07 Jan Mark Melvin – Clear Recent History
Du 08-01-2016 au 07-02-2016
In Boris Groy’s text “Comrades of Time” the present or contemporary is described as a point where we postpone our decisions and actions in order to have more time for analysis, reflection and consideration, a time of indecision and delay. In his discussion on the subject he speaks of our today as ever more temporary, where the future is constantly newly planned and the past rewritten (through cultural trends, fashion, technology etc). Rather than the present being a stable transition from past to future it has instead become the site for the rewriting of both past and future.
The title of Mark Melvin’s first solo exhibition at Yoko Uhoda Gallery, CLEAR RECENT HISTORY, responds to this subject referencing the manner in which we regularly delete the search history as we open our laptops and browse the internet for information. Melvin explores this condition in a very specific repetitive way; through thematizing non-productive, non-historical, excessive time by presenting us with the the passing of time without any end point or climax. In some of the works on display we can see this directly with the concept of the work being replaced by the notion of the process whose function is not always to represent anything outside itself, but only to refer to its own creation. This is especially notable in pieces like WT 2015. Here we see a kinetic flip clock which mimics the form of a rail station board. “What happens when nothing happens?” changes to read “That happens then nothing happens.”, a proposition suffering an a-teleological loop with no more of an agenda than to refer to its own repeating movement. This process of looping that runs through the exhibition is not an expression of exasperation in the face of life’s inexplicable questions, but rather, a memorialisation of the essential and universal truth of the statements on display. If life is a journey it is not about where we get to, or as one of Melvin’s previous pieces Changes 2009 puts it: ‘When we’re hoping for changes, we all stay the same’.
What can be seen in Melvin’s practice to date is a preoccupation with the work as process, and in turn repetition, sequence and rhythmic iteration have been key elements within his practice, especially in his early video and performance works. In this exhibition however the artist has curated together a body of predominantly text-based light, drawing and kinetic works whose overall agenda is to question our relationship with time. Whether presenting us with the passing of time, or questioning our past, present and future, the pieces on display share the same intention to arrest us at the moment of encounter with the work and focus us on the here and now.
Apart from those works seeking to absorb us through mesmeric, kinetic, flashing and repeating loops there are other strategies and techniques employed. Several works seek to fixate us on the process of deciphering and reconfiguring the evident and hidden texts they display. Melvin’s light-box stained glass windows from the Vidimus series, do just this, borrowing from a religious language of memorialisation to commemorate abstracted statements. This language has been stretched to abstraction so that, at first, the viewer experiences only the aesthetic pleasure of coloured shards of light. But as in a cathedral, contained within the revelation of their illumination, Melvin’s glass windows invoke us to a deeper reflection. They become circles of constant affirmation and negation – in medium and physical form, and in text and concept – they trap us in their spherical loop and force us to consider the shifting pendulum of life.
In the numerous drawings on display, themselves the result of cycles of endless rewriting, erasing and repairing, there is more vulnerability and transparency than in the self-assured wordplay of the neon and light boxes. In ink, erratic and loosely drawn by hand the layered texts offer up open statements. Here, texts which appear filled with deep suggestion ring hollow. They appear unstable, monuments made up of left over chips of rubber from the reiterative process of erasure.
The viewer is guided through the exhibition through a succession of reiterative memorials in a variety of media. They echo one another; a constant reminder of the passing of time and our aspirations, regrets and memories in relation to it. Our momentary existence within a new ‘time’, directed by Melvin is contectualised by the surrounding philosophical concepts: locking us into a reflection upon the inexplicable, the existential and the mundane.