Das Platforms / Contemporary Art

Emergency art: unsustainable truths

by KT White

15 Jul 2011

I think the last original thing happened in the '70s. Something about a carpet jacket 

- Tom Christophersen

When I can get my spaghetti made from strands of quantum glue you'd better believe the truth is out there. Way out there. And it doesn't care if you're willing to keep up. Product matters. Results count. Faster, the world says: faster. Art looks on. Handing you a glass of champagne, asks if you've tried feeling in Pigment Blue 29? Wonders what might happen to us upside down.

When originality is a scarce commodity the ability to synthesise increasingly large, diverse amounts of information is key. 50 years ago, for example, one could legitimately assume that anyone encountering an artistic space would be exposed to something new. This is no longer the case, which gives artists like Tom Christophersen the drive to create for audiences who have seen it all and can see it again, for free, on virtual TV. As such Christophersen adopts a multidisciplinary approach. Interweaving fashion, visual art, installation and performance he explores points of departure from the pop cultural and the cult. It is work that is most engaging when asking the viewer to pause and where it demands the artist not only observe or reflect but also enact.

There is no room for minimalism in Christophersen's work as sharp colours and suggestive gestures draw out a discomfiture which peaks in the two series Pursemouth and Flinch. Both are self-aware plays on the mythos of glamour, heavily influenced by David Lynch, Andy Warhol and David LaChapelle. That awareness imposes on what I engage with, which is primarily Christophersen's study of the ways social masks inhibit and expose the construction of identity, sensibility and authenticity. I also find it impossible to ignore either the theatricality involved or the questions underneath: should I, should any of us, have it all? When does exposure become a barrier to creativity? Am I hostage to cultural influence, bound simply by the pursuit of encounters, here now faster, or does something more significant stay with me when I go to sleep?

A recognition of the liminal runs through Christophersen's pieces, giving them a common frame - the idea that neither art nor form should be trusted in a world so heavily produced, so dependent on the moment that the sustainability of artistic experience becomes problematic. These are highly relevant issues for artistic practice. At some stage in the effort to generate meaningful material out of imagery saturating the public lens it becomes incumbent on both artist and audience to say 'if you can provide nothing new at least provide it well'. That it isn't just about industry, brand or mystique. It's about forcing perception through a blender and not screwing up the solution.

Tom Christophersen will appear in 'Product' by Mark Ravenhill, downstairs at the Seymour Centre, September 13th-17th during the Sydney Fringe. From 'The New What Next' in conjunction with 'Left of Centre', directed by Daniel Hunter, co-producers Jenna Hutton, Sophie Haylen, Jess Wallace and Tim Burns.