Mark Leckey – The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things


Mark Leckey’s exhibition The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things at Nottingham Contemporary is one of the most befuddling exhibitions I have seen in a while. Individually some of the artworks are amazing and thought provoking, but collectively the show leaves you with lots of why’s and how’s and a bit of ‘thank heavens I didn’t have to pay for this.’

But I still loved it.
Because he challenges my wanting everything to have meaning, and a special place because of that meaning.

In the end, some things are just because they are. And we have to accept that.

As Leckey says about this exhibition – “Generally artists that I do have an interest in aren’t in this exhibition. That would have been another exhibition. That’s the show I decided not to do.”

“I didn’t want to just go – this is what I like and this is my taste, because I would just see it as an exercise in how sophisticated my taste is and I thought that would be quite boring to do. It’s the trap of curation isn’t it?”

The basic premise of the exhibition is that our constant use of technology has now caused us to develop relationships with the inanimate objects that now rule our lives.
We talk to our machines and they talk back to us.
And as things progress, we now demand that they predict what we want and what we are thinking of, even before the thought has been formed.
Therefore in honour of this universal truth, Leckey has curated a zoo of objects that symbolise this animistic reality. And hence the nod to the ‘universal addresssability of dumb things’.

When asked about the seemingly irreverent way the artworks are presented in the gallery, Leckey says, “I like to be as irreverent as possible with them, as disrespectful as possible. But I’m also enamoured by all those objects. What excites me is the idea of treating them badly, and not respecting them as individuals that are presented as discreet objects that have their own aura, in a traditional white cube gallery.”

“…I’ve chosen them because they have some resonance. I just want them to do things to each other and I want to do things to them. So they transform, or transcend their object-hood.”

Leckey also says that once he puts all these objects together they form a mesh of energy between them, akin to his very own ecosystem. Here the body is greater than all the parts that are on display, with the individual elements being subordinate to the whole they have come together to create.

“The more we rely or are surrounded by these technologies – or these devices, the more inclined we are to magical thinking. And it’s a strange paradox – the more technical we become, the more we boomerang back to a superstitious, premodernist way of thinking.”

In this magical, allegorical, paradoxical system Leckey has created, there are bound to be works we love and dislike. And rather than listing my like list, here are two works that made me stop and watch.

In 2007, Amanda Baggs made this video describing her experiences as an autistic person. If this gets too much for you, watch from 3:14 onwards.

And there’s a hypnotic Brian Bress video to look out for. My usual grumble is that I can never find the video works I like online, but some benevolent but slightly technologically challenged YouTube user has made me very happy.

There’s something about Brian Bress, that makes me want to look at more of his work. Definitely a Brian Bress post coming up next week.

While The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things isn’t going to be everyone’s favorite exhibition, it is a definite must see. Especially since Leckey’s sending this exhibition in virtual flat-pack guise to the Venice Biennale as a film. And Nottingham Contemporary gets super points for providing so much great information for visitors to take away. Their exhibition pocket book is not a direct copy of the wall text as nearly every London gallery/museum is currently doing, but an interview of Leckey by Kathy Noble, Head of Exhibitions at the gallery. Kudos NC for the extra effort.

Mark Leckey: The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things
Nottingham Contemporary
Till 30 June 2013

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