Clusters of machines that probe our relationship with mechanical objects when they break down.
Friday 16 June 6-9pm
Saturday 17 June to Saturday 27 August 2017
Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm
Alex Pearl is interested in the way we relate to machines, particularly in the way we relate to them when they break down. This area of research feels increasingly relevant as our interaction with machines increases on a daily basis.
We rely on machines for many of our daily tasks – from drying hair to toasting bread, moving us around to documenting thoughts, capturing images to sharing almost everything, we probably engage more with machines than we do with other human-beings. We are so continuously contiguous with our phones that we are virtually cyborgs, and with the development of technological implants, that science fiction is very close to becoming a reality.
Our exchanges with machines are usually off-hand and casual – if we are familiar with them we use them almost without thinking. But what happens when machines break down? How does our relationship with them alter? This question is at the crux of Alex’s work, and the machines he makes often do break down as he builds in a tendency to failure, whether through bad workmanship (deliberate or otherwise) or by constructing something that only just works, thereby increasing the likelihood of it not working.
When a machine breaks down we pay a lot more attention to it – feelings of frustration or anger are sometimes vented on it, and we often act as if the machine is sentient and has chosen to break down in some kind of malicious attempt to stop us doing from what we were trying to do. This anthropomorphism of machines can induce us to shout or swear at them, call them names, or perhaps (in the famous scene in Fawlty Towers where Basil’s car breaks down) thrash them with a branch.
The humorous aspect of this behavior has not gone unnoticed by Alex, and he exploits the ridiculousness of our relationship with, and attitude towards these amalgemations of dumb materials to produce works that highlight some of these emotions and reactions. He produces works that build towards collapse, and teeter on the edge of failure, drawing us in with the thrill of anticipation as we wait for something momentous to occur, until we begin to understand that maybe nothing will take place, and walk away bemused but maybe also amused.
The machines and videos displayed in Love Machines have largely been conceived and constructed in FACTLab, an open facility developed by FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology in Liverpool) to allow artists and technologists to explore their technoerotic fascinations. Visitors to the exhibition are invited to approach the machines consciously and cautiously, and consider their relationship to them. The machines will also develop their own relationship with the space they inhabit and any body that approaches them. As they approach breakdown they will be repaired, reconfigured and replaced. This act will be a performative element of the exhibition but not quite a performance.
Alex says about his work: “Even in 1932, mechanologists like Jacques Lafitte were seeking to break down the perceived barrier between what was considered human and what was considered machine. Of course, robots had already been invented and were often (like Fritz Lang’s Maria in Metropolis) running amok, tearing down the human world. Now, while we continue to be anxious about the machine, our intimacies with metal and silicon have never been greater. We love (and hate) machines. The relationships explored in Love Machines are a little less violent than much Science Fiction but no less intimate. Hopefully in this exhibition there is a level of (self)love in the material exchanges experienced by the viewer, the artist and the machines.”
About the artist
Alex Pearl’s practice encompasses video, sculpture, photography, and occasionally even performance. It plays with ideas of chance, quotidian struggles, loss of control and failure. Currently he is working on a practice led PhD in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University and FACT, for which he is making a number of machines and films investigating the relationship between mechanical breakdown and anthropomorphism. His title is Breakdown: Mechanical Dysfunction and Anthropomorphism.
Pearl’s work displays a boyish fascination with the structures and images of Science Fiction. His machines often resemble the productions of a crackpot hobbyist, an ersatz Rotwang without the funding or genius. He has exhibited nationally and internationally in venues such as: The Sydney Opera House, Tate Britain, the Whitstable Biennale and a small hut in Siberia. He has also been unsuccessful in more than one grant application. These have included Arts Council funding to slaughter rival artists, a British Antarctic Survey application not to go to the Antarctic and planning permission to build a rocket launch pad in a gallery in Bristol.
Seeing is Believing
Thursday 22 June to Saturday 15 July 2017
Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm
Everything displayed in this exhibition has been created from papier-mache.
Not only the main shape but all details, every piece of ‘metal’ is papier-mache. all nuts, screws, bolts and ‘welding’ etc. are all created from paper.
No molds are used to make these incredible sculptures.
The sculpture and small objects produced by JON ATKINSON are a special rare there-dimensional trompe-l’oel. The heightened realism is more than a mere imitation of natural appearances and surfaces. Each object is given its own special meaning because of the extreme care and skill which has gone into the making.
Often, within the terms of a painting for instance, realism can take on something more than the photographic and these objects are those that have been taken from the context of a painting and brought into a real life situation. The still exist as illusion to some extent and are on a very tenuous edge of reality themselves.
There is total honesty and humility he perfection of these statement drawn from ordinary life, and it is that which give them the intensity of feeling, a near fetishness that they seem to carry. The concentration involved in every aspect of their making becomes obsessive and somehow secretive – but then the selection of subjects is biographical. There is a shared familiarity. The objects are brought outside the picture frame which normally serves as a barrier to the looking-glass world, and we are part of this world as well as them being a part of ours.
These works are the sculpture of the outside – without reference to the classical or the tasteful or even the romantic, but their preference cannot be denied and each one has the ability to tell a story, not just about itself, but about the why ordinary things are charged with narrative and personality and meaning. JON ATKINSON has found a way of piercing the skin of the familiar and bringing, in the most interesting way, a new realism and almost accidental intensity the final product.
The methods used are as acutely personal as the works themselves and to find someone with this type of commitment – without the normal avenues of training and support – is exciting, particularly as he has found his own way though a minefield of style and media to a true act of communication.
For this work to be seen simply as a clever representational artifact is to deny JON ATKINSON the genuine feeling and emotion in this sculpture.
writen by JOHN ADDDYMEN ARCA