Desert Island (2013)
Palm tree, soil
18.28m x 1.5m x 1.5m
Desert Island (2013) is the opening work in Adam Chodzko’s exhibition at Raven Row, London, We are Ready for Your Arrival which explores the materialisation, through objects, texts and images, of the processes of artistic creative production; its expectations, ambitions, coincidences, irrational leaps and failures. The manifestations of these experiences are then paralleled through references to environmental transformation and collapse.
Using an elaborate narrative about growth, decay and disaster the installation begins with the challenge of representing a 60′ palm tree (the object anticipated in the title of the show) through the ‘accident’ of its physical absence (it’s failure to arrive at Raven Row due, apparently, to being infested with Red Palm Weevil, and therefore currently ‘banished’ to quarantine). The wall label for Desert Island still anticipates in its title and caption the palm tree being in place. But the reality of the material manifestation of Desert Island in the gallery is a blue tarpaulin and a bamboo, rope and hessian support structure for installing the palm. The overall show title We are Ready for Your Arrival also serves to position this collection of installation materials as permanently being in a state of waiting (like a castaway on a desert island) for the ‘real’ object (the palm) to complete the artwork. Through this Chodzko continues his exploration of the status of the art object in relation to the social by creating the work through a situation of ‘bad timing,’ either as premature or much too late, in the wrong place at the wrong time, for example, the art object being missing or misplaced (eg: Because...2013 ), a vast sculpture being alluded to through its absence (it created a problem and therefore needed to be destroyed, eg: Pyramid, 2008 and Hole , 2007) or an artwork being made negligently by ‘an artist’, and therefore having damaging consequences to a community (eg: Somewhere Else, In Order to Complete Them, 2015) until such a time as its ‘good’ can be discovered.
Equally precarious in Desert Island is the reliability of its textual mediation. Its accompanying wall text of title and caption is undermined and mined for opening up another possible space for fantasy, creating a tension between what is being claimed is being exhibited and what actually appears. It prompts the question whether the latter ever attains the status of becoming ‘art,’ or indeed whether the title and caption are also to be included as extensions of the art object. (This inquiry, akin to that explored by Magritte’s ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe’, is further developed by Chodzko in the upper floor of Raven Row as part of Like This, involving a bamboo pipe piercing the exterior window of the gallery through which to pass, apparently fruitlessly, a mulberry liquid). As with several other works by Chodzko, in We are Ready for Your Arrival generally and Desert Island in particular, he is the artist but is also playing (with) that role in order to destabilise it. The absurd, egotistical and phallic ambition to desire the imposition of a massive palm tree in the centre of Raven Row would rupture the grade 1 listed building, piercing the ceiling of the main gallery in order to emerge from the green roof outside its first floor. Instead the palm’s sickness prompts an apology by the insects who infested it (We are Sorry), we see it in quarantine (The Quarantine Ship), and it turns (as through an architectural editing point) into a mulberry tree. The missing palm’s lack of materialisation within the gallery – it’s humiliating failure to arrive – contaminates the rest of the exhibition by producing other matter, a chain of events and leaps of connection, from Fukushima’s nuclear disaster to silk production and the folly of James 1st importation of the wrong mulberry trees, to fires and floods.
Props. For memorising the gravity of mime objects. (Flood) (2013) & Props. For memorising the gravity of mime objects. (Fire) (2013)
Slip. A Flying Prison (2011)
The Quarantine Ship (2013)
The Tropics of London (2013)
We are Ready for Your Arrival (2013) [exhibition at Raven Row, London, 2013]
We are Sorry (July 9, 2013)
Like This (2013)