Arcady Kotler: Intersecting Senses
Arcady Kotler, Intersecting Senses, (detail).
"The truth is something that every man needs to live,
yet it is something that he cannot receive from anyone.
Every man must give birth to it within himself."
— Franz Kafka
Like many contemporary artists who work at the improbable yet frequented nexus of Minimalism and Representationalism, Arcady Kotler seeks to create new narrative possibilities by appropriating the pared-down aesthetic of Minimalism as his formal point of departure. As with Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ stacks of printed paper, Kotler adopts the white cube as an object, rather than an arena of encounter, in order to address narrative concerns. But, unlike the Minimalist adherence to white cube installations in which arena and object are merged, Kotler’s sculptural installation, "Intersecting Senses," which was on view at the Broadway Gallery from March 4—15, 2005, reinstates the frame as an essential distancing mechanism. The result is an experience outside our realm which foregrounds the latent anthropomorphism that Michael Fried accused much Minimalist work of displaying in spite of itself.
To the extent that the actual room of the gallery is a banal and necessary starting point, "Intersecting Senses" is a third-person narration of a scenario involving the awkward and fumbling meeting of the artist and viewer within the gallery space. At the same time, and perhaps more blatantly, the objects in the installation are protagonists engaging in a reciprocal experience with the viewer, engendering a doubling of experience.
Kotler renders the body’s sensory organs as conduits for various types of information. In the artist’s words, "they help one transition from the physical world to the spiritual." The mouth, eyes and ears also are central to our ability to externalize our internal worlds. Their inherent intimacy prohibits the wall-mounted, disembodied features from being estranged from their functions and identified as "objects" with the pointed ease of Duchamp’s Urinal or Oldenburg’s Clothespin. In fact, they metaphorically transform the space into the internal world of an organism that has the potential to speak with its mouth and listen with its ears. This experience produces tense anticipation and a provocative questioning about how the viewer is, or is not, expected to perform. Kotler turns on its head Merleau-Ponty’s premise that viewing is embedded within the body, and is not an activity of the disembodied eye. He does this by presenting the viewer with a disembodied eye to initiate a primarily perceptual, rather than haptic, response.
While different sensory orders converge through the experience of the installed objects, multiple levels of social spaces superimpose one another, and seemingly incongruous forms of recent practices tango. Kotler sets the stage for a dialogue between the gallery as a banal physical container for rarefied secular experience, and as a locale for a transformational experience to be described–and perhaps to occur.
Kotler’s installation is a meditation on organic human forms, specifically human sensory organs, conceptually evolving from abstract geometric principles. Representational form literally emerges from the Minimalist serial unit of the block, becoming invested with symbolic meaning and something beyond the quotidian. An ear smoothly transitioning from the white surface of the wall narrates a process of the will-to-form as well as a conceptual transition from Minimalism to representational embodiment. The artist’s will-to-form is as much his struggle to project a compelling visual idea into an inchoate material through the action of his hands as it is a metaphor for the ineluctable search for meaning through engagement with the phenomenal world.
The sound of a foghorn hovers in the air. Beneath the ambient noise of traffic and conversation, its intonations subliminally resonate with the flashing light in the pupil of the eye on the wall and seem to intensify the whiteness of the space, dematerializing the very objects we have located. The sound, like the tolling of a bell, also serves to remind us of the instability and impermanence of the physical.