Pile

Edition of 6
Painted bronze
70 x 110 x 163 cms
2004

A bronze cast of six full black bin bags arranged in a pile, painted to look real.

A bag full of discarded products, unrecycled organic matter thrown in with the by-products of our wasteful consumerist lifestyles. This rubbish is encapsulated in the formal roundness of this classic trompe l’œuil artwork. We are defined by what we throw away and conversely we are deconstructed by what we choose to display in our hallowed museum halls.

Exhibitions

Essays

  • Trompe L'oeil - Rikke Hansen SHOW

    Trompe L'oeil - Rikke Hansen

    Like the carefully staged crime scene, trompe l’œil tricks the viewer through the arrangement of misleading appearances and false clues. Literally meaning ‘cheat the eye’, the art technique involves the realistic depiction of phenomena to create optical illusions, often turning flat surfaces into seemingly three-dimensional objects. Trompe l’œil art does not belong to a particular ism or medium but slips in and out of focus through the ages, depending on dominant regimes of representation.

    Although the term was not coined until the early 1800s, the genre can be traced back to Greek and Roman times. The Roman writer Pliny the Elder writes of a rivalry in ancient Greece between the painters Zeuxis and Parrhasius, both accomplished in this particular art. Largely forgotten during the Middle Ages, the technique was given a new lease of life by the Italian Renaissance and the era’s advanced understanding of perspective, while painters of the Baroque era applied it to the then increasingly popular genre of still life. Artists of the Modern period, however, made limited use of trompe l’œil, as works no longer strived towards illusion or imitation but were made to investigate the grounds for art’s own existence. Nonetheless, a few

    painters, such as René Magritte and Jasper Johns, did appropriate the style and transform it into their own. The simulacral qualities of the technique, on the other hand, offered a desirable method for postmodern artists eager to challenge notions of authenticity, originality, and authorship.

    Trompe l’œil is all theatre, which is another reason the genre did not catch on in the Modern period. In the late 1960s, the art critic Michael Fried objected to a turn towards ‘theatricality’ in sculpture and painting, a concept that, according to the author, betrayed the autonomy of the advanced, Modern artwork by turning the exhibition space into a stage of sorts. While Fried’s attack was primarily directed against Minimal art, art forms that use trompe l’œil may equally be added to his list of ‘criminals’, as they also trouble the borders between work, ornamentation, setting, and audience, and, like performance, depend on the actual, physical presence of a viewer to be complete. In other words, the ‘power’ of trompe l’œil is not inherent to the work but exists somewhere between image and spectator and between image and place.
    At first glance, trompe l’œil art appears to have no author or origin;

    it aims to erase the traces of its own production. In the attempt to conceal the identity of the ‘perpetrator’, the signature of the artist may be hidden on an object within the image or, in the eighteenth century tradition, on a cartellino, a calling card or a note seemingly attached to the main work. Much like Edgar Allan Poe’s short story ‘The Purloined Letter’, the desired object is in full view but if we fail to recognise it as the thing it is, it inevitably falls outside our scopic register.

    Trompe l’œil momentarily blends with its own surroundings and transforms the entire environment into a set of representations, causing us to question the validity of other appearances and confuse these with the main work. This is, for example, the case in chantourné, a particularly unsettling form of trompe l’œil where a painting is cut into the shape of the thing it portrays and displayed alongside actual objects. While this specific deviation was fashionable in the seventeenth century, more recent examples exist. Duane Hanson’s late twentieth century life-size human sculptures are, though not paintings, created in the same vein. These figures are so true to life that they

    have been known to trick gallery visitors who have believed them to be real and, on occasions, even attempted to talk to them. However, like the detective story, trompe l’œil hovers between suspense and surprise, and, eventually, incorporates its own slippage. This is what constitutes the paradox of the style: to be successful, it must involve its own failure and sooner or later give the plot away, which is why Hanson’s sculptures are crucially not human.

    Still, some people are experts at turning themselves into trompe l’œil. This can make them seem untrustworthy, but such masquerading may also involve a critical element. La perruque is the French philosopher Michel de Certeau’s name for a specific performative practice through which the worker camouflages his or her own activities as work for the employer. La perruque can be as simple as a secretary writing a love letter at her office desk, a method through which, without being absent from her job or stealing anything of material value, she diverts company time. Such trickery is associated with the power of those who appear to have no power; it is a critique from below.

    There is more than

    a phonetic resemblance between the word perruque, ‘wig’, and perroquet, the French term for ‘parrot’. While trompe l’œil appears to be all artifice, it strangely borrows a mode of appearance that we have come to associate with animality: mimicry, parroting, or aping. Closely related to trompe l’œil is trompe l’oreille, a ‘trick of the ear’. Here, a living being mimics the voice of another as decoy. Birds are masters at this art, and only the most experienced birder might be able to tell the difference between the call of the Pied Wagtail and that of a Blyth’s Reed Warbler impersonating a Pied Wagtail. Just as trompe l’œil erases the trace of its own author, so does trompe l’oreille, although in a different way. The successful avian impersonator throws its voice as if its call was heard from a distance, confusing predators both with regard to its kind and its whereabouts.

  • Kicked Out (after “Pile” by Gavin Turk) - James Flint SHOW

    Kicked Out (after “Pile” by Gavin Turk) - James Flint

    Those were my bags. My bags, filled with my stuff. My stuff, that she chucked out in the street. Grabbed my stuff she did, the bitch, and shoved it in the fucking bin bags that I’d fucking bought – my fucking bin bags! – and chucked them out the window into the road behind the block.

    It wouldn’t’ve been so bad but the silly bint lives on the fifteenth floor and my bloody CD decks were in there and all. Fifteen hundred quids’ worth of kit that was, ruined, not to mention the splinters that got into my calvins.

    And then that frigging Gavin Turk artist cunt swanned by in his poxy House of Fairies V-fucking-W camper van and swiped them and cast them all in fucking bronze and according to what Col says is flogging them down at that poncey tent they have in Regent’s Park. Fifty grand he’s going to get for them, he reckons. Fifty-frigging-grand! I mean, you have got to be having a laugh.

    And House of Fairies? Fuck that shit. What’s all that about then? Bunch of arse bandits talking wank and sitting in the warm while I’m out here

    freezing my tits off. Where the fuck is that wanker Col? He said twenty minutes. Two fucking hours more fucking like. A friend in need is a pain in the arse, that’s what my old man always said, and it’s certainly a mantra Col’s taken to heart. Not that he ever met my old man. Not that that matters. Just as long as he remembers to bring that bloody coat I lent him. And that wrap of beak.

    I don’t see why I shouldn’t sue. Way I see it, that is my intellectual property. My stuff, my bags, my shapes. Coleen would no doubt have it that given that it was her what put the bags and stuff together and threw them out the window by rights the creative act was hers. But she hasn’t got a leg to stand on given that she says it was me what caused the row we had, and so therefore fine: I caused the row by boning her sister’s cousin, which makes me the prime instigator, QED intellectual property = mine.

    I mean, what I could do with fifty grand. That’s more than twice what I ripped off from that

    cash point Col and me ram-raided that night with that digger what we found. It was just too tempting, that was. Sitting right there in behind one of those flimsy metal fences on a building side right next to the bank. So easy to jump they might as well’ve left the bloody keys in it, the wuzzocks. We were pissed and that, or we wouldn’t’ve taken a crack at it, I mean it wasn’t worth three years, we were only having a laugh. But really, for fuck’s sake, what were they expecting? They should take more responsibility for things like that, have them properly locked up. Anything could’ve happened. Someone might’ve got hurt. Other than that plod. Either way we didn’t come away with it with anything like fifty-frigging grand, I can tell you that for free.

    And they’ve got them on show in a tent for fuck’s sake, so the security can’t be bollocks. It’s Danny Mattoc’s crew what got the contract for the lockdown, and streak of piss in the wind that he is we could probably walk out with the bloody things in a barrow for all the trouble it would take. Though them being bronze,

    that might be hard, and then what are you going to do with them? I mean what kind of fence is going to hand over fifty large for five bronze bin bags? I’d end up having to melt the fucking things down and sell ’em for scrap, and given what I’d get for them it probably wouldn’t be worth the hassle. What’d happen is, I’d just have to dump them back on the street, which would be somewhat ironical, all things considered. And then the whole game of soldiers could start off again, with Turk swinging by to pick them up so he could cast them again and extract another wodge of moullah out of some other wanker banker with more house than nous.

    Though I’d like to see him hoist them in that prick-tease little fairy-wagon this time around. If they didn’t go straight through the floor they’d burst the tyres or snap the wishbones. And then were would the fucking fairies be, eh? Eh?

    Bitch! How fucking dare she? What didn’t I do for her? What didn’t I give her? Fucking cows, whores the lot of them, all that I love you let me

    fuck you crap when they only want one thing: a long fat length of wallet. Not that I’m likely to be able to have much of that, not working construction shifts for cash like this – and where is that wanker Col? – not unless I win the frigging lottery, which is hardly likely since it’s three years since I bought a bloody ticket. Either that or I go out and mug an artist, which should see me alright for a while given that the whole world seems to have decided to give them good hard cash for the oldest bloody rope. I just don’t get it, I really don’t. Maybe I should get into art myself, I could do better than half these jokers, I really fucking could. That ram-raid, that was art, it really was, and we were bloody pissed. And those bin bags, they’re mine for fuck’s sake, like I said, I should bloody sue.

    I wonder if could get legal aid?

    And where the fuck is Col?

    © James Flint, November 2008
    www.jamesflint.net
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Flint_(British_novelist)