Text by Martin Herbert
One aspect of Thomas Swinkels’s presentation is underwater video footage filmed by a drone, a technology-assisted navigation of cloudy depths involving as much seeking as finding. This feels appropriate, since parsing his constellation of approaches – which also includes found-object sculpture and thermal-printed imagery – involves both making connections and engaging with the unanswerable. Heat and its absence keep recurring as subjects, as seeming metaphors: see, for example, Swinkels’s neo-minimal row of busted-open safes, found by dredging waterways with a magnet. Another video ominously deploys thermal imaging on birds; while in photographic images made using a direct thermal printer, the image appears in strip-like fragments and includes formal artefacts resulting from the printer overheating. Swinkels prints on both transparent film (which looks fragile but is durable), and on paper, and the latter images are not static: they’ll fade in time. This factor is germane to the dynamics of his art – its apparent interest in recall and, relatedly, the virtues and limitations of documentation.
Unified by the artist’s manipulation of the exhibition space’s lighting to summon a crepuscular, in-between atmosphere, his works converse with each other so that submarine space becomes psychological space to be explored, and live creatures and recalled places figure as temporary emanations of warmth. Factors in the exhibition display, meanwhile, variously create sensations of blocking and emptiness, set off by bursts of information. This, and the works themselves, add up to something double-edged. It’s implied that technical means might offer a way into the past or the mind, but only superficially, and what we remember and how we think of what we see is changing too. All here, accordingly, moves towards a condition of quietly violent abstraction in which representations only emerge through a process of distortion, damage or translation. In the process, Swinkels’ art asserts itself as an emotive paradox: it speaks of memory yet situates its core as perpetually out of reach.
Not afraid of a fridgeMemory aid to three parts of “I Can’t Live In A Living Room”
Text by Natalie Keppler
The view into the freezer Thomas Swinkels used over the course of all three parts of his presentation is laid bare open, the doors are detached. Acrylic shields cover the front instead, protecting the object inside. Carefully placed in the space upstairs from the tower annex, the freezer becomes a window into the body of the (now half) painted White Cube itself. The freezer acts as a metaphor for a bodily presence, in this way encompassing the theme that spans across the whole exhibition.
The three parts show a working process of getting to know the space while still being connected to the outside. It is an attempt to appropriate and to anatomize the body of the space at the same time.
One freezer presents its internal veins and arteries: clean white thin tubes and the stony a drilling core of a drilling core, which stands next to the freezer in a corner of the room. The two cylinders of stone are the negative spaces of the inner part of an architectural left over. What don’t we see under the polished surface of a turned over trash bin? Turning the inside out: the exhibition is based on a series of inversions and infiltrations.
In blocking and opening up sights, Swinkels plays with different qualities of perception and materialities and with our imagination of order of objects. Contradictions of clean sharp edges and rough cuts; shiny surfaces and soft textile; plastic tubes and spiderwebs. Plugged to a car battery and a transformer, the display of a smartphone shows a (moving?) image of a ... waterfall?
With the digitally transmitted image, our perception of things is changing rapidly: “(…) our imagination now resembles the interfaces of the devices we use, (…). Extensive amounts of knowledge processing and memory are exported to electronic devices, and rapidly progressing miniaturization presents the prospect that these ‘smart’ devices will no longer be external to our bodies.”1
Scene: (Memories are caught between walls, archived in spiderwebs, morbidly stripped down. And a fallen head holding up an ancient culture and ideas. Places inscribed with memories and pervaded by the objects / lives who had been therein before. The two at first similar looking photographs are attached to the doors of two freezers. One is hanging on the pillar and the other is leaning against the second pillar of the space.)
Arranged in a way as a mise en abyme, the two image carriers become prostheses for a wounded architecture. The freezer upstairs is now switched on functions as a modern memento mori. The steamy acrylic shield blurs the view and you cannot clearly see what is depicted on the rolled photograph inside. It appears like that we are at the same time inside and outside something …the body … the domestic interior genre picture or in the middle of a drama? The fourth wall is torn off, skinned:
“HONEY: (Apologetically, holding up her brandy bottle) I peel labels.
GEORGE: We all peel labels, sweetie; and when you get through the skin, all three layers, through the muscle, slosh aside the organs (An aside to NICK) them which is still slosh able – (Back to HONEY) and get down to bone ... you know what you do then?
HONEY: (Terribly interested) No!
GEORGE: When you get down to bone, you haven’t got all the way, yet. There’s something inside the bone ... the marrow ... and that’s what you gotta get at. (A strange smile at MARTHA)”2
How to get access to the inner self? The only way to end the miserable play-within-the-play is to be honest to the bone as Edward Albee metaphorically speaking is showing in the third act of his theater play “Who is afraid of Virginia Woolf?”.
The red light shafts through under the build in door in the tower annex space of the third part of the exhibition. Playing with a entrance situation “L’Entrée de L’Éxposition” was also the purpose of Marcel Broodthaers in 1979, who wanted to ironically ask how an artist can enter the canon of art history with a retrospective. Instead of looking back to solely repeat he wanted to develop new contexts and displacements of objects.
Once entered, the in itself closed room appears as a time capsule or contemporary grotto. A slight uncanny feeling is provoked by the shadow on the wall that looks like a skull. It is a chemically washed-out animal knee bone mirrored in a sitting figure in the photo wall paper. When you bend down you can see the microcosm of the bone. Filmed by a endoscopic camera and displayed on a smartphone which is attached to the back wall, the live image melts with the space.
1 Lou Cantor ‘‘Turning Inward“ 20152 Edward Albee ‘‘Who is afraid of Virginia Woolf?“ 1962
Chicken n Waffles
Text by Marc Leblanc
An image of people living on Manchester Ave., their homes constructed of cardboard, plastic tarps, and their own furniture huddles against the chain link fence separating it from LAX. Atop the image, a discarded fridge houses a nylon sleeping bag. Concrete forms cast from the city’s refuse and recycling containers finish the composition.
Throughout the space are also Thomas Swinkels’ cast blue forms. Taken from the stone hearths and foundations that remain of Llano del Rio, the long abandoned commune east of Palmdale. In the context of the other work, the sculptures gesture toward an anti-statism and radical autonomy. Holding these sculptures like Swinkels’ image from Manchester Ave. is a series of covers from The Western Comrade, the socialist magazine for L.A.’s 1910’s.
West of Las Vegas, past Pahrump, the desert opens up. Here the sun grows its shadows over the ridge lines, putting back on show the brush that spangles the desert’s valley. After a long-haul through the some narrows, we start collecting the hairpins on our way up to Tecopa. The desert isn’t so brash its morning gently hangs its arm on your shoulder. However, it’s what it whispers to you that really raises a brow. By day, the desert stretches me down into its absent seas and by night, catapulting me beyond the jets where Orion’s set to fall into the ocean at the end of all this. Freedom and decimation. It’s a natural arcade. Immense, brutal, careless. And we mock it. Dotting it to and from the coast with our most spectacle altars to death. Casinos and outlet malls and golf courses – our rude theaters with their saccharine interiors – patterned carpets, window-dressing, and showmanship. Arcade living – from the most proper affairs down to our bitter perversions. We see the desert’s natural spectacle, uninterrupted, and under a sodium glow, we endure these lived theaters as echo to it. The casinos and streets out in the desert can’t last and the early losers are already on the ground.
The sleek slate fender of a luxury car welded onto a crude plinth stands upright in the space. Like any collision remnant left long enough along the freeway shoulder, Swinkels’ found fender is folded onto itself. Like a readymade Chamberlain, its triple intake vents and the small stylish script ‘Pininfarina’ gives a clue towards its origin and demise.
Across the space, is Bas Van Den Hurk’s series of paintings, stretched of pighide, cowhide, faux leather and silk, are smeared and dabbed with a palette that pulls at one’s eyes. Bright magentas and deep sandstone.A motif’s printed through them, an image of the early L.A. German-American Galka Scheyer before a work of Alexej von Jawlensky at the Schindler House. Like all of Van Der Hurk’s works, there’s something about
how these paintings present themselves that they address not just painting as it’s done today, but more so, a conflation of the ‘culture of the arcades’ and their associated trades that so defines spectacle here.
The sands fall away coming down the mountain, we snake and meet the 5. Shell to get gas. Rub my eyes, scrounge through my pockets, it’s time to look at the possibilities and reconsider a few things. You want it all, but you won’t get it until the end.
A series of new painted and sculptural works, Chicken n Waffles at aesthetic possibility and reconsideration. The works model seeing anew through the registers of subversion and radicality of class as they’ve played out on America’s west coast. It draws on, from the desert to Malibu, this juggernaut as a schizophrenic place, where the fringes of capitalism, its homeless, its jet-set, its ungovernable, pushes at the hard-boiled limits of capitalist representation.
The work lays bare a distinction between heteronomy and autonomy that’s easy to see in the American desert. Easy to see. A spectrum between the spectacle and the freely given. The uninterrupted, inalterable autonomy of deep time sliding against a feverish installation of showmanship, how we represent and negotiate with each other what nature’s already presented. It’s the edge that Chicken n Waffles directs its truck, where spectacle is mirrored.