“So that’s what’s inside a fridge. That’s it’s skin and guts. That’s what’s inside a car. It’s the skin and guts. This is what’s inside most of the built word. Skin and guts”.
Jesse Darling is narrating the scene of a rusted car frame on a pile of industrial refuse, a disemboweled fridge with damp yellow fluff, its insulation, bursting out of the rectangular gash of metal left exposed to the elements in a Georgian scrapyard. The artist is in the town of Batumi on the Black Sea with collaborator Takeshi Shiomitsu, picking through the modern rubble for material for an exhibition, as two halves of Same Same, curated by Elene Abashidze and held at CAC41N/41E gallery from October 2 to January 4, 2015.
As the name implies, two is the lucky number with its multiples coming not only in the two artists and their four feet at CAC41N/41E, but a second readymade exhibition/construction site of four-limbed tetrapods, an hours busdrive north in Anaklia; the Same Same of its title applying to both organism and object, intent and inertia. Inertia itself being both movement and stasis reflects the duality, or otherwise simultaneity of a collaboration between Darling and Shiomitsu whose respective practices run in parallel and by that I mean also in opposition to each other. Their approach is one of mirroring but in the way that a mirror-image moves with your movement but still flips the text on your t-shirt.
But here’s some more useful information: Darling and Shiomitsu were invited to Georgia to contemplate and make art around these two spaces where one is a gallery where they would (hopefully) produce things, and the other is a construction site where a nationalistic current government is stockpiling tetraeder-shaped shore protection barriers. Otherwise known as tetrapods, they happen to also be used as tank traps in military defence and are being built at the border of a partially recognised autonomous zone under proxy government by Russia, a country which has threatened Georgia with invasion in the past and is implicated in a secessionist conflict just across the Black Sea in Crimea. So why two foreign artists to explore such regionally specific and politically loaded work?
With all the two-fold ideas knocking around – North/South. Tetrapod (animal)/ Tetrapod (structure). Destruction/Construction. Scraps/Art materials – why not? After all, Darling’s is a preoccupation with a “phallic modernity” where all is vulnerable, however monstrous, and where visions of a future post-apocalypse that might never happen are realised in labour-intensive, process-driven, precarious and unfinished constructions. Shiomitsu’s is a more pragmatic approach to form and material, particularly in its expression of ‘whiteness‘, while revealing a similar weakness, or sensitivity in exhibitions like WASH. The title tipping to a “cleaning and cleansing process” as well as a “foundational” one – as explained by Shiomitsu in an interview transcript between himself, Darling and Arcadia Missa‘s Tom Clark to be published, along with text by Julia Marchand, in January 2015.
In light of all this, we asked the artists to film some of the process, with the assumption that that would include the end point. It didn’t. Instead the three archival folders sent to us featured footage of fragments of Darling and Shiomitsu drinking, fighting, filming a dead bird, as well as welding, hammering and constructing for the exhibition but none of the finished show itself. It’s all process but no product. Having seen the install images though (which you can see in the photo gallery top-right) where top-heavy wooden structures on stilts (jic?) look like they could collapse at any moment and a blue tarp dubbed ‘flag’ in its image file spans CAC41N/41E’s two-storey windows, it makes sense to do it this way. Because as Darling himself described in a presentation at this year’s Extinction Marathon the tetrapods are “maybe like religious artefacts and condoms, and perhaps children, and perhaps artworks. They’re just something to stave off the inevitable.” **
Select arrow top-right for exhibition photos.