The Leckeys run out again

There was a recent lecture at UAL by Scouse provocateur Mark Leckey which I unfortunatly missed as I don’t live in Londinium. I don’t know what was discussed at the lecture but his name being mentioned got me thinking. An interesting guy Leckey, looking like some kind of swashbuckling amalgamation of Paul Calf and the Scarlet Pimpernel, a younger generation seem to have latched onto a lot of his ideas, which is great. I remember his piece ‘Fiorucci made me Hardcore’;

Which at first glance seems like some kind of clumsily edited found footage documentary of 70’s Soul Boys, 80’s football casuals, ravers, Northern English scallies and a seemingly random assortment of partying ‘Ne’er-do-Wells’. On repeated viewings this video reveals a kind of brutal nostalgic beauty, a yearning for times past and youth culture as mysticism.

A cultural magpie, he talks of ‘possessing the computer generated image’ or ‘apprehending the object’. There was another later piece at the TATE where he aimed a speaker stack at and sonically blasted one of its best known sculptures, Jacon Epsteins ‘Jacob and the Angel’;

“Leckey told me that it was about trying to apprehend the object, trying to relate to it, but having to do so indirectly, almost tacking towards it, because of the sheer impossibility of grasping it directly. Of course he understood the history of modernist sculpture, intellectually; but on another level the Epstein, completed in 1941, was also as distant to him and as bewildering as, say, an Egyptian artefact. His performance was a way of wooing it, goading it, to speak to him. “I wanted to elicit from it its meaning and intention.” [1]

This brings me in a roundabout way to the IoT, which I am investigating, and a later performance work of his, GreenScreenRefrigeratorAction (2010);

The Fridge stood on a green screen infinity cyc while ‘he coaxed it into revealing its thoughts and actions’. It shows a shiny black Samsung smart fridge pondering its existence and mingling with like objects. In a scientifically-charged description that concerns its inner workings, the fridge’s anguished, robotic first person voiceover renders audible its inner life and its potential dreams. As we create increasingly smarter objects, Leckey predicts a world in which things become sentient, start communicating, and alter our environment into new digital ecosystems.

“Now, instead of wanting to seduce an object into offering up its meaning, Leckey seemed to want the object to consume him. The work began with his inhaling the gases used as coolant for a Samsung fridge: a kind of shamanistic ritual in which, in order to understand the fridge, he took on some of its characteristics. The fridge sang back a kind of mournful plainchant: “See, see, see we assemble. See we assemble. See we assemble; Samsung, Viking, Gaggenau and Whirlpool …” The work, Leckey said, is a kind of fantasy: that he could bring himself into “a state outside of myself, fridge-like, less-human, feeling like an image”. As if he wanted to dissolve into pixels.

You could see the work as nodding to the notion of the internet of things – the technology through which objects, especially consumer appliances, will be connected online (such that a fridge might text you when you are short of milk; or suggest recipes from the ingredients within it). You could see it, more broadly, as a reaction to the fact that technology is triggering strange, disruptive new relationships between humans, objects and images; people, animals and machines.” [2]

Note to Self:

  • Cultural Theorists: In this blog post I have ticked as one of the categories for it to be assigned to is ‘Cultural Theorists’. I wonder if Leckey would like that? 🙂
  • Wonder if anyone has recorded that lecture he gave recently? would be good to see what the scallywag is up to.

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