Alice Lang & Dana Lawrie (Addition 3 group show)
27th September – 11th October 2012 — Addition Gallery, West End, Brisbane
Dana Lawrie and Alice Lang are artists driven by process – the evidence of their unwavering dedication is seen clearly in the high quality of the art objects they exhibit here. However their works do not exist solely in the service of visual spectacle. The labour-intensive and time-consuming quality of these pieces critique the properties of value assigned to the fetishised object under late capitalism, as an object which embodies entirely opposing qualities – the technological, the instantaneous, the superficially engaged. Our insatiable consumption of such cheap and disposable objects confirms our own value within capitalist discourse of ‘worth’, but also suspends us in an acute state of anxiety over how to present ourselves as ‘individuals’ through the consumption of new and definitive objects. Underlying this anxiety is a fear stemming from the knowledge that although we may have control over the preferences of our consumption, we actually have very little control over the biggest decisions of how we live our lives. With this in mind, Lang and Lawrie’s emphasis on process, commitment and specialisation can be read as an attempt to mobilise the value of ‘quality’ in critique of the social anxiety and fear aroused by the fetishised object.
FEAR: The text featured on Lang’s over-exaggerated friendship bracelet – EPIC FAIL – speaks to us in the cyber-language of internet memes and online chat, recalling language’s ability to be reinvented in response to the wants and needs of those who use it. In this way, EPIC FAIL is not just a phrase holding specific meaning for the internet initiated Gen X and Y, but also functions as an apt description of the current status of late capitalism (the global financial crisis, the widening of the gap between the rich and poor, the increasing scarcity of resources) within which this language has evolved. When confronted with such overwhelmingly serious and enduring social issues, Lang’s friendship bracelet is a painful reminder of how we mask our fear through a shared sense of irony toward our inevitably grim fate. This tongue-in-cheek ‘social commentary’ is made ridiculous through the sheer size of the friendship bracelet and the candid nature of its empty proclamation. It lays bare our inability to engage genuinely with each other, and consequently with the wider forces that control how we live.
ANXIETY: The inability to genuinely relate to each other or organise collectively for fear of loosing our ‘individuality’ inevitably generates mass anxiety. This anxiety is a product of the alienation we experience by being told repeatedly that we are masters of our own destiny when secretly, we know we hold nothing like that control. Lawrie’s work grapples with this very anxiety through her obsessive self-portraiture. No matter how skillfully she replicates herself through the act of painting (and she replicates herself literally into oblivion in this diptych), she cannot master her own destiny because she cannot resist death. Within her paintings, Lawrie depicts herself in some sort of self-induced purgatory. Her corpse floats naked and hairless above an expansive plane of nothingness. Her newer works find her obsessively rubbing small portions of paper between her fingers like a bad habit until they become fragile scraps bearing testament to her palpable anxiety – an obsessive anxious reaction to the fact that death may be deferred by capitalism… but never deflected.
The quality demonstrated in Lang’s and Lawrie’s work critiques the social affects of fear and anxiety experienced in late capitalism. Ironically, because these objects are not capable of presenting possible solutions to such ills, their monstrously time-consuming processes end up presenting as resolved art objects seething with the very anxiety and fear both artists originally set out to critique.
You can purchase a copy of this catalogue here.