Harry Dodge refuses to pick sides. In ‘User’, his first exhibition at Callicoon Fine Arts in New York, the artist presents several sculptures, drawings and a new video that continue his interest in the ways in which contradictions between objects and ideas can produce humour, pleasure, and intimacy. ‘User’ expands Dodge’s Bartleby-like refusal of form, compiling various material referents – from the readymade to the space ship – to proliferate the useful operations any one object might contain.
I am a Strange Loop (2017) consists of two wedges of aluminium – a teetering monolith welded to a sloping base – lacquered and painted fuchsia. The acute angle made by the shapes makes the sculpture look like a car without a driver, but also something more ambiguous, like a crystalline rock hurled from space. Appropriately, Dodge’s forthcoming memoir is titled My Meteorite: Or, Without the Random There Can Be No New Thing (Penguin Books, 2020) – further insight into Dodge’s attention to furtive arrangements of form. Affixed to one side of the monolith is a flat slab of wood cut like a painter’s palate, with an aged, knotty surface. As you move around the piece, other elements, such as a pyramid-shaped incision and protrusions like antennae or arms, make the object seem less like a caricature than a representative character of our technological era.
Black Transparency (The Cloud Polis draws revenue from the cognitive capital of its Users.) (2017) combines aluminium piping, wood and a scavenged vent from a rocket ship. On one side, a waterfall of black resin spills out of a polyethylene bucket, and the thick liquid is suspended mid-air. Even as its possible historical referents become clear – Duchamp’s fountain, perhaps, or a perverse ramping up of Michael Fried’s mantra of an object held in ‘endless, or indefinite, duration’ ad infinitum – its black spillage suggests a biochemical incongruity with these historical formats; a pouring out of insides, a compulsive, joyous change in state. A series of six smaller objects, collectively called ‘Works of Love’ (2017–18), are also on display. Given their size and simplicity, these ‘works’ could be models or prototypes for the larger constructions on display. Like the histories on which Dodge riffs in Black Transparency, ‘Love’, taken in the context of these ‘Works’, feels less like a promise than it is does an iterative practice: a force that requires some sticking with, lots of reckoning, maybe even repetition.
A similar concern is echoed in Late Heavy Bombardment (2019), a new video. This one nods to our penchant, as human subjects, to love and to fight. In it, an alien lecturer (with a British accent) gives a short lesson about self-defence and retaliation to an ensemble of creaturely ‘Harry Dodges’ – among them a zombie, a fuzzy decapitated head, a rock, a man in his underwear and a cyborg. ‘You may seriously injure or kill the person’, the alien warns the various non-human and partially human set of Dodges, followed by: ‘But otherwise, yes, good, yeah – Choke, choke away’. In his self-image, Dodge constructs the various means by which even his own behaviours are always already constructed by the restrictions, instructions and actions of others. Bombardment, before its apocalyptic finale, depicts the irresoluteness of both human form and post-human form. It prods at the way we confuse use, abuse and refusal without providing a clear way out, revelling briefly in our togetherness.
Harry Dodge, ‘User’ runs at Callicoon Fine Arts through 23 June 2019.
Main image: Late Heavy Bombardment, 2019, video still. Courtesy: the artist and Callicoon Fine Arts
First published in Issue 205