O the sleeping bag contains the body but not the dreaming head on show at the Altman Siegel Gallery from April 18th to June 1st, features work by three artists; Alice Channer, Aaron Flint Jamison and Anicke Yi. The title is taken from a poem by Matthea Harvey, a dark meditation on containment, or it’s failure. This is the theme that unites the three artists, whose work at first seems unconnected in medium and subject.
Alice Channer’s Body Fluids is the first to confront me as I enter the gallery- a large digital print that is draped over a steel bar hung near the ceiling. It is positioned in front of the windows, hung suspended in the center of the room, like the backdrop for a photo shoot, except that it is no neutral white sheet. The image on the heavy white surface looks like cascading hair, punctured by two white voids. There is a hint of barcodes, viewed as if along the edges of paper, the image on the surface disappearing into the blind spot of vision. The sheet spills forwards onto the floor on which is placed three silver aluminum rocks, anchoring the digital to a solid reality. But not quite; everything in this exhibition slips out of grasp, tries to become solid yet ducks again out of reach. As with the white voids in the waterfall of hair, an empty container where the information has been (digitally?) deleted.
Anicke Yi’s Prada String Quartet No. 15 ¾ in A Minor, First Movement contains a similar containment of information. Here the soap panel fossilizes the objects within, a very physical counterpoint to Channer’s digital image and flat surface. The objects within speak of refuse, the remnants of body hygiene: teeth whitener, silicone insole, wax, clay, moisturizer package, fish oil capsule. These are supplements or accompaniments to the body. Suspended in their murky sheet of soap they are passive and constrained, but as in Harvey’s poem, there remains the threat of spillage, of what cannot be contained. It also evokes comparison with Joseph Beuys’ use of natural materials such as fat, wax, blood and hair. For Beuys these materials represented the mystical, shamanistic connection of humanity to nature. Yi’s choice of materials similarly remind us of the nature of our effluvia, our proximity to such substances of the earth, but for a contemporary woman- the designer branding, the inclusion of a fish oil capsule, these objects speak of a health conscious, fashionable human of today.
Turbine, STL? by Aaron Flint Jamison is perhaps the most concrete piece in the show. A plastic carrying case lined with Styrofoam inserts contains five 3D plastic blades with glass cabochons, a purpleheart bowl, and six hardbound books, the spines printed with the words “MIND WIND MENTAL RAY”. Each object suggests an area of humanity’s craftsmanship: machinery, knowledge, food. The case is built like one to store machine parts, or weapons, with each object inserted carefully into its own custom made place. Here is a kit for survival, the tools for reconstructing civilization in a desert island. Or maybe a weapon, who knows what instructions are printed on the pages of those books.
It is precisely these clues that the exhibition points towards, the thoughts and suggestions that exist outside the works. Alone in the furthest corner mounted midway on the wall is Channer’s Very Dry Skin the lone aluminum finger points leftwards, out the window. The meaning of this exhibition is not what is contained within the blank white walls, but what escapes outwards, out that window, not the body but “the dreaming head”.