(Un)timely Part 2
Curated by Bruno Smith
(un)Timely Untethered, Part 2
Curated by Bruno Smith
October 22 - November 20
“Charming flower, tell me, do, What genera and species you belong to. I, as may be seen at once, am just a daisy, green of leaf and white of petal. You are neither green nor white nor blue nor any color I have known. In what Eden have you grown? Sprang you from earth or sky above? In either case, accept my love.”
“Why, thank you,” the toaster replied, addressing the daisy that was pressing its petaled face close to the toaster’s gleaming chrome. “It’s kind of you to ask, but in fact I’m not a flower at all. I’m an electric toaster.”
[...] It suddenly dawned on the toaster how the squirrels—and the daisy the day before—had come by their confusions. They were seeing themselves (italics) in its sides! Living in the wild as they did, where there are no bathroom mirrors, they were unacquainted with the principle of reflectivity. It considered trying to explain their error to them, but what would be the use? They would only go away with hurt feelings. You can’t always expect people, or squirrels, to be rational. Appliances, yes—appliances have to be rational, because they’re built that way. —Thomas M. Disch, The Brave Little Toaster (1980)
If, as the toaster suggests, we could see ourselves in our appliances, what needs, habits, dependencies, or expectations might be reflected back in their gleaming chrome? These objects that bring us efficiency, ease, and comfort hum in the background, giving structure to daily life and work. While we have a hand in designing and customizing their forms, these objects also actively shape our environments—from our homes fitted for heating, cooling, gas, electricity, to the very ground we walk and drive across. The further away we move from manual technologies towards digitization and automation, the easier it becomes to forget what this labor looks like when slowed down. Expected to fulfill the task they’ve been designed for, do we even consider the function that non-sentient objects perform to be a form of labor in the first place?
In her plushing and pleating of a digital print, Emma Safir proposes a connection between the invisible labor historically performed by women and the passive labor of digital technologies. Nora Normile’s adorned (seemingly) domestic ceramics slip in and out of identifiable patterns and everyday utilitarian forms. What happens when the form is there but the function is gone? Likewise, Nick Sullivan crafts furnaces out of paper, the very material used for combustion, thus collapsing function and annihilation. Placing blonde wig crystal balls upon vents, Steph Zimmerman explores the homogenization of American homes after the invention of central A/C alongside the packaging and commodification of celebrity Pattie Page. Jonathan Santoro explores the American opioid epidemic through his series of anthropomorphized hubcaps that demand us to HALT and confront the four emotions (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) to be attuned to during recovery. Stephanie Boyer depicts cars submerged in murky waters in a serene representation of decay, overconsumption, and psychological atrophy in the age of natural and manmade disasters. Bruno Smith’s head lamp plays with the metaphysical notion of “harnessing energy” from portals (outlets) that plug us into the omnipresent electrical grid—an ode to both the magnitude of technological advancement and the eeriness of privatized electricity.
When it comes to the labor of the artist, what do we offer in fetishising functional forms? Pulling them away from their intended use and distorting their shiny, fabricated, mint condition, the function they perform becomes highlighted and an empathic exchange can begin. By un-optimizing production and utility, these works slow down our impulse towards efficiency and distort function. Together these works ask to be considered as both artistic forms and as stand-ins for functional objects whose labor and production are often obscured.
Nora Normile (b. 1992 NYC) is an artist currently living and working in New Brunswick, NJ pursuing an MFA at Rutgers University, Mason Gross. Received her BFA from NYU, a solo show at Entrance Gallery (2019). Her thesis show will be opening september 15.