My recommendation (so far) from the Objet Indirect Object series is Catherine Béchard and Sabin Hudon’s Free-Fall of Possibilities. If you want to see it for yourself you only have until 23 April to get to Axené07 / Daïmön.
Whilst enthusiastically trying to describe this work to friends, I have discovered that Free-Fall of Possibilities is actually quite tricky to put into words. “Imagine choreographed fishing rods,” I say waving my hands around, “dancing ceremoniously with cut-glass dishes and vases.” Puzzled looks abound. Luckily, in this format I can show you some pictures, both moving and still. You’ll see about eight fishing rods all standing upright in a circle around huddle of glassware. They are those familiar type of colored, cut-glass collectables that your Grandma keeps in the china cabinet for dusting. The fishing rods dip and rise, in orchestrated formations, clinking small vibrating weights against the sides of the glass vessels. The initial soft buzz you hear of their motorized movement is interrupted by the staccato, bell-like ring of the glass when it is struck.
Anyone walking into the room will trip the motion sensor that begins the dance of the fishing rods. Despite the fact that the artists/curators state that this work is about “human movement within space and time”, I really think human observers are superfluous to the whole event. The simple trigger-responsiveness is more about the self-preservation of delicate moving parts than any engagement with the audience. It’s not the human actors who are important here. Actually–to anthropomorphize these little robots–to me they seem introverted; huddled together in a circle, oblivious or dismissive of intrusive onlookers as they carry out a private ritual. If you leave they will just carry on. Sure, we could apply a theatrical reading (à la Fried) over this work but it is not useful. This work is about watching something beautiful and surprising unfold in front of you, not self-consious awareness of oneself existing in the same space and time as the work.
It is more useful to see Béchard and Hudon’s work as a digital update on the kinetic sculptures of Tinguely or Lye. The computer has enabled them to arrange lengthy sequences of movement that range from elaborate flourishes to quiet modulation. This is choreographed sculpture. This is dance without human bodies. This is performance art on demand. Here computer controlled machines act as tireless, obedient proxies for fallible human bodies.
Also, just like kinetic art of the sixties, Free-Fall of Possibilities could easily be seen as an autonomous musical instrument as well as a performative device. The whole contraption is geared up to produce sound: the soft hum of the fishing rod motors vibrating against the wooden floors, the buzz as they strain to lift and lower and the sharp ring as the small vibrating weight hits a glass rim. It’s like an elaborate music box, complete with mechanized ballerinas. It is as if the ghost inside the machine had a previous life as a stage director. It is this autonomy that is captivating.
Mulling over this work further, I think to myself, there must be some sort of male/female dynamic going on. I’m sure I’m not reading too much into it…the phallus and the vessel…need I say more. Could it really be a coincidence that this work was made by a male and female in collaboration? The artists/curators claim the work is a metaphore for the “little deaths” we mourn in our lives. La petite morte? Surely the reference didn’t escape them? The dance definitely has the feel of a mating ritual. Even the everyday materials used are so obviously gendered – the cut glass punch bowl: an icon of newly-wed domestic bliss, the fishing-rod: a classic symbol of the masculine escape from the domestic into nature.
This is an integration of the domestic and the digital. The vibrating baits hanging from the fishing rods are actually components harvested from cellphones. The glassware sits nestled in a nest of network cables. As an analogue extension of the electronic or a digital extension of kinetic sculpture Free-Fall of Possibilities fits perfectly with the theme of Objet Indirect Object. Although, is there really anything left that could fall outside of this hybrid category? Computers are so integral to our work that it is rare to find artworks these days that have escaped their touch.