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I Want to Believe | Raymonde Rajkowski

I Want To Believe…in Art?

One does not need to be a fan of the science fiction television series, The X-Files, to appreciate the aphorism, ‘I Want To Believe’. Like other sayings made famous by the show, such as ‘The Truth Is Out There’ and ‘Trust No One’, the appeal and memorability of this aphorism lies in the way it refers to the experience of what could be considered ‘everyday epistemology’ existing in the ways we each unknowingly attempt to discern between knowledge and belief, truth and conspiracy, logic and folklore, while taking part in daily activities and interactions with other people. At times, reasoning comes effortlessly to us; other times, we are plagued by uncertainty reflecting not so much our lack of long-established knowledge but rather the limits of human (analytical and empirical) knowledge in general.

There is a real feeling of uncertainty coupled with a desire for certainty at any cost-even if it means chosing to blindly believe in something-that runs deep in not only The X-Files but also the exhibition, curated by Boxcopy Contemporary Art Space, titled, not incidentally, ‘I Want To Believe’. However, when used in relation to this exhibition, which showcases the diverse practices of a number of young and emerging artists, many of which are recent graduates of art school, ‘I Want To Believe’ becomes more than merely a title; it proves itself to be a sensitive way to consider and reveal something of the underlying attitude of contemporary artists in general.

In a way these artists come to represent generation X (and also generation Y) and this exhibition shows how the ‘Gen X’ pulse runs deep in the production and interpretation of contemporary art. The fact that these artists, like many of us, grew up with popular culture, initially delivered by television, now, the Internet, should not be understated. For these artists, popular culture, like home computers, video recorders, cable and satellite networks, cellular phones, and other technologies of electronic communication, are indispensable; these products mediate their contact with and understanding of the outside world. Also, the slacker-like style and art making methods visble in this work is more than an attempt at aestheticising everyday life, which intends to collapse the boundary between art and life. It is the preferred way of making art for many young and emerging artists, as it is a “quick way of doing things, and it is economically viable, and do-able under all sorts of conditions including the bed-sit!”¹ A by-product and reflection of their apathetic, cynical and disaffected disposition, the art created by such artists expresses the tension between their wary view of the world and their keen desire to feel otherwise; their want to believe in anything and everything, and their resignation to the idea that this may never happen.

Clearly the points raised thus far are general descriptions intended to encourage a deeper reading of the work comprising this exhibition. From the Do It Yourself (DIY) materials sourced from hardware and craft stores to the haphazard but loving way these works have been assembled, there is a strong impression of a naive sensibility and lax approach towards art present in the exhibition that is difficult to brush aside.

But to finish where we began, nothing perhaps encapsulates more of what has been discussed than the image for the show that accompanies the title, ‘I Want To Believe’. Unlike the poster which hangs in the basement office of The X-Files agent, Fox Mulder, which was originally associated with this aphorism, the exhibition image that depicts one of the artists, Joseph Breiker, does not specify, as such, what the saying is in reference to.

Mulder’s poster depicts a flying saucer, with ‘I Want To Believe’ printed in bold below, and his association with the poster communicates his want to believe in extraterrestrial life. In contrast, the image of Breiker, which shows the artist absorbed in the activity of imaging himself playing the drums (‘air- drumming’), conveys the sentiment of ‘I Want To Believe’ and does not narrow our consideration of the saying. With arms flailing in the air and a look of real determination to remain totally absorbed in the moment, the artist in this image captures something of the attitude of contemporary art and many young artists: the want to believe in believing itself.

by Raymonde Rajkowski

© Copyright 2007. Boxcopy and the writers and artists. Not to be reproduced without permission from Boxcopy.