In Samuel Beckett’s “Act Without Words,” an actor is prevented from exiting, regulated by Beckett’s stage directions. Similarly, we are found with no way out of Kirk Faber’s paintings. The tragedy of needing to act out oneself is that one does not find an exit. With so much posturing, the onlooker attempts to grasp what sort of work creates the landscape that Faber has depicted. In the extremely controlled environment of post-modernity, pleasure pushes us over the edge of a cliff and all the way to the bottom of a canyon. It is this landscape the viewer is relegated to and, once there, must make the best of.
Despite their being landscapes and not figural paintings, they are not without life. A figure attempting to find a way to fit in breathes heavily from beyond the picture plane, crowding the emotional space of a viewer. These perspectives are the result of a slowly catastrophic situation as one realizes his or her presence may be just like everyone who has come before. The landscape has not yet reached a point of post-humanism, and suggests this observation as a rather bitter fact, urging that we gleefully proclaim some humility.
The trajectory of Faber’s work is consistently visible, it’s just that there is no way of traversing this path without tripping on obstructions, or even discovering obstructions were much smaller when seen from further away. Things aren’t seen as obstacles until they’re encountered, as if the triumph of making it to the top of Mt. Doom only leads one to pass out from over-celebration. As documentation of this one-step-forward-two-step-back journey, the perspectives in Faber’s paintings are found in the midst of a democratic struggle to illuminate processes of power. These paintings are a question of that power forced onto us externally – a questioning of why the preference for a global shipment usurps the need for local travel.
The observer, unwilling to flee the decrepit situation, is evidence of this dilemma. The depicted vistas are the result of a temporary calming, brief enough for us to get only a glimpse beyond both our own expectations and the modes in which our environment has been marketed to us. As a result, questions arise: Why should I have bought this at the store, professionally made by diligent hands? What does it do? What is my relationship to it? The paintings illustrate a way of finding a landscape within itself, through the act of attentive observation. In other words, one may find pleasure simply through observation. Once sifting through these initial questions, we then start to arrive at more rhetorical inquiries. Namely, why should we care that rocks find comfort in one another’s coddling?
Care shows itself in particular, and frequently unconventional, ways. If one opens themselves up to the possibility, solutions to these inquiries – and the care that lies behind them – may be found in the most unassuming or inanimate of objects/places. Rocks care because we care, not the other way around. Perhaps those types of questions are what draw the viewer to the surface in Faber’s paintings. Over-enthusiastic execution may be taken as a disregard for form, but this play in paint reveals a simple way to investigate the material of objects beyond their appearance. As a result of engaging and forgetting the task of observation, the artist adopts an irresponsible stance, something we need more of. The artist must not answer to the conditions that are demanded of him, but rather play with them. Acts of falling short of what is expected, meekly at points, illustrate the difficultly in taking on a strategically irresponsible stance. If there is still a web of humanity to maintain within one’s practice, we aren’t yet post-human.
In regards to the potential figure that we might idolize or mock, it is pertinent to observe that this figure is indeed absent. This pointing to the irresponsibility of the subject is to highlight their persistent gaze – one that depicts the idiocy of the logic in the surrounding environments (e.g. those things we’ve made that we can no longer run from, those places we’ve settled that will likely kill us). Since there is no figure to stand in for the viewer within the frame, should we implicate ourselves as the antagonists to an insurmountable situation? There is a danger in this, as Adorno notes, “in the end, glorification of splendid underdogs is nothing other than glorification of the splendid system that makes them so.” We cannot blindly root for ourselves in an uphill battle, so these paintings may shine some light on the path.
It is my hope that these paintings might find an appropriate home in a nursery, as a statement of encouragement, that, yes, it is okay to look at the world blankly, poorly, clumsily, and that a viewer with uncorrupted eyes might see these situations for what they are. Will they grow up to be something we consider post-human?
[This is a review of a show of Paintings by Kirk Faber, curated by Francisco Cordero-Oceguera of Lodos Contemporáneo, 11/30/2012 – 12/31/2012. To see a reversal of roles, see Cordero-Oceguera’s show Formerly the Artist at Kirk’s Apartment, 02/15/2013 – 04/18/2013]
All images courtesy www.kirkfaber.com