Extra Fins| Vivian Ziherl
“It’s only a little bit about death”
‘Extra Fins’ presents a pair of new works by Tim Plaisted that together exhibit a typically inconsistent approach to materials by an artist often tagged under the ‘new media’ catch-all. The works, Cast 1 and Cast 2 operate together as variations on a theme. Cast 1 is a blue and gold model plane realized in meticulous detail yet with a surfeit of wings radiating about the fuselage. Cast 2 displays dreamy underwater footage of the artist swimming towards and through the top of the shot, his lagging right leg encased in a knee-to-foot cast which is embellished with occasionally perceptible computer-generated golden wings.
Although obviously dealing heavily in its tropes, ‘flight’ itself is a red-herring, a wrapper for broader themes such as the threshold to realms of deam/imagination an evocation of buoyancy/ suspension/ support and a mercurial relation to interpretation. In actuality what lies at the beating heart of the works is hope in lieu of any concrete grounds for hope. Plaisted likens the winged excess of Cast 1 to a wide-eyed child’s enthusiasm; “it was like a kid’s view of what would make a great plane shortly after getting the idea that planes need wings to fly”. In this way the works emanate a deeply ambivalent sensibility registering not so much flight but the gap between flight and the attempt of flight. Such an equivocal stance is one of few sentiments currently available to artists, keenly flanked by the cynicism of hyper self-aware smarty pants are and what Hal Foster acknowledges as the ‘sometimes strained in effects’ tendency of he artist as archivist .
There is however, a fine line between the intriguingly elusive and the non-instructive vague. Cast 1 and 2 maintain a certain gravity in their phenomenological relation to the viewer, the 2m wing-span of Cast 1 operates at a human scale, placing its off-kilter gesture unavoidably at the feet of the one who encounters it. The viewer is similarly implicated in the spatiality of Cast 2, first in its near 1:1 scale and second in the direct bearing of the sunlight that is very specifically captured in all three separate takes of footage. Readable also as indicators of a dreamy, romantic quality, the stark rays of sub-tropical sunlight pierce the membrane of the water‟s surface, and then again pierce the membrane of the screen, entering the exhibitions space and providing a quality of the room’s ambient light.
The latter effect was first encountered by Plaisted during the exhibition of one of his screen-based works within the Multimedia Art Asia Pacific exhibition ‘Gravity’, hosted by the Singapore Art Museum in 2004. The large, dominantly blue projection created a halo of coloured light in the space, unintentionally echoing MAAP director Kim Machan‟s curatorial/conceptual gesture in which the opening three weeks of the exhibition featured blank/blue projections accompanied by an original newspaper edition of Yves Klein‟s Le Peintre de l‟Espace se Jette Dans le Vide (Leap into the Void) (1961). Both „blue‟ and „void‟ are strongly present in the works of „Extra Fins‟ and Yves Klein is incidentally an early favourite artist of Plaisted’s; “first for the colour, and then for the concepts”.
Colour is, of course, one of the classic aesthetics „supports‟, and the notional of support recurs throughout ‘Extra Fins’. Plaisted refers enigmatically to the works as ‘aids and props to flying’, and the leg cast is itself a literal support to the bone in healing. In her recent publication „Support Structures‟, Celine Condorelli identifies four key qualities of support as; ‘proximity, against, supplementary and temporary’, going on to provide a ‘bibliography of support structures’ including documentation and original text from El Lissitzky’s Abstract Cabinet, an essay on ‘How to Care’ by Jan Verwoert and a facsimile poster of motivational slogans taped to the wall of Ryan Gander‟s studio . Among the gamut of possible imputations of the notion of support, ‘against’ stands out as counter-intuitive.
However within the etymology of a word such as ‘prop’ with its roots in the Middle Dutch ‘proppe’ or ‘stopper’, and within the specific support labour of the medical cast in providing a mechanical force against, a latent antagonism is present. Cast 1 and 2 dramatise and poeticise the opposed forces of support or prop, emphasizing not flight by the exaggerated attempt to fly; the gap between the intention for flight and the dream of elegant, aquiline momentum through air.
In all their ambivalence and aversion to finality, Cast 1 and 2 still quixotically court and analysis of de-coded symbology. The golden wings are an unmistakable referent of Hermes, messenger across the threshold of mortal and immortal realms of the Ancient Hellenic world as well as the etymological root of ‘hermeneutics’. In a paranoid reading the web of associations from this analytic key could proliferate semi-coherently; Herme – patron of boundaries and travellers who cross them (flight), the athlete and the injured athlete (the cast), a bringer of dreams (mental flight), messenger of the gods (communication/interpretation), a trickster (red-herrings, false-interpretations), patron of invention (the plane, the invented support for flight). In the final instance the works of ‘Extra Fins’ are aware of, yet side-step an pseudo-psychoanalytic dream-key resolution. Far too much is withheld for this, the artist‟s investment in collaborative production process as an example. Plaisted is comfortable to operate with a devolved/distributed authorship and references a tactic of ‘subcontracting’ in situations where he seeks his process and ideas to be challenged. When discussing the codes of an artwork Plaisted speaks of “the games that artists play”.
Humorous, mesmric, equivocal and finally modest; „Extra Fins‟ presents reality as elusive and contingent, yet somehow graspable in the common human (possibly transcultural?) dream of flight.
by Vivian Ziherl
1) Foster, Hal. ‘An Archival Impulse’. October. 110 Fall. P3-22.
2) Condorelli, Celine. 2010. Support Structures. Berlin: Sternberg Press
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