Contemporary Brazilian artist Cinthia Marcelle’s recent installation The Family in Disorder: Truth or Dare (Modern Art Oxford, 10 March to 27 May) enacts a relation between order and chaos in a way that sets them up as a polarity of situations, enacting a destabilised, politically-charged option of truths. Two rooms contain exactly the same eclectic and charged set of materials: shoelaces, matchboxes, smoke grenades, cotton bolts, black plastic sheeting, brown paper, bricks, masking tape, hook and loop fastener tape, chalk, stones, metal barrels, topsoil, gaffer tape, hemp rope, notebooks, chicken feathers, poplar wood batten, carpet.
In one, the artist ranked them into a single block like a low wall across the width of the space, each object locked together like a perfect geometry-puzzle answer to a spatial problem. Marcelle had done the same in the second room, but invited the collaboration of a set of local artists who work as technicians for MAO (so they need to be named, though this at once raises the possibility that artists. too, might become lists of ingredients) – Aline Tima, Aaron Head, Chris Jackson, Kamila Janska, Andy Owen and Sebastian Thomas – to respond to and reconfigure these items in any way they chose. The result was a room of exuberant, chaotic unstructuring: heaps, tatters, glimpses of smaller structures in progress or collapse; fragile networks and random or playful abandon.
Between one room and the other (which to look at first?) a stark tension operates, one that can’t, it seems, ever be quite resolved: wall or site? structure or diffusion? Meanings leak from both: is it too easy to see the riotous pleasure of mess as signalling rebellion and revolt, where rigour and logic only ever mean bureaucratic authority? Raoul Vaneigem’s 1967 Situationist handbook The Revolution of Everyday Life demands playful, desirous and spontaneous affray as the only tactic that can undo the tyranny of today’s political, social and cultural lockdowns, and recommends that from now on, no-one specialises or takes charge: the interworld, the space of life finally, truly lived. But even this, he notes, means at some point ‘the project of centralising scattered poetry’, the establishment of a radical praxis within ‘the project to construct daily life in and through the struggle against the commodity form’. Making, breaking, remaking, rebreaking, unbreaking, unmaking . . .
Images: Cinthia Marcelle, The Family in Disorder: Truth or Dare, Modern Art Oxford 2018, sourced from Rosalind Hayes’ review in Studio International