David Ryan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hybrids continued from page 2

 
Uneasiness in the face of this ‘fusion’ (of the ‘impure’ monstrous) can be dealt with in different ways. Canonically, it is related to the operations of the dream work in Freud, which synthesizes and displaces repressed events, moments, memories into hybridised, condensed symbols or signs. The fear and anxiety of the monstrously impure symbol which invade the dream or the nightmare, has been explained within Freudianism, as the contradictory impulses in relation to repressed desire; the hybrid’s function, therefore, in this context, is the masking of desire, of psychically manufacturing its mutation into something else; and yet at the same time, the potentiality of this unmasked, unleashed desire exacerbates the inhibiting mechanism of repression which in turn generates the intense fear and anxiety associated with the nightmare. In order to emulate the effects of this, classic cinematic ‘monsters’ play on the hybrid, or the metamorphosis from one state to another, therefore generating anxiety, and locating a kind of simultaneous fascination and repulsion. So while Freud, within psychoanalytic theory, wants to unlock the puzzle, to pick apart the hybrid into its readable components, and thus place us back in the sphere of the logical and the ‘pure’ rationale, the horror genre – and much contemporary art it should be added – simply rides on the frisson of ever mutable and combinable figures.
 
David Reed has long been involved with aligning abstract painting with various ‘exterior’ subject matters, including the cinematic. His references range from an engagement with Hitchcock’s Vertigo to the various genres of the vampire movie. It might well be asked what links these dual obsessions to the activity of painting? The answer would have to lie in the play with material/immaterial forces within both these references. Instability underlies the central characters in these films; whether the vampire itself, or the seeming reincarnation of the dead in Vertigo’s Carlotta-Madeleine-Judy ‘composite’ figure, each in its own way questioning the notion of graspable material presence. Reed himself has acknowledged this allegiance with the fantastic or the ‘uncanny’, where the experience is one of a loss of presence: “In this category, one can’t tell what is physical and what is illusion; the two become merged. One goes back and forth between interpretations.” To place abstract painting in this context, dissociates itself from a materialist or positivist reading, and stresses its chameleon-like nature in a world of images and electronic media. Painting becomes yet another phantom through the dominance of the latter, and Reed sets up possible vampiric, parasitic relationships with such mediated images; through digitally inserting his own paintings into video footage of these films, they become one fictional image within, and amongst, a host of others. Captivated initially by the light in Vertigo, Reed has gone on to produce several installations based on the character Judy’s hotel bedroom. In particular he has focused on the moment when Judy emerges from the bathroom dressed – at Scottie’s (James Stewart) suggestion – in Madeleine’s outfit. What appears to fascinate Reed is the coalescence of the two characters – Madeleine/Judy - at this very moment, and the exchange within the intimate constraints of the room itself. Hitchcock’s room is in fact a fictive space in itself. Even though the Hotel Empire exists in San Francisco, the scene of the walk from the bathroom traverses a location shot in the Empire Hotel and a studio location elsewhere. Reed implies that this labyrinthine layering of cinematic fictive space is an extension of those already existent in the paintings themselves.
 
To play with illusion, and especially the relationship of memory to the everyday – as do both Reed’s and Hitchcock’s work in their own different and yet intertwined ways – is to stress the realm of fantasy and the virtual. How, in fact, our memories function as a complex overlapping of virtual images, which inevitably gain independence from their origins in reality. This has been extravagantly and amusingly affirmed by the contemporary German artist Tobias Rehberger, to take an example outside of the current exhibition. The artist presented hand drawn two-dimensional images – entirely from memory – to the manufacturers of the Porsche 911 Carrera and the McLaren F1 sports cars for realisation. Both these cars represent luxury items – and remain hybrids even in their original form, developed as they were through adding parts to inherited formal designs. What was actually constructed deviated from the original in a number of distinct ways, and while Rehberger insisted that his cars where to be in working order, the functional aerodynamic principle of the originals was lost. Rather like giant toys, these cars were the result of a compound of memories congealed to form a particular image.
 
Fellow German Franz Ackermann applies a similar logic to various urban locations that he visits. His large installations suggest an amalgamation of place, of urban experience, and its interface with mental life. Such an outlook has roots that stretch back to the dawn of modernism – from which the modern city emerges as a huge machinery, processing difference in very particular ways (here, we can think of the structuring of ‘immigrant’ or financial districts, the suburbs, or the supposed ‘liberation of expression’ associated with the great metropolitan centres). In this sense, every city is an agglomeration of impurities, but which also essentially requires a ‘concept’ of itself in order to remain readable or usable. It is the most artificial of such concepts that is made available to the tourist of any large city; and it is here that Ackermann identifies his practice in order to reflect on the duality of being ‘processed’ by a particular place and authentically engaging in its exploration. This tension between the administration of urban space and the individual’s potential re-appropriation of it lies at the heart of Ackermann’s enterprise. His “Mental Map” series of drawings, which are made on-site in the visited locations, sit somewhere between the two – using the given cartography of a specific place as basic material for free, highly subjective, variations and improvisations.
 

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