Paintings for Sale | AntheaMissy
At the Shed, Instagram-Ready Art Collective Drift Serves Up a Spectacle Made of Floating Pillars and Lightweight Ideas | Artnet News

At the Shed, Instagram-Ready Art Collective Drift Serves Up a Spectacle Made of Floating Pillars and Lightweight Ideas | Artnet News

I’m a bit split about “Fragile Future,” the slick collection of installations by Amsterdam-based experience-art duo Drift (a.k.a. Lonneke Gordijn, Ralph Nauta, and their “multidisciplinary team” of helpers), currently at the Shed.

In terms of what you see and experience, the show is fun. If you like Christmas light shows or Las Vegas magic acts—and I do personally like both these things—this will hit the spot. It’s art in that register.

But it also aims to be more than just fun. Drift wants its work to be taken seriously, to both inspire and to “ask fundamental questions.” And I just don’t know if I can take it that seriously.

Taking Drift seriously as art wasn’t as much of a concern in the recent past. As a group they were well-regarded, but their output was mainly Design Miami fare. Starting about 5 years ago, however, Drift began to assume a new profile as visual art itself took a more and more high-tech, experiential turn, and the proliferation of Instagram environments started to put pressure on museums (call this the Rain Room effect).

They’ve been drawing interest around the world—literally from NASA to Burning Man—via their work with choreographed drones, and recently Drift was picked up by Superblue, the new for-profit outfit sprung from the side of the Pace mega-gallery, which is pitching itself as a dedicated purveyor of interactive immersive art as a disruptive new market force. (In fact, it is Superblue’s curator who gets credit as organizing “Fragile Future,” with the Shed seemingly reduced to helper status in its own venue.)

Drift was previously on the edge of the art world, in a quirky category of design-that-is-almost-art. Now it has leapfrogged so that it is being watched as something like the future of art. So there’s more at stake in “Fragile Future” than whether it is pleasant or not.

Installation view of DRIFT, <em>Fragile Future</em> at the Shed. Photo by Ben Davis.” width=”1024″ height=”768″ srcset=”https://www.antheamissy.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/At-the-Shed-Instagram-Ready-Art-Collective-Drift-Serves-Up-a.jpg 1024w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2021/10/drift-shed-fragile-future-300×225.jpg 300w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2021/10/drift-shed-fragile-future-50×38.jpg 50w” sizes=”(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px”/></p>
<p class=Installation view of Drift’s “Fragile Future” at the Shed in New York. Photo by Ben Davis.

In the Shed show, the sequence of Drift-engineered attractions is designed so that the works escalate in ambition as you go along. In a first gallery, you find the show’s title work, (2007–21), a complex concatenation of lamps, each pinpoint LED light embedded in what appears to be a real, fluffy dandelion, filling the shadowy space with hazy, optimistic halo.

Installation view of DRIFT, <em>Coded Coincidence</em> at the Shed. Photo by Ben Davis.” width=”1024″ height=”768″ srcset=”https://www.antheamissy.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/1635321521_786_At-the-Shed-Instagram-Ready-Art-Collective-Drift-Serves-Up-a.jpg 1024w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2021/10/drift-shed-coded-coincidence-300×225.jpg 300w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2021/10/drift-shed-coded-coincidence-50×38.jpg 50w” sizes=”(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px”/></p>
<p class=Drift, at the Shed. Photo by Ben Davis.

Passing to the next gallery, you come upon  (2021). Air currents whip around inside a long rectangular area enclosed by nets, within which Drift has deposited a large number of small, lightweight LED nodules. Lifted by the intermittent gusts, the lights bluster around in the dark, forming swarms of arabesque-ing sparks in the air, skittering from one end to the next in a way that is supposed to evoke seeds carried by the wind.

Installation view of DRIFT, <em>Ego</em> at the Shed. Photo by Ben Davis.” width=”1024″ height=”768″ srcset=”https://www.antheamissy.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/1635321521_465_At-the-Shed-Instagram-Ready-Art-Collective-Drift-Serves-Up-a.jpg 1024w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2021/10/drift-shed-ego-300×225.jpg 300w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2021/10/drift-shed-ego-50×38.jpg 50w” sizes=”(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px”/></p>
<p class=Drift, , at the Shed. Photo by Ben Davis.

Turning a corner, you arrive at (2020–21), a setup of diaphanous fabric panels suspended in the air by cables. As mechanized winches around the edges pull cables in and out in a pre-programmed sequence, the fabric is flexed into a number of different forms, each suggesting a different emotional state: a stable box, a tortured cone, a defeated plane slumping to the floor.

This is the piece here that comes closest to making you feel something in “Fragile Future.” But then it is literally an exercise in forcing inanimate matter to pantomime emotion, conveying a bit of the sense of watching a robot flex facial features mechanically, cycling through human expressions.

In any case, these pieces are all engaging enough. But what everyone will remember from “Fragile Future,” is , the show-stopping main attraction/performance, staged at select times as the centerpiece.

You approach this spectacle via a prologue gallery where two connected films play. One shows New York street scenes in which giant blocks of concrete float mysteriously through the air. The other depicts similar concrete blocks being birthed from the ground in the wilderness, congregating over a plane and assembling together into some kind of immense, mysterious Tower of Babel.

Stone blocks assemble in a film shown in

Stone blocks assemble in a film shown in  at the Shed. Photo by Ben Davis.

After getting the sense of these films, you turn another corner and emerge into the Shed’s vast concert hall, its four-story ceiling towering above you. And there, actually levitating in the air above your head, are six of the enchanted concrete blocks—just like those in the film, only now in real life. (One such block was shown, to crowd-pleasing effect, at the Armory Show a few years ago, and was one of the works that made Drift’s reputation in the art world.)

A portentous, droning soundtrack projects awe and reverberates around you. The magic blocks are spotlit from all sides, with clouds of rock-concert smoke being expelled into the air periodically to accent it all with an atmosphere of drama.

A smoke machine at work during the <em>Drifters</em> performance at the Shed. Photo by Ben Davis.” width=”768″ height=”1024″ srcset=”https://www.antheamissy.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/1635321521_75_At-the-Shed-Instagram-Ready-Art-Collective-Drift-Serves-Up-a.jpg 768w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2021/10/drifters-shed-smoke-machine-225×300.jpg 225w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2021/10/drifters-shed-smoke-machine-38×50.jpg 38w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2021/10/drifters-shed-smoke-machine-1440×1920.jpg 1440w” sizes=”(max-width: 768px) 100vw, 768px”/></p>
<p class=A smoke machine at work during the performance at the Shed. Photo by Ben Davis.

At first, these floating pylons drift aimlessly above, like rubble deposited in space by some kind of antigravity ray. Then, as you venture beneath them, or walk around the edges to get different views and marvel, the blocks gradually seem to wake up and to move with a kind of gathering purpose.

The music swells. The blocks unite into a pattern.

The first time I saw this show, the blocks assembled themselves vertically, formed a circle, and then descended deliberately until they were hovering just beyond the reach of the tallest person. It brought to mind an audition for a Stonehenge musical. Another time, they all went horizontal and formed a line, weaving deliberately in and out.

Visitors view DRIFT's Drifters performance at the Shed. Photo by Ben Davis.

Visitors view Drift, , performed at the Shed. Photo by Ben Davis.

After each assembly, the blocks return to their more random and dispersed state, drifting around aimlessly for a bit before coming to life again, a cycle of about 20 minutes.

This is vintage Big Fun Art, and photogenic as hell. As to what it makes you feel or think about,  benefits from your memories of countless Hollywood films and video games where some kind of mysterious alien structure comes to life to transmit some kind of coded cosmic epiphany. But what is the substance of that epiphany?

Starting with this show’s name, “Fragile Future,” and extending through all the press around it, the artists’ own statements, and the wall text, there is an insistence on a specific mission for Drift, one that is somehow both grandiose and indistinct. The Shed advertises artists who address “urgent environmental themes in their work in order to challenge their audiences to think differently about their connections to Earth,” offering “a hopeful atmosphere for imagining a different world.”

Visitors view the floating blocks in <em>Drifters</em>. Photo by Ben Davis.” width=”768″ height=”1024″ srcset=”https://www.antheamissy.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/1635321521_640_At-the-Shed-Instagram-Ready-Art-Collective-Drift-Serves-Up-a.jpg 768w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2021/10/drift-drifters-4-225×300.jpg 225w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2021/10/drift-drifters-4-38×50.jpg 38w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2021/10/drift-drifters-4-1440×1920.jpg 1440w” sizes=”(max-width: 768px) 100vw, 768px”/></p>
<p class=Visitors view the floating blocks in . Photo by Ben Davis.

All the works but here feature variations on that promise of environmental consciousness-raising in their texts. But there is one remaining body of work I haven’t yet mentioned is particularly and uncharacteristically clear about how Drift views its purpose: the “Materialism” series, consisting of multicolored, differently sized rectangular volumes arranged together on displays.

Via work descriptions, you quickly discover that each cluster represents the exact volume of different materials used in a variety of everyday tools: the work called , for instance, is composed of a large rectangular volume of rubber, an aluminum rectangle, a smaller lacquer rectangle, and so on, to suggest bike components; is a dense cluster of tinier squares, in glass, stainless steel, polycarbonate, lithium cobalt oxide, graphite, etc.

DRIFT, <em>iPhone 4S</em> (2018). Photo by Ben Davis.” width=”1024″ height=”768″ srcset=”https://www.antheamissy.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/1635321522_129_At-the-Shed-Instagram-Ready-Art-Collective-Drift-Serves-Up-a.jpg 1024w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2021/10/drift-iphone-shed-300×225.jpg 300w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2021/10/drift-iphone-shed-50×38.jpg 50w” sizes=”(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px”/></p>
<p class=Drift, (2018). Photo by Ben Davis.

“Everything that is bought and consumed has an impact upon complex systems of resource extraction, labor, manufacturing, and distribution,” the text explains. “The ‘Materialism’ series thus calls for contemplation on how people deal with the raw materials at their disposal.”

Beyond the general unease with toxic consumer culture that pervades affluent consciousness right now, this enjoinder reflects a very specific debate about values going on within the design field. Numerous designers—including, famously, Dieter Rams, who is credited with creating the Apple aesthetic—have decried how design has played a role in lubricating a system of thoughtless consumption that is destroying the earth. Designers stand accused of encouraging people to covet cool forms and forget the underlying costs.

I’d argue that Drift’s “Materialism” series remains a little simplistic and mystifying in the designer-ly, materials-centric way it conveys this critical thought to its audience. Plenty of artists, from Allan Sekula to Jimmie Durham to Mika Rottenberg to Cameron Rowland, have forged sophisticated, thoughtful, and poetic ways of documenting the chains of human labor, energy expenditures, and environmental costs embedded in things we take for granted. And I doubt that it truly comes as a shock to the average Shed-goer that their bike is made of rubber and aluminum.

Nevertheless, there is something interesting about Drift’s deconstructive design gesture, and it is unusually concrete in pointing to what they think they are doing that’s serious.

Returning to the enigmatic spectacle of , you can see the forms of the floating mystery blocks echoing the same rectangular volumes used in the decompositions of the iPhone and the bike—symbolizing a return to elemental reality, the basic building blocks of the world laid bare.

A stone block is depicted emerging from the muck in

A stone block is depicted emerging from the muck in “Fragile Futures” at the Shed. Photo by Ben Davis.

This message is not super clear, conceptually, because the are obviously meant to be concrete blocks, their main distinguishing feature being that they are studded with holes where rebar formwork ties usually stabilize the concrete during production. They thus evoke the built architectural environment, not elemental materials—even though, in the film, the blocks seem to be shown emerging whole from nature.

My guess is that the holes are a scenographic device, not a conceptual one. If the floating blocks were simple gray volumes, they wouldn’t look like much. Your mind wouldn’t readily register the illusion of a heavy thing behaving unnaturally.

At any rate, the idea of  comes into view in relation to the “Materialism” series: We have become alienated from our built environment, and the floating blocks represent some kind of higher, harmonious state of consciousness where we are returned to considering and respecting it.

One of the blocks from <em>Drifters</em>. Photo by Ben Davis.” width=”1024″ height=”768″ srcset=”https://www.antheamissy.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/1635321522_665_At-the-Shed-Instagram-Ready-Art-Collective-Drift-Serves-Up-a.jpg 1024w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2021/10/block-drifters-300×225.jpg 300w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2021/10/block-drifters-50×38.jpg 50w” sizes=”(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px”/></p>
<p class=One of the blocks from . Photo by Ben Davis.

But the “concrete block as symbol of utopian promise” idea does not really land (so to speak), does it? It takes too long to figure it out, and the intellectual payoff for the effort is too thin. This narrative doesn’t explain what you see so much as vaguely justify the spectacle with an eco-gloss.

Notably, while “Materialism” is all about the critical gesture of detailing the fundamental components of design objects we take for granted, the labels for very deliberately do explain how the floating-block trick works—and Drift are very clear that they don’t want to explain. That would kill the magic. (If I had to guess, I’d say the blocks are big, disguised balloons, with some kind of interior drone setup so they can be steered. The soundtrack, in addition to telegraphing wonder, serves to cover what seems to be the keen of hidden rotors.)

That kind of opacity is fine if the note we are trying to hit is arena-rock, design-art entertainment—which is what this . But that’s the reverse, really, of getting back in touch with how our world actually works, beneath all the bells and whistles of hyper-designed consumerism.

You may be mildly inspired at the Shed that someone figured out how to make something that looks like a movie special effect happen in real life. Alas, making more and better spectacular environments is not something I have ever really doubted our society can do, so as art, “Fragile Future” does not provide me with some kind of spiritual salve or inspire me to “imagine a different world.” I can just enjoy it and then go back to work.


Source link

admin

Street Art Artist

Add comment

Your Header Sidebar area is currently empty. Hurry up and add some widgets.