IMAGE: MIR 11 during installation. Photo: Din Heagney.
PATCHES SEQUENCES RHYTHMS
MIR 11, Melbourne
Originally published in un Magazine, Issue 4.
I had ventured out on a drenched Melbourne afternoon to arrive at a chilly Flinders Lane car park where I made my way clunking up an elevator to the 11th ‘satellitic’ floor otherwise known as MIR 11. Whatever my initial expectations for this car park space they soon dissipated as I stood dripping and pondering a misplaced piece of designer graffiti that marks the entrance to an architectural design studio – something not quite right here.
Were it not for Constanze Zikos at work smoothing the contact bumps on the back wall, one could easily stroll into the studio thinking it was part of the exhibition area. Well actually, I did have a sticky, but didn’t get far as a pair of black rims at a desk looked up at me with a silent and disdainful regard. So spinning on my heel, I shot back into the foyer – if you can call it that – and inadvertently wandered into another studio and only to receive similar solemn looks. Design is a cool and serious business.
This partly repolished concrete car park may function sufficiently well as a working space for architects who can look down on the people fighting for sunlight and parking, possibly even being inspired by the endless reproduction of ‘architectural’ takes on boxes with holes that pop up in the city like so many weeds. Yet as a space for contemporary art, MIR 11 leaves little room for redefinition and instead feels more like a too cool postmodern take on the corporate foyer, a place where bold art can liven up a bland wall, a sometimes unfortunate but common indictment on the potential markets of modern and contemporary art. In any case, it’s not what you’ve got but what you do with it – evidently.
Despite my ambivalence to the space itself, Zikos’ work lifted the potential of this top floor of concrete. There was a subtle irony in his slippery, faux constructed surfaces that neatly streamed between the studios, reflecting the walls and the floor back inside itself in a double-pointed geometric form that outlined negative space. What is a work of art that wraps a space that reconceptualises its walls to make us question, if we can be bothered, why is this space here at all? Is it the space containing the art that we are looking at? Or are we looking at the work framing that space? A smooth white wall is revealed, only by the act of covering, to be a mass of bumps and creases, lines and patches. One illusion replaced by another illusion. This is what Zikos does with the finesse of an interior decorator fuelled by the mind of a classical philosopher on amphetamines.
This artful deception of cheap resurfacing abounds in modern Australian culture from suburban bathrooms to national galleries. Are we as consumers fooled? Mostly. We are wrapped tightly in the veneer of natural imitation while we wipe down the dust blowing from the land we too easily pretend isn’t there. So we quietly, perhaps apathetically, celebrate this condition by our oft unspoken and secret artistic desire for aristocratic high cultural indulgence – that lingering cultural hangover from European migration peculiar to an increasingly refashioned white minority. As Sue Cramer writes in Zikos’ recent MUMA retrospective catalogue: “In an urban culture where nature is rivaled by artifice, where ‘authentic’ or genuine articles are often replaced by synthetic versions, Zikos shows us how fakes can sometimes ring with truth more enticing, more compelling than the real.”
This wall-mounted piece at MIR 11, in reflective silver and marble print contact, is an extended version of a sequence of works by Zikos, exhibited individually at Tolarno, the Caroline Springs Home Show, MUMA and Tribeca, NYC. These reflective rooms and his related paintings explore the artificial surfaces of plastics, laminex and veneers. They reflect our desire for them and the displaced meaning those same products have in the resurfacing of design, art and history. Their materials are removed from their original context of domestic and commercial interiors. The forms they cover cease to perform in their standards of decoration and protection, becoming instead a point of absent query, or as Zikos describes it: “light and asphyxiating – like being stuck inside a glass blown pipe”.
Sue Cramer, catalogue essay, Anathematic: The Work of Constanze Zikos 1990-2003, Monash Museum of Modern Art MUMA, 2003, p.5.
Conversation with the artist, August 2004.