Before we go any further there is a confession I should make – I have a slight obsession with art that is visceral, uncomfortable and generally disturbing. Something my friend David – a mutual adorer – once designated ‘the creep factor.’ So when I first laid eyes on images from HRL Contemporary’s upcoming show The Nature of Change: Hybridity and Mutation I was hoping to find something to satisfy my grotesque sensibilities.
Hybridity and mutation are taken as a starting point here and spun out through materials, processes and subject matter. Applaudingly, this is not a shock value show of cyborgs and monsters, but is rather polished and leans more towards the unexpected and the uncanny. The ‘creeperies’ found here have a poetic and sensitively commentative approach.
In Kayde Anobile’s installation, Portrait of a Creature, two life sizes yetis face a mirror affixed to the wall, and as you take your place in between them, three faces stare back. These creatures are not monstrous, but rather quite human-like. They stare into the mirror in a state of existential contemplation, their images reflected back to us just the same as ours are.
London-based sculptor David A Smith creates organic hybrid sculptures made of glaringly inorganic materials. Fusing skeletal forms with seductive materials, Smith’s enticingly slick animals vomit up their phosphorescent insides, as in ‘Banshee’ – an excavated prehistoric form constructed of conspicuous synthetic products.
Throughout the exhibition hybridity is found in both form and subject matter, however the most striking work is that which tears into the blatant consumerism of contemporary society.
Jan Manski’s work in its wholly complex and all-encompassing narrative approaches that of Matthew Barney, without the self-mythologising and machoism. Manski’s work takes on the guise of a slick advertising campaign for the ultimate self-gratifying consumer item – the Onania.
A hybrid masturbatory device combining organic and inorganic substrates, the Onania is billed as ‘the ultimate modern plaything.’ As the video advertisement shows, this sickly pink device promises to tap into neural networks, creating a cyclical escalation of ultimate pleasure.
Forcing the user into an isolated and narcissistic existence is not the only concern – as the photographs show, the Onania has horribly disfiguring side-effects, as insides force themselves out, creating bony bulbous growths on the sites of attachment. A self-inflicted mutation brought on by the desire for self-sufficient satisfaction.
As Manski shows us, for the ultimate in pleasure there is a price to be paid – and it is quite horrific.