Chadwick Rantanen

Team Bungalow, Los Angeles, USA

The pall of death hangs over Chadwick Rantanen’s exhibition ‘Alarmer’. This is ironic because many of the constituent objects in his assemblage sculptures are expressly designed to simulate life. Battery-operated hunting decoys flap their wings and wag their tails in order to attract animals that are living (though soon to be dead).

Rantanen’s Deer Rear (all works 2017) is a pitiful construction. The stylized hindquarters of a deer are laid on the floor, black electrical guts spilling out of the creature’s belly. With an irregular force and tempo, its tail twitches as if it were in the final stages of expiration. In a sense, this is indeed the case: the tail is powered by a dying power pack, which the artist has fitted with batteries smaller than those intended by the manufacturer. As a paradoxical consequence, the decoy is animated with an uncannily realistic weariness.

team-2017-03-09_034-cmyk.jpg

Chadwick Rantanen, Deer Rear, 2017, installation view Team Bungalow, Los Angeles

Chadwick Rantanen, Deer Rear, 2017, installation view Team Bungalow, Los Angeles

Rantanen often works with brand-new objects that are already tired in all sorts of ways. Consumer products, probably made in Chinabut associated with red-state Americana, speak of a broader national malaise. Between the petrochemical origin of these plastics and the decoys’ intended violence, there liesan implicit position of antagonismtowards the natural environment, even as its resources are depleted.

The batteries that power the kinetic sculptures in ‘Alarmer’ are cased in plastic sleeves, designed by Rantanen, which resemble cartoon bees. These yellow and black striped covers enable them to fit into slots for the fatter (and higher capacity) batteries, while their plastic wings serve no function except to prevent the cover from closing. Bees, today, are contradictory symbols: of Utopian collectivism and – as Colony Collapse Disorder takes hold across North America and parts of Europe – of environmental catastrophe.

All around Deer Rear, in the shed-like back gallery of Team Bungalow, sculptures that look like ornate, Jorge Pardo-designed flypapers hang from the ceiling. The templates for the scalloped forms come from a pattern designed for products meant for use in hospitals – gowns, wallpaper, curtains, carpets – which is intended to be aesthetically inert. The installation is titled Hanging Strips (Yellow) – yellow because parts of the translucent plastic are smeared, repellently, with silicone glue. Stuck to this mucous substance are wrinkled flakes ofa darker material, identified by the checklist as antimicrobial film – which Rantanen reportedly painstakingly scrapes off hospital fabrics. The result is an artwork for the post-nature era.

team-2017-03-09_014.jpg

Chadwick Rantanen, Admitting Green, 2017, installation view, Team Bungalow, Los Angeles

Chadwick Rantanen, Admitting (Green), 2017, installation view, Team Bungalow, Los Angeles

The icky smeared silicone and antimicrobial film reappears in another, medically inflected sculpture, Admitting (Green): a folded rectangle of corrugated plastic on the floor, the interior gunk only visible through circular apertures and its two open ends. Far more compelling is the large, hanging sculpture Crow Spread, with which it shares Team Bungalow’s front space. This show-stopping work resembles the horrific spectacle of six crows strung up by their feet and flapping in panic. As with Deer Rear, the birds are decoys hacked by Rantanen’s battery adapters, busy bees that seem like parasites, cheerfully speeding the death throes of the trapped birds. The piece is a chandelier for a psychopath’s dining room.

The final irony, of course, is that any owner of these kinetic sculptures will be obliged to care for them by endlessly replacing the batteries, which the motors drain all too quickly. The bees may be powering these end-of-life simulations, but they are themselves designed to die fast. Deception is built upon cruel deception: the illusion of life in these works leads to death, if you’re a crow, or to a repeating simulation of death, if you’re lucky enough to be a human.

Main image: Chadwick Rantanen, Crow Spread (detail), 2017, installation view, Team Bungalow, Los Angeles

Jonathan Griffin is a contributing editor of frieze and a freelance writer living in Los Angeles.

Issue 187

First published in Issue 187

May 2017

Most Read

Ignoring its faux-dissident title, this year's edition at the New Museum displays a repertoire that is folky, angry,...
An insight into royal aesthetics's double nature: Charles I’s tastes and habits emerge as never before at London’s...
In other news: Artforum responds to #NotSurprised call for boycott of the magazine; Maria Balshaw apologizes for...
At transmediale in Berlin, contesting exclusionary language from the alt-right to offshore finance
From Shanghai to Dubai, a new history charts the frontiers where underground scenes battle big business for electronic...
Hauser & Wirth Somerset, Bruton, UK
Zihan Karim, Various Way of Departure, 2017, video still. Courtesy: Samdani Art Foundation
Can an alternative arts network, unmediated by the West's commercial capitals and burgeoning arts economies of China...
‘That moment, that smile’: collaborators of the filmmaker pay tribute to a force in California's film and music scenes...
In further news: We Are Not Surprised collective calls for boycott of Artforum, accuses it of 'empty politics'; Frida...
We Are Not Surprised group calls for the magazine to remove Knight Landesman as co-owner and withdraw move to dismiss...
Paul Thomas Anderson's latest film is both gorgeous and troubling in equal measure
With Zona Maco opening in the city today, a guide to the best exhibitions across the Mexican capital
The question at the heart of Manchester Art Gallery’s artwork removal: what are the risks when cultural programming...
In further news: Sonia Boyce explains removal of Manchester Art Gallery’s nude nymphs; Creative Scotland responds to...
Ahead of the India Art Fair running this weekend in the capital, a guide to the best shows to see around town
The gallery argues that the funding body is no longer supportive of institutions that maintain a principled refusal of...
The Dutch museum’s decision to remove a bust of its namesake is part of a wider reconsideration of colonial histories,...
At New York’s Metrograph, a diverse film programme addresses a ‘central problem’ of feminist filmmaking
Ronald Jones pays tribute to a rare critic, art historian, teacher and friend who coined the term Post-Minimalism
In further news: curators rally behind Laura Raicovich; Glasgow's Transmission Gallery responds to loss of Creative...
Nottingham Contemporary, UK
‘An artist in a proud and profound sense, whether he liked it or not’ – a tribute by Michael Bracewell
Ahead of a show at Amsterdam’s EYE Filmmuseum, how the documentarian’s wandering gaze takes in China’s landscapes of...
In further news: Stedelijk explains why it cancelled Ettore Sottsass retrospective; US National Gallery of Art cancels...
With 11 of her works on show at the Musée d'Orsay, one of the most underrated artists in modern European history is...
Reopening after a two-year hiatus, London’s brutalist landmark is more than a match for the photographer’s blockbuster...
What the Google Arts & Culture app tells us about our selfie obsession
At a time of #metoo fearlessness, a collection of female critics interrogate their own fandom for music’s most...
A rare, in-depth interview with fashion designer Jil Sander

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

October 2017

frieze magazine

November - December 2017

frieze magazine

January - February 2018