Tom Robinson editorial ii

Editorial – issue two – part two

Following a Lead

Self-lubricating plastic, polycaprolactone thermoplastic, shrimp shells, sea shells, cement, wood, steel, stainless steel, expanded polystyrene, vivac, pigment, acrylic paint, acrylic medium, sand, aquaplast, and PVC.

Above is the list of materials from which Matthew Barney’s ‘Holographic Entrypoint’ sculpture was made. Installed at the Serpentine gallery several years ago as part of his ‘Drawing Restraint’ exhibition, this work was, like most in the show, unable to live up to the Barney mythology. More an exercise in brand stretching than genuine investigation, a lazy kinkiness pervaded, except for this single instance in which the indulgent list of materials yielded a moment of potency. At one end of the huge sculpture (approximately whale-sized, and representational of a shell-encrusted ramp) a slab of the pristine, medically white plastic material had cleaved from the larger bulk, resting below the sheer surface from whence it had apparently slipped. Drama and motion are, of course, not the only ambitions of sculpture, but they did in this instance tease the great bulk of the object, and the great bulk of Barney hype, out to a point from which a strangeness could begin to fester. The unworldly character of the plastic, its celestially glowing whiteness and its wholly improbable name and alleged function (self-lubricating), had suffered an utterly earthly incident of a base geological nature.

Cleave to, cleave from, the excitement is in the ambivalence. Opposite actions are somehow given to share an equivalence, even an identity, in this single term. How else may we maintain a sense of surprise at the work to be found in these pages, than by enacting a schism of cleaving? As editors we cling to the work even as we carve at it, and all this violence precisely so that the work may rest singly, and coyly entice each reader into its self-lubricating folds. And yet we feel, as editors, that too much demure reticence is disingenuous, that if we cover ourselves too completely from view we risk contriving a reality that does not acknowledge our privileged position. And so we embark on a game of cat and mouse.

Have you seen me, am I following too closely? Trudging too dutifully in trodden footsteps? Following well involves following ahead. You’ve seen the movies and the TV programs, read the books, you know how it works – the team tracking together, the old man in the tatty coat with the bottle in a crumpled brown paper bag takes the lead from the young business woman, who turns the corner out of sight while the street sweeper bends into his work so the passing target cannot see the neat white wire curling up behind his ear from inside the collar of his orange jacket… And you, where are you watching from? Have we managed to evade you?

So we are two, us editors, and sometimes we move together (even in our assurances that we do not always do so), but sometimes we do not. Yet what of the group? The majority of these pages belong to others, so what strange mathematics binds this mass? The progress of a group is perhaps more easily evident than just one or two. Such movements, sometimes identified in their approach, but more often as they pass, are (from without or within) ascribed monikers, like weather systems, so their trails can be identified and verified, their characteristic patterns appreciated and matched approvingly against the debris. But we are no group. To be sure, this is not a survey, not a random collection, and nor does it move in concert – it is no violent vortex and if its sound were to be heard it would be less the bang of a blast rending than the sssttt of Velcro cleaving.

~ Tom Robinson
London, July 2011

read Jon K Shaw’s editorial to issue ii

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