Last Friday we visited an art exhibition called “Two Things About Suffering” at the Sadie Coles gallery just off Carnaby street. It was an exhibition by an artist I wasn’t familiar with – Uri Aran. I was particularly intrigued by his series of four videos shown at what he called ‘workstations’. They each consisted of a desk, a chair a monitor screen and speakers, and were dotted around the open, white gallery with the artist’s paintings on the walls and a few free standing sculptures, one being a riding saddle painted with black gloss paint.
The four or so workstations were showing clips of the artist enacting, with his twin brother, a series of double acts. Both of them dressed in suits. The double acts were influenced by slapstick comedy, cabaret and other dramatic forms.
The above still which I took from one of the screens, was a video shot in the Texas Desert and the artist and his brother were enacting a scene using three three pieces of French baguette bread. One whole baguette and then another broken unevenly in two. There was an influence of gangster/ western type gestures and as well as an influence from the Theatre of the Absurd.
What interested me was that at one point the baguettes they were holding could have been a couple of guns and then at another time they could have been objects being exchanged in order to strike up a deal and at points they appeared to be engaged in some hard bargaining.
I guess what art does, when it works, is that it disrupts and upsets our sense of assumed psychic structure. A structure that we aren’t aware of, that controls us. A structure that sometimes has a loud and bossy Superego inner voice saying “This is stupid! This is a waste of time and money! If my colleague saw me looking at this rubbish!” and so on and so on.
We spend most of our time making sense of the world or discarding things that don’t make sense. Living in a known world. Or constructing a world around us that gives us a sense of security through familiar coordinates.
Art functions by cutting through that register of the imaginary, our world of imaginary identifications so that we engage with the symbolic register. The world of pure signification, because that is where we get to reform our world of desire rather than the being stuck in the world of culture – the culture that has us desire the Other.
Like Monty Python and the Theatre of the Absurd, what is being portrayed here with these baguettes is absurd – however there is a link to truth. For example a lot of our fear is not the result of a real threat, most of our threats are not real threats. The money that we exchange with our bank probably doesn’t have a physical existence and a lot of the time we are doing no more than the equivalent of gesturing and posturing with a baguette.
However that doesn’t mean to say that this gesturing and posturing has no hold or effect over us.
Truth always has inscribed within it it’s related untruth. Truth only exists within a chain of signification – something that we have to be reminded of by a trick, a tripping up, a falling over the chair, before the veil of delusion, the register of the Imaginary, re-cloaks the complex chain of signifiers in the Symbolic and impossibility of the Real.