empathy

Out Of Hand

Conceptual artworks are like cacti––some people love them, some people hate them, some people don’t really understand them and inadvertently kill them. With his show at Sassa Trülzsch, Dane Mitchell leads us all into the desert and leaves us to decide if these conceptual cacti (strange, gross and incomprensible as they may be) are contemporary art worthy of consideration or freaks of artistic nature better left alone to rot.

 

Dane_02Mitchell’s work at Sassa Trülzsch. Photo: Chris Phillips

 

Take, for example, the concatenation of white PVC crowding the square space at the front of Sassa Trülzsch’s small, sweet gallery (seen above). It is as though a desperate city dweller began constructing an Ikea closet, and when the going got tough the constructor gave up, choosing instead to dedicate himself to the worship of pagan gods. At least, that’s what the odd salt circle punctuated by elemental objects (coal, sage, stone, grass) seems to suggest. I am forcefully reminded of my brief, early-adolescent dalliance with Wicca, to disheartening affect.

 

Past the claustrophobic closet ceremony and up a small flight of stairs float a series of warped glass urns (seen below), housing in turn each of the elements strewn about in whatever rite was made solemn in the previous space. Like clear plastic bottles warped by a microwave, mirrored in the glass of the flat plinth upon which they rest, these stockpiled sculptures owe more of a debt to William Kentridge’s reflective works and Kiki Smith’s mirrored jars than any of the great contemporary conceptualists. 

 

Dane_01Mitchell’s glass urns. Photo: Chris Phillips

 

Further still, beyond a closet door in a darkened stairwell, hangs a glass vile on a red string––filled, I am told by a gracious gallerist, with sand. Sand, she explains, from one year of mornings, rubbing her eyes to demonstrate the nature of the “sand” in question. Inside the dimly lit passageway, staring up at a small collection of what my family charmingly calls “eye crusties,” I try to remain contemplative, but find myself more than a little grossed out.

 

Stepping away from the shudder-inducing and aptly named “vile” back out into the solemn space of the gallery, I’m drawn to the final series, arguably the most compelling of the collection. Cloth flags printed with black diptychs depicting hands signing, incomprehensibly to those of us without a grasp on the language—here finally was the link to a conceptualism I could wrap my head around. Homages to the great mystery of text and symbol—stark, strung-up scions of a complex contemporary art legacy. A cactus in the desert of the queer and the crude.

 

  • Sassa Trülzsch– Dane Mitchell “43” – February 23-April 13, 2013 –  Wednesday-Saturday: 11am-6pm [Price range of works: €3500 – €22,000]

 

Article by Hannah Nelson-Teutsch