‘Instead of the illusion of things, we are now offered the illusionism of modalities: namely, that matter is incorporal, weightless, and exists only optically like a mirage.’
Consumption, according to Michel de Certeau, is a manipulation in the form of bricolage, appropriating and combining heterogeneous elements. In this way, he states, ‘the everyday is invented through a thousand different ways of poaching. Bricolage and assemblage, arising from popular culture, are seen as the everyday incarnations of consumption, as a form of resistance, indeed, a ‘making do’ within a dominant -in fact practically invulnerable- culture.’
The sculptures of Tatiana Echeverri Fernandez address and update key aspects of assemblage, after Installation art. Made of found materials and cast-offs from consumer culture, her works act as props to forge relationships with the audience, and with the space of the gallery. However, though removed from their original settings and shorn of their use functions, these props retain a certain mournful echo of their past. Indeed, old commodities reveal their architecture too readily without offering up the implacable and impenetrable surface quality of its current counterparts thus attaining a form of allegorical value.
In her exhibition ‘New Plane’ (2009) Echeverri Fernandez combines the elements of glass and paper in an informal manner. The glass, formal, yet slippery, is wrapped and framed by the roughly shaped paper creating several mound shapes that fold in on themselves; the overall effect calls to mind the minimal sculptures of Barry Le Va and Robert Morris. Hal Foster’s reading of Minimalism, through, does not promote an ideal form, insisting on the importance of distinguishing between “the purity of conception” and “the contingency of perception”. Foster, citing Roland Barthes, links this death of the author to the birth of the viewer. Consequently, the overt simplicity and apparent incompleteness of the work serves to forge a deliberate relationship with the audience. According to Martha Buskirk, such artworks ‘force the viewer to be aware of his or her experience unfolding in space and time.’ In this way, although unable to verify the works’ origins, we become complicit in its destination; this can be seen as a way of giving directions towards a destination of which we remain unsure, an inherently unstable process of establishing new places and meanings.
‘Our eyes are built to seek out complete figures. If I am shown a triangle missing the midsections of its sides, I will complete it in my mind. We instinctively repair fragments into wholes and search for continuous contours and closed curves. Shards present our eyes with a problem, unwittingly we cast around for patterns, assembling pieces into shapes. Our eyes prefer practically any object to the borderless scatter of points.’
In ‘Gangster Woman Before Wedding’(2008) Echeverri Fernandez displays an assemblage of photographs from magazines, arranged under several sheets of glass, and pierced with a chrome rod. Julian Stallabrass makes the link between collage and trash (here linked to the disposable accretion of photographic images as mass-produced printed matter), the former arising from an aestheticised and fixed link between elements, the latter being marked by a truly temporary juxtaposition; both aspects are less illuminating about the discrete elements they portray than about the real absurdity of the situation of production. As a result, the collage is reduced to a sheen, or sheer surface value, which Roland Barthes terms ‘the secondary vibrations of appearance’ employed so as ‘to lubricate man’s gaze amid his domain, to facilitate his daily business among objects whose riddle is dissolved and which are no longer anything but easy surfaces’.
Surfaces are indeed liquid in themselves: they shift shape; they creep and spill over, their viscous presence invading space. And objects too lose their shape through ‘the conversion of all things socio-cultural into a…bombardment of culturally destabilized, aesthetically blurred, ultimately unauthored and free-floating signifiers – the Phenomena of things’. Echeverri Fernandez’s preference for fragments and shards could then be seen as a manifestation of what happens after the loss of the object, but before its restitution. The quotational aspect of the work would appear to anchor it in a nostalgic relationship with its referents, yet the opposite is true. The work is self-reflective, it repeats itself, becomes discontinuous, and, in the process, turns into a narrative device, as evidenced by the artist’s choice of titles such as ‘Elements of Toxicology’, ‘Gut of the Quantifier’, or ‘Perambulation of the Parish’. The artist’s narratives are, however, far from prescriptive; instead the relationship between physical elements and conceptual notions remains one of, sympathy, alliance and accord, of things held together with unstable bindings.
The procession of the object can be seen as roughly analogous to the passage of the major cultural shifts of recent times: Modernism established and then dematerialised the object, Postmodernism, through Installation art scattered its remains through space, and the Contemporary is beginning to witness its re-emergence, a surfacing marked by a ‘non-archaeological dig’ since the search for origins has become futile; the object’s appearance does not hide a verifiable essence, but it is the essence of the object to be unknowable. Thus freed from its moorings, the concept of the object and its appearance coalesce, becoming one and the same.