Screen Objects

Mika Savela
Oct 19, 2014 7:59AM

Millions of streams of images are continuously curated on ever-expanding online networks and platforms. Feeds of clippings, creators and histories are getting mangled together, some say for instant gratification, in a flux of immediate contemporaneity. What Would Rauschenberg Say?

In November 1961, Life Magazine featured new generation American artists partaking in an exhibition by MoMA (Art of the Assemblage). Seen in nostalgia-toned grainy images, hiding behind his works, a blurry smoking figure of a youngish Robert Rauschenberg describes them as “reports on the multiplicity of contemporary life” created out of “anything that’s available.” Yet, he expresses regret, as paintings, collages and mixtures of daily life oddments are never truly “immediate,” only portraying “yesterday’s going-ons.”

The exasperation echoes as an answer to the seemingly random post-medium question about Rauschenberg’s thoughts. Currently, amidst the curatorial turn, the speculations and frustrations on exhibition-making, it would seem that some immediacy has been achieved, as objets trouvés numériques have become a Rauschenbergian “patchwork of oddments.”

According to one definition of the assemblage, its objects participate in an attempt to “bridge the gap between art and life.” Today, this could be interpreted variably — what is life or art, what are the mediating objects in between? But working with a digital library of available anythings proposes a problem. When, if ever, do screen objects become objects of art? What happens when they are taken out from the feed, identified, historicized, handled and reviewed? Does their lure only exist in contexts unobtainable by traditional exhibition formats, as obscure and random mismatches of the meta-curatorial cultural post-production — such as a photo blog?

Screen Objects taps into this context, where curating and collecting indeed exist as online activities, but remaining devoid of physicality or traditional authenticity. Treading on unproven ground, it proposes an inquisitive and comparative setting of observing works both as temporally bound artifacts, as well as a contemporary reading in the narrative of a new immediacy. Emanating from a small Rauschenberg photo Untitled [Scatole Personali] (1953) depicting an assortment of boxed items, the works chosen on the personal screen similarly become a meta-installation, created by a network of connotations and interlinked markers. The exhibition creates a series of oddments, interests, likings and pairings: Rauschenberg’s tones of pollen and the gold cast remnants of a fruit, Maya Lin’s marble circle together with Ai Weiwei’s helmet, Sigmar Polke’s sprouts of greenery with Ai’s ceramic wave, the strange botanies of Chan Chong Fui and Rauschenberg’s potatoes, the deer scene by Liu Jude and the simultaneity of Robert Gober’s newspapers.

What the pairings suggest, is that a collection, an exhibition or a narrative today exists in a new participatory realm beyond the traditional spectatorship or curating. Our screens open an unknown territory for art to exist both in personal and public media, but at the same time we find that the object continues to exist and entice with newfound immediacy.

 1. “From Machine-Age Rubbish, Startling New Creations,” Life Magazine, November 24, 1961, 66-67.

2. Philip Cooper, Assemblage, definition in Grove Art Online

Mika Savela