Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Back Posting, and Back in Willyburg!

Davina Semo at Rawson Projects

The title of Davina Semo’s show, BEFORE SHIFTING TO THE BLACKNESS, suggests an ominous future but it seems the “shift” has already taken place.

The show consists of industrial materials throughout the floor and walls of the front gallery, but the pieces could be divided into two distinct series. All the works are “everyday” and “non art” objects, but a narrative distinction can be made between the discarded detritus on the floor and the totemic polish of the wall pieces.

Not that the things strewn about the floor couldn’t still be mistaken for actual building materials, it’s just that they just seem less prophetic next to the intimidating regality of the pristine, hung “art”. The placed items could be unaltered, found hardware, but they have been “x”ed as if marked off a list, adding to the notion of the work being set aside rather than waiting to be used. X MARKS THE ROT, is a square slab of reinforced concrete with an X sprayed across it. The wordily titled HE DOESN’T RECOGNIZE OUR COMPULSION TO LEAVE THE HOME WE BUILT FOR OURSELVES actually is an X made from two scaffold braces.

The “X” of death from the floor becomes the diamond pattern of hurricane fencing when etched on hanging glass. THE WORLD AND THE PEOPLE IN IT HAD SUDDENLY SLIPPED BEYOND HER COMPREHENSION AND SHE FELT IN GREAT DANGER OF LOSING THE WHOLE WORLD ONCE AND FOR ALL is an etched two-way mirror that hangs facing the street window, acting at once as an advertising show sign and a security barrier. I WATCH THE ONCOMING OF THE NEW THRUST AND DO NOT CLING TO IT AS IT SUBSIDES is a square made of thirty-five hanging stainless steel chains. Modernist flatness and minimalist “it-is-what-it-isness” represent incarceration in Semo’s more traditional treatment of exhibition display and transversely, oppression fetish becomes art.

In his book The Practice of Everyday Life, Jesuit turned social scientist Michel de Certeau divides art into strategies (the commercial authority of traditional art) and tactics (the more recent practice of ephemeral and everyday non-art). The juxtaposition in Semo’s show does not encourage optimism. The tactics of cement and scaffolding aren’t meant to be used for actual rebuilding nor are they dignified as icons here. The strategic aspiration of “art” here is not of work and potential, but containment. Why bother with a double dip recession?

There is a third series of work in the backspace. Three etched transparent mirrors, one stained with enamel, hang in a row. More handmade in appearance and livelier than the front room hangings, the everyday stuff of life is, only in the second gallery, presented as permanent fixture. If the show is to be taken as political allegory, then maybe hope lies in the compromise of backroom deals.

Up through October 23