable bodies to be outside: to move, to sweat, to breathe, to be dry and warm. They also act to protect the skin from the elements and to be visible, highly visible. The titles refer directly to materials used as well as poking towards the fear and anxiety described in Cyber.
Leaning on the floor a black screen shows white text: a transcription from an English lesson given by the artist to a businessman. The lesson takes the subject of ‘cyber’. The student talks about the qualities of cyber: it is a borderless, timeless and invisible environment. He talks about attacks, threats and protection; continually making comparisons between the real, physical world and cyber. Fear of what we can’t see or name is an overriding concern: trust and exploitation become implicit in this exchange.
You may see a small Snail on an IPhone, moving carefully along the ground. Don’t worry! It is protected by a large square of pink foam; it will not be stood on. This snail was filmed whilst walking near the forest. The large snails come out after it rains and populate the ground. They are inherently architectural and yet conversely vulnerable.
Do cyborgs have feet? points towards the evocative figure which is significantly absent from this installation: the cyborg. Can’t you see how big those snails are? takes references from Donna Haraway’s A Cyborg Manifesto, 1985, which uses the figure of the cyborg to question the limitations of identity.
Irony is about contradictions that do not resolve each other into compatible wholes, even dialectically, about the tension of holding incompatible things together because both are necessary and true. We are all chimeras, theorised and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism. In short we are cyborgs. The cyborg is a condensed image of both imagination and material reality. The cyborg is resolutely committed to partiality, irony, intimacy and perversity. It is oppositional, utopian and completely without innocence. A Cyborg Manifesto, Donna Haraway. 1985
For Haraway the cyborg is a metaphor for a possible future in which we will not be so bound by strict binaries; between humans / nature, organic / technological, female / male, mind / body, self / other, whole / part, right / wrong. Haraway suggests that through making affinities related not through blood but by choice, we can move forward into a more empathetic, plural and contradictory form of understanding and identity. That breaks away from the oppositional structures that we have been so tethered to. An ironic plurality takes hold.
Can’t you see how big those snails are? brings together a seemingly disparate group of works as a means of complicating and blurring the strict binaries that Haraway recoginses. By holding these incompatible and contradictory forms together the works are able to simultaneously perform and critique themselves. Nature / technology, female / male, power / vulnerability, trust /exploitation all meet and sit (uncomfortably?) together within this temporal architecture. A plural, ironic, playful and contradictory form of identity and understanding is embraced.