We Are All U.F.O.-nauts
Gintaras Didžiapetris | Július Koller | Catherine Payton | Joe Winter
4 August – 2 September 2012
Fri – Sun 12—5pm or by appointment
I tried to resolve the discrepancy between utopia and real life. If I know that something unknown transcends me I cease to be merely a ‘human-ape’, but am also a human extra-terrestrial.
– Július Koller, 2003
Artists have long used mundane materials and everyday scenarios in order to construct objects and images that speak of the sublime and the cosmological. The biblical frescos by Fra Angelico were after all produced using something as commonplace as egg white. The Slovak artist Július Koller took this premise, that everything ordinary contains within it the potentiality to resonate beyond its designated means, as a core agenda of his conceptually driven art practice. Taking the acronym U.F.O., with its extra-terrestrial connotations, as a form of signature, he created a body of work spanning more than thirty years through which he attempted to transcend ‘human-ape’ status. While the photographs shown at Rhubaba utilise such imagery as the flying saucer, they are nevertheless permanently rooted in the reality of Koller’s day-to-day existence. These self-portraits, Po-Krik (U.F.O.) and Mysterious Cultural Situation (U.F.O.), are almost comic in their equation of supernatural metaphor and banal situation. In We are all U.F.O.-nauts the work of Koller is shown alongside three younger artists work that similarly seeks to play on the border between the real and the imaginary.
Xerox Astronomy is an artefact from a larger installation by the American artist Joe Winter. The work is produced by a photocopier placed at the heart of a mechanical system of desk lamps altered to circulate above the photocopy bed. The mottled black prints seen here being afterimages of the trajectories of these light sources. Winter takes the utterly mundane, a generic work assistant and banal embodiment of 21st century office environment, as a means of creating an image which recalls a form of scientific visioning infinitely more intangible and foreign than the form used in the production of the work, astrophotography. He liberates this enclosed system, allowing it the opportunity to speak out-with its own set environment. As he states: ‘I am interested in looking at a given system and seeing what else it has the potential to speak about, apart from its narrow band of acceptable usage.’
The artificial constellation of stars or blurry extra-terrestrial objects seen in Winter’s prints are, however, exactly that; artificial. They are suggestive of hoax-UFO photography, like that of Stephen Darbishire the 13 year old boy who in 1953 took what is thought to be the earliest British example of an illusory extra-terrestrial photograph. In a similar fashion, Catherine Payton’s work serves to animate the ordinary by pairing a willing suspension of disbelief with charlatanism. Her beguiling attempts to levitate or convince the audience they are watching a mirror-ball spinning are tempered by a conscientious amateurism. Her efforts are always anchored to the knowable stuff of everyday life, the celestial claims of her imagery brought back down to earth again forcibly.
Payton leaves us with niggling questions about the possibility of these surreal acts and the potential to navigate imaginary spheres. The Lithuanian artist Gintaras Didžiapetris in turn makes work that is both evasive and probing. A piece of paper with a cross design is tacked to the wall; ‘it is itself’ states the artist, ‘not an image or a construction’. It may bring forth thoughts of wrapping-paper, marginalia or the Photoshop crop tool, particularly as it is a cut-away from a larger stretch of a printed digital file. However, it quietly resists resolution, sharing with Koller’s oeuvre a critical stance to the dominant principles of art interpretation, questioning the status of artwork itself.
We are all U.F.O.-nauts correlates the everyday with the otherworldly, demonstrating the possibility implicit in every element of our daily existence to function on more celestial plains. As Koller has said, while his interest is in the transcendental, this is not at the expense of the real. The ordinary sites and matter employed in his photographs and actions, anchor what could otherwise be viewed as utopian to our tangible reality, ‘utopia with a question mark.’ What pervades in the work of Koller, Didžiapetris, Payton, and Winter is an invasion of questions and the opening up what appear to be closed systems of communication. This is where the power of such work lies, the extra-terrestrial may not be as disconnected from daily life as it may seem.
Part of Edinburgh Art Festival 2012
With additional thanks to gb agency and Sarah Cook
The U.F.O Library Archive:
1. Adams, Douglas, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Pan Books, 1980
2. Blunder, Nigel & Boar, Roger, The Worlds Greatest UFO Mysteries, Octopus Books, 1983
3. Carter, Angela, Wayward Girls & Wicked Women: An Anthology of Stories, Virago Press, 1986
4. Calvino, Italo, The Complete Cosmicomics, Penguin Classics, 2010
5. Deller, Jeremy and Kane Alan, Folk Archive
6. The Federal 1 and 2
7. Keiller, Patrick, The Possibility of Life’s Survival on the Planet, Tate Publishing’s, 2012
8. Khamns, Danil, Incidences, 1988
9. Koller, Julius, Univerzalne Futurologicke Operacie, Walther Konig, 1999
10. Verwoert, Jan, Tell Me What You Want, What You Really, Really Want, Sternberg Press, 2010
11. Warlock, Peter, The Complete Book of Magic
12. Wells, H.G, The First Men in the Moon, Penguin Books, 1901/2005
13. Wilde, Oscar, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Penguin Books, 1891
14. Woolf, Virginia, Orlando, Oxford World’s Classics, 1992
Gintaras Didžiapetris is an artist living and working in Vilnius, Lithuania
Július Koller (1939 – 2007) lived and worked in Bratislava, Slovakia. His work has recently been exhibited at the gb agency, Pairs and the Slovak National Gallery, Bratislava.
Catherine Payton (1985) graduated from Edinburgh College of Art in 2009. She was selected as part of the Collective Gallery’s New Work Scotland Programme in 2010. Recent exhibitions include Wonders of the Invisible World, Northern Gallery of Contemporary Art, Sunderland, 2011 and Nothing New Under the Sun, Duchy Gallery, 2010. www.catherinepayton.info
Joe Winter (1981) lives and works in Queens, New York. Winter studied at the University of California, San Diego, Brown University, Providence and Slade School of Fine Art, London. Recent solo-exhibitions include Model for a History of Light: Variable Array, National Glass Centre, Sunderland and Joe Winter: The Stars Below, The Kitchen, New York. http://www.severalprojects.com/