Dikes and Sills, Chlorophyll, a solo exhibition at Paris’ Room E-10 27 apartment art space by Los Angeles-based artist Sam Kenswil ran from October 23 to 31, 2015. An immersive environment of sound, video, image and sculpture reflects a relationship with the Southern Californian landscape; an alliance described in the press release as “parasitic” and stemming from “a reading of the late-carbon liberal.” The show is placed in the context of Kenswil’s ongoing interest in queerness and the varying degrees of death; a recurrent theme linking catastrophe post-HIV with looming environmental disaster.
Using geological vocabulary, the title references three different types of natural processes that occur within the environment: a ‘dike’ being a slope of a rock face that regulates the flow of water, a ‘sill’ is the word for an intrusion between older layers of rock and ‘chlorophyll’ is a bio-molecule responsible for the green pigment in plants and algae. The works hover above the backdrop of these natural phenomena, and the attempted conversation feels unstable and fragmentary.
Mimicking the shape of organic formations, three corresponding pieces are placed around the floor. Handmade, the ceramic and sand sculptures look limp and floral. Beside is a triangular shape made from blue-green algae with resin and a zipper. Above, a mixture of resin, soil, acrylic paint and algae is made into a horizontal arrangement. A handful of sand is held onto the wall by a gel, its flatness humorously playing with the two photos stuck to nearby windows using cling. One zooms in to the artists’ smiling face, the other captures him from behind with sand on the elbow cuff. The third digital print is placed on wooden panelling, a man holds a rock tenderly in his hands and the colour of his suit matches the beige palette of the landscape.
Laying horizontally on the ground, a monitor plays an 8”55′ HD video of a rock formation shot with a slight handheld shake in Joshua Tree National Park. A soundtrack composed with Maxwell Sterling plays over top, the movements and sound are slightly out of sync with one another. In a 2015 interview about the work, Kenswil details his interest in living soil crusts or “desert glue”, stating that they are “dominated by cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae [that] keeps everything in place in the face of desert winds.” The exhibition is rooted in tender and fragile attempts to dissolve what feels permanent. Meditating on instability, the suited artist traverses a landscape searching for movement and flexibility within what feels calcified and unchanged due to a sublime amount of time.**
Exhibition photos, top right.