Using the language games of retail, industry and postminimalist art, my work invites viewers to take away for free objects that are unwieldy and of questionable value. Playing on those mechanisms of social and economic control which are ordinarily overlooked, and yet always successful, my work draws attention to the possibility and impossibility of choice within a market-driven world.
Ordinarily fleeting and throwaway gestures or statements become ponderous, clumsy and unavoidable - whether overbearingly projected in 10-foot letters, or printed on heavy concrete blocks and turned into (literally) burdensome decisions - the effects of choosing to receive them have been made materially manifest. The moment in which these small henchmen of control are deployed are turned into everlasting markers of the exchange - constantly reasserting and referencing themselves, or requiring considerable effort to be removed, and even then continuing to physically exist. Unlike a paper receipt that vanishes into a shopping bag or a spoken pleasantry that is forgotten as soon as said, in all likelihood these items will outlive their owners.
1000pcs x 100mm cubes (+/- 20mm tolerance) consists of two chiller cabinets (this particular chiller cabinet model named 'Money Makers' by its manufacturer) stocked with 1000 industrially-produced concrete cubes which have been 'priced' with the word NEXT. Within the cabinets, the blocks become the carriers of the speech act - the imperative which the word NEXT implies no longer comes from an individual or even a system, but from a heavy lump of concrete, serving to highlight the invisible ideology that drives the speech act in its usual context. Both chiller and cube are laden with the associations of their natural homes: the world of food retail, and that of the construction industry. They are also environmentally destructive, and yet both are pervasive tools of the modern world. These imported contexts collide with each other and with their new home - the gallery space; the automatic actions associated with these disparate contexts (take, look, ignore, etc) cross paths and destabilize each other. I am interested in the choices the viewer makes within the work - which imported context the viewer allies themselves with. There is no winning position or eureka moment in which the viewer escapes their subjectivity in the systems evoked - this encounter does not exist outside of these systems, instead it highlights how these systems simultaneously depend on and create our response i.e. they are contingent and productive of individual subjectivity. A space outside of this matrix is beyond our experience.
The simple, monochrome cube, the uniform stacks, the sharp lines and strip lighting of the chiller cabinets, and the artful, sculptural placing within the gallery space all make oblique reference to the Minimalist art object/installation. And yet this is undermined at every turn. The cube brings with it the imperfections and decidedly un-crisp anomalies of its production, revealing its intended use in the industrial system in which it was produced. The uniform stacks disintegrate as the objects are taken. The chiller cabinets' dirty buzz, clunking fans, work-worn appearance and visible mechanisms belie the clean sleek lines they attempt to create. And as much as the chillers can be read as a sculptural installation within the gallery space, they are so tied to their retail and functional use in our understanding that their presence is unmistakably out of place: although they are ubiquitous and recognisable in everyday use, they usually go unnoticed, receding in favour of the items they display.
The life of the work relies on the viewer's interaction with it. Those viewers who choose to take away a sharp, cumbersome, heavy block, not only ascribe value to the object, but also contribute to the shifting of the physical manifestation of the work. As the blocks disperse, the appearance and spatial reach of the work changes. So too does another of its distinguishing features - temperature. The blocks are cold, adding to the specificity of the sensory experience of holding them. As they slowly warm in the hand, they lose connection with their origin, and take on the temperature properties of the new owner. But it is not only through the taking of a block that the viewer becomes enmeshed in the work: standing in the chiller section, we are chilled too. Our bodies are modified (temporarily) by the environment, even if we choose not to take an item. While we're making our choice, other choices have already been made for us.
More work and information at www.jessblackstone.co.uk
Summer Shows 2012
Join us to celebrate creativity and spot the stars of the future this summer. Eclectic exhibitions of art, design, fashion, communication and performance are taking place at sites across London from April to September and are free to attend.More information