AboutIn recent years there has been much curatorial preoccupation with the reemergence of gothic sensibilities and dark iconography within contemporary visual art. Curators have grouped the work of a broad range of artists together and asked us to consider this tendency with its deathly preoccupations- from various positions. Often it has been from the position in which the tendency denotes, curators postulate, an overall disillusion with positivist social aspirations. Or perhaps the tendency denotes the undeniable collapse of The Enlightenment for a second and arguably final time.
Many such overviews have focused on the surface; on the aesthetic and content similarities of contemporary practices, most notably the reemergence of a dark gothic aesthetic sensibility or obvious narrative content.
Ad Infinitum Part I, is the first in a series of projects that aims to consider this current curatorial notion from another angle, as it were. Not from the angle of works that sit readily in the category of âthe gothic', but from the angle of works that do not. It certainly acknowledges the tendency towards a certain disillusion or non-engagement with humanistic meta-narratives and humanist models for technological and social progress in the work of contemporary artists. However, rather than examine this tendency in the context of a common aesthetic or content drive, it seeks to turn its gaze on the ways in which themes emerge in the work of disparate contemporary artists whose work shares little obvious similarity in practice, content, form or aesthetics.
What their work does share and in some cases, this even extends to the visually dominant tendency towards the gothic- is a certain disillusion, questioning or even disinterest in the sense that entirely humanistic narratives of meaning remain sufficient or tenable to account for the contemporary condition. Their seemingly unrelated work nonetheless suggests that explanations for human existence and its purpose are insufficiently satisfied by philosophies or doctrines that contain their explications within the realm of the human, the rational, the scientific and technological.
In some cases these notions are underpinned by a questioning or even refusal of art as a vehicle for social or humanistic discourse. We may enounter a certain insistence that art and artistic practice can remain a platform for exploring or expressing urges that have little to do with rational, social understandings of existence and, instead, may yet remain an uncynical possibility for exploring the philosophical, cosmic, mystical or even unfashionably religious drives of sentient beings. If these works make use of a different visual language from the visually dominant (gothic) tendency, then it is also arguable that it might be because they eschew the dark nihilistic negativity of many such works within that trope in favour of developing a discourse that is without irony or cynicism: these are works by artists seeking to genuinely and seriously engage with âthe bigger questions' that have been systematically edited from popular cultural languages over the past four decades in favour of âhip' and âcool' irony and sarcasm.
In some cases, the clearly philosophical or even religious connotations and aspects of the work is evident. In others, the practice itself, if never religious or religiose, gives central place to the infinite possibilities of the uncontained universe; the artists abandoning the role of authors of objects, in favour of facilitating a highly directed gaze at the forces of unruly nature and the chaotic universe that exists on every level from the sub-molecular to the cosmic.
Yet, whether working with more traditional media and object-making, taking an interventionist documentary approach to fundamental questions about existence or assuming a practice in which the role of the artist is to work with existing chaos rather than to determine it, all of the included artists directly engage us with the notion that dominant narratives and explanations for existence in pure scientific or human terms remain insufficient to gratify our will to meaning.