Pre-disembodied (2013) until Friday 1 November
Greg Lamont has chosen a surprisingly difficult subject for his first exhibition, one that preoccupies much contemporary local art. The drawings and objects in this show form a pre-zero calculus of disembodiment, or to put it another way, the final gasp of ‘presence’ in art.
It used to be a familiar cliché that all western art involved and invoked the fusion of body and spirit in any one of the infinite versions of presence that this made available. It was the overlapping collision of a revised version of classical culture and Christian narrative that facilitated and entrenched this sensibility. Now after many preemptive critical shots it seems the body, indeed, animate animal flesh itself, has finally given up the cultural ghost.
Lamont’s goal seems to be to abolish presence as the middle term between art (and the artist) and audience. Normally any western art work implies, indeed requires, this connection; any artwork is a landscape of phenomena initiated, in some way, by the artist, whose body and soul is, therefore, always present in the gallery. Lamont is attempting to make drawings from which the artist is always absent.
The first experiment of this kind, that I know, is the erasure by Robert Rauschenberg of a drawing by de Kooning, with the artist’s permission. Francis Bacon, the final great painter of animate flesh, thought his work no more than a game. Lamont talks of ‘the material flesh’ and the paradoxes of ‘observation‘. This is very difficult philosophical territory
In fact, I suspect that his work is simply, and very accurately, encompassing a contemporary local sensibility. That is to say that it ‘feels right’ to him and his most likely contemporary audience. It seems that, for them, any coherent human presence in art may now have reached the point of impossibility or, more accurately, illegibility.
How and why this has come about is a very complex problem. In my photographs of the opening for ‘disembodied’ it is very clear that the the work is ‘hyper-fugitive’ in comparison to the highly present, highly animated audience. Sartre raises the issue of bodily incoherence, of the absence of presence, in Nausea and elsewhere, as a terrifying but temporary possibility.
Suppose it is now a permanent reality? Suppose the ever diminishing ghosts of our former selves are kept in being, just, by needs and necessities over which we have no control and little awareness, yet accept without question as unchallengeable reality.
This is the state of mind of a caged animal!
I hope to present an essay on this problem in local art soon.