blank projects: James Beckett - Of Animal and Inventory - 31 Aug 2012 to 29 Sept 2012
James Beckett. Cormorant Chronicles (detail), 2010
PVC & resin
Of Animal and Inventory
31/08/2012 - 29/09/2012
blank projects is pleased to present a thematic survey exhibition by South African artist James Beckett who is currently based in Amsterdam. Titled Of Animal and Inventory, the exhibition opens on 31 August 2012 and is Beckett’s first solo show in South Africa since 2006.
The title “Of Animal and Inventory” functions as a lens through which to view a selection of works that feature characters of the natural world alongside and within a series of stifling museum displays.
The poem by Robert Burns, “To a Mouse”, reads:
The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men/ Gang aft agley.
(The best laid schemes of mice and men / Often go awry.)
The exhibition borrows from this excerpt, and explores a sense of fatality in both humanity and nature, and by extension attempts a portrait of the increasing fakeness of things. The language of the museum with its science of documenting things (suffocating cabinets and tiresome labeling) is constantly exploited to this end: exploited to legitimize fiction as fact, extended to lend authenticity to the peripheral. The effect is that of new readings and perspectives on history and biography.
Central to the show is the work “A Lararus Taxon” (2011), a series of fragments that detail the life of a dental technician in Kansas, who as a hobby recreates props from science fiction films. The piece features 'snake scales' from the 1982 flick Blade Runner, made by the technician, alongside a recreation of his dental workplace. More benign is “The Pierson Belongs to Itself, Others and Us” (2010) where Beckett offers a glimpse into the guts of an archeological museum in Amsterdam showing various actual and fake artifacts of mixed origin. Alongside these appear graffiti by visiting school children, hence a negotiation of equality is opened between the old and new.
The role of the animal extends into a series of pieces such as “Rabbit to Score” (2006), a transcription of an antique rabbit experiment into musical scores. This is accompanied by “The Cormorant Chronicles” (2010), an assemblage of objects detailing the plight of the mysterious cormorant of Northern Europe. As a bird with acrid faeces and sour flesh, it has no natural predator, yet remains protected and has since flourished.
Beckett’s approach is often anecdotal, revolving around objects of historical significance, with a particular emphasis on industry in the form of company histories as well as modern industrial narratives. His work is characterised by diversity of approach, each project informing new techniques and sensibilities. Much inspiration, for example, comes from the mathematically orientated authors of the ‘Pataphysics movement in literature.
The exhibition will include a concert on the opening night at 19:00 where the piece "Rabbit to Score" (2006) will be performed by James Beckett, Robyn Farah, Robin Brink, and Garth Erasmus.
James Beckett will have a walkabout of his exhibition on Wednesday 5 September at 17:30.
This exhibition forms part of the Very Real Time programme of residencies, projects and exhibitions. www.veryrealtime.co.za
Beckett is based in Amsterdam and London and has shown extensively around the world. He was resident in the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam 2001-2002, following which he won the Prix de Rome for Art in Public Space in 2003. More recent shows include The Kitchen, NYC; GAM, Turin; Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne; De Appel, Amsterdam; Neuer Kunstverein, Vienna; Universal Studios, Beijing, as well as the Dakar, Serbian and Romanian Biennales. He is soon to show in the Stedelijk Museum - Amsterdam, Whitney Museum NYC and Pompidou Centre of Paris. He is currently working on a publication with Westreich/Wagner publishers of NYC to be released in early 2013. His work can be seen at www.jamesbeckett.tk
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