Monday, August 15, 2011

The writing’s on the wall

"Variations of [minor] nature may have an adverse effect on levels of risk” by Tristan Da Roza

Tristan Da Roza creates a site—a construction site, a demolition site. A site that is bordered, defined, subject to definition and constraint. Literally “Variations of [minor] nature may have an adverse effect on levels of risk” is a site in all this word’s vicissitudes. There is the feeling like we have walked into a world of calculated destruction, perceptual destruction, linguistic destruction and creative destruction. There is a sense that this is an absurd space, like a Borges story of incomplete visions being eternally built and destroyed, rebuilt and discarded. We get the feeling that an earnest architect lost his job or his head on this site. He was telling a joke about a lawyer who walked into a bar.

A black wooden truss arm, similar to a crane boom, is hinged to the gallery wall and extends across the space of the gallery above the viewer’s head. A pendant line, rigged to the ceiling and winched from the wall, holds the structure in a diagonal position. Perspex is clad along the length of the truss arm. C-clamps hold the Perspex in place. The structure is broken. Perspex shards and casement, or frame are caught in the truss lattice. Shattered pieces of wood, brick and Perspex lie on the floor. Another part of the installation, a chunk of cement, into which an eye bolt is drilled, is suspended by rope and pulley, again, from the ceiling. It hangs over a Perspex platform resting on a square outline of glowing neon lights on the floor—it is covered in broken cement pieces. Neon-orange builder’s line marks out borders and delineates a gestalt on the wall—similar to a picture’s edge. Within is a splatter of grey building-site-like mess—just enough to look like an aberration. A flat high-gloss black surface (that looks like a flat screen TV) supported by a truss frame is horizontally hinged to the wall—it swings freely like an unfastened gate. Lines of perspective, in accordance with a point of view in the gallery, are marked in duct tape on the floor. An octagon, stop sign shape made of hi-vis tape outlined on the floor seems to mark an arbitrary safety zone.

There is a road delineator post at the entry to the gallery. This forms a threshold—a symbolic entrance into the space contained by the installation. Words activate this space through a series of abstract and complicated warnings. ‘Variations of a [minor] nature may have a adverse effect on levels of risk’—these words, which are presented as makeshift (with intentional errors) in a plastic pocket stuck to the wall, place the onus on the viewer. ‘Spatial awareness can be prompted by potential risks involved occupation; negotiating risks may be a productive process’—is noted on a sculpture similar to an on-site drafting bench made of shards of broken glass. 

By entering into the installation the viewer has accepted the terms and conditions of the signs. This is much like the “enter at own risk” sign on a building site fence or the “you break it you buy it” sign in a souvenir gift shop. However, the signs in this installation are abstract. Whether or not the viewer understands them has no impact on the consequences of actions and reactions within their obtuse logic. Awareness, risk and productivity poetically coincide in this formal sophism. The elusive content of the signs needn’t be read, understood or even real for their implications to feel consequential within this theatrical installation. The jostle of images in the visual field seems to cause breakage. However, by entering the space, the viewer is aware that they are responsible for the damage (regardless of whether they know it or not). This shattered project, this crushed model Xanadu, will be bigger, better and more modern than originally imagined because the architect is dead; the building permits haven’t been approved; the price of materials has inflated; and there has been a catastrophic shakeup in a snow-dome somewhere. 


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