We are building a thing.
This is not a group show. It is one artwork, one thing constructed by 12 artists.
Each of us participates in its construction and sees what we have made grow into the structure. On returning, the structure has grown back to incorporate part, or sometimes most of what we made before. Elements of other’s work seem to spread through the structure like genetic mutations, flashes of coloured tape or particular geometric motifs echoing around the space.
It also seems the fabric of the building is being consumed, grown over, becoming infected and reaching back. In one place a wave of seemingly levitating wooden strips wash over the office cabin, from another what looks like an air duct made of card and plywood grows back from the building to meet it.
John Carpenter’s 1982 film, The Thing, portrays a parasitic extraterrestrial life-form that assimilates other organisms, moving from body to body. The human protagonists are isolated in an Antarctic research centre and paranoia is pervasive as the dwindling survivors try to ascertain who is infected.
Whilst the apocalyptic plot is perhaps endemic to its era of heightened Cold War tensions it can still chime strongly with today’s politics of fear. At OVADA there are moments too of tension and paranoia, questions are asked but left unanswered, uncertainty pervades. This is the nature and spirit of the thing.
In Carpenter’s kennel scene we are given a graphic depiction of the viral life-form’s transition as it infects and inhabits one of the stations sled dogs. In its transitional state we get glimpses of the previous forms it has mimicked, some of this world, some of others: human body parts, tentacles, a prehensile tongue, giant fleshy spider’s legs, a sort of toothed flower.
Perhaps this is The Thing’s perfect state; a thing between things, a thing of other things, a sort of celebration of the possibility of things in all their wonderful possibilities and foulness.
Our thing is a glorious mess, a riot of ideas and forms, a conflict of colours and materials, a conflation of creative actions, an amalgamation of things within a thing. In order to do this we have had to discard our preciousness and to leave our egos behind.
At the end of the Carpenter’s film, MacReady may have destroyed The Thing by blowing up the research centre but the suspicion remains that Childs is infected. The two ultimately realise their distrust is futile and share a drink; either way, there is no place left for ego.
In a fortnight’s time we will remove all traces of our work from OVADA. Our thing, like The Thing, will be destroyed, by drill-driver and skip rather than flame thrower or dynamite.
I suspect we will all survive but am certain that we have all been infected.