Interpreting new work by Steve Green
By Ross Downes
The multitude is afraid of archetypes because archetypes are contents of high consciousness. Our thinking is obsolete. Rationality has to be opened.
- Alejandro Jodorowsky / Psycho-magic
High gloss, machine spec madelas totemic only to the potential of perhaps constructing signifying forms from today’s materials for yesterdays causes. Perspex formalism is omnipresent, if you want it to be. Remove the neatly folder sweaters, the latest promotion and we are left with de-functionalised form and the saturation of this material, made partly from oil, to construct the displays that seduce us in to the system that forms and informs us. It’s these secondary secular constructions that provide the new totems. Not the ones we look at to contemplate meta-physical matters but instead take home to wear, use and watch.
Green’s work is routed in the possibility of the sacred and the rituals partaken around it. The dependence is on the viewer. The limits also. Whether it was the faithful streaming voyeuristically by Lenin dead and entombed or the temporal sand-crafted Tibetan madela the onus is on the necessity of belief and the belonging that this may provide. Intellectually dismissing the traditions, the organised structures and the false consciousness offers the opportunity of all the alternatives. The occult and subcultural are alluded to, as are the demands of realisation and de-stabilisation inherent in what Bataille refers to as the ‘Privileged Instant’. Described as, something that flees as soon as it is seen and the opposite of a substance that resists the test of time, Green’s premise is to aesthetically tease towards meaning. Towards a symbolic code that contains the dualistic aspects of formalist materiality and metaphoric spirituality. It promises surface as your starting point.
‘The artist trembles from the cold of extreme want; vain efforts are expended to create pathways permitting the endless re-attainment of that which flees.’
George Bataille –The Sacred
Green seems to have sampled Aztec sun worship, the occult, Pagan ritual, Native American totem, folkloric decoration using the cynical industrial materials of now. More Alejandro Jodorowsky than apologetic post-colonial exoticism. More aesthetic allusions plundering the forgotten avenues of LSD enlightenment as taught by Timothy Leary. More ceremonial tools for the Internalised excavation and psychic-tourism as explored by William Burroughs. The references for such works seem routed in the traditions that proliferated in the Hippy, Yippy, Freak and Motherfucker eras of the 60’s and 70’s. They reference the rather uncomfortable and desperate attempts within youth culture to redefine existence and being in accordance with eastern belief systems and the consumption of narcotics aside alternative social projects Green’s work may reflect critically the cul de sac of such appropriating attitudes to offer us allusion without the content provided to such icons by collectivised use and proverbial history. The legacy of the period aside from social reform and other socio-political benefits is most readily located in music culture and the iconography that supports the promotion of Psychedelic, electro and dance culture slightly under or to the left of mainstream.
Green’s semiological objects are loaded with the surface and design elements of the sign freed from direct signification to instead connote a more general mysticism. A communication without absolute and fundamentally dependent on the viewers allowance on the transcendental properties that art induces in certain receptive onlookers. Schopenhauer commented that people mistake the limits of their own vision as the limits of the world and in many ways Green uses these limits to produce catalysts of desire that reflect a knowing awareness of their commercial sheen and spiritual connotations. Plastic represents modernist utility, mass manufacturing and the rise of domestic consumer culture but all practical functionality is negated to offer abstraction and as Greenberg said, the art and not the story.
The non-committal signs suggest stabilised attempts at psychedelic enhancement. The conditions desirable through their absolute lack of continuity that may alter consciousness just enough to alter the self. As Carl Jung wrote, ‘In all chaos there is the cosmos, in all disorder a secret order’. This position of the question holding the answer may itself be the key to a puzzle that may not exist. The temptation is to go beyond what is offered to reach for explanations that bring the contentment of order and with it, certainty. These works offer neither and in doing so Green’s visual lexicon demands a leap of faith.
It can be argued that the people in the space are the space. There is no primacy of the object although these works try to convince otherwise. Everything in the encounter between object and perception is dependent on how much the viewer requires the object to mean. Green’s work celebrates the fetishistic desire contained within the promise of product that maintains a self-reflexive mystery. The power is in the concealment, the impossibility of knowing and perhaps the truth achieved through being nothing other than what it is.
We should not pretend to understand the world only by the intellect. The judgment of the intellect is only part of the truth.