Michael Jones McKean — Proxima Centauri b. Gleise 667 Cc. Kepler-442b. Wolf 1061c. Kepler-1229b. Kapteyn b...



Michael Jones McKean
Proxima Centauri b. Gleise 667 Cc. Kepler-442b. Wolf 1061c. Kepler-1229b. Kapteyn b...

Past: September 2 → 26, 2017

A flip-flop, a head, a pot, a scalp, a fossil, a bunch of bananas, a computer, a slice of pizza, a lampshade, a branch, a dead branch, a mask, a printer and scanner machine. This Prévert-style inventory constitutes only a minor share of the various objects Michael Jones McKean’s post-digital ecology embraces.

Whether in the form of collages (Tau Ceti e, 2015), gallery-scale installation (The Religion, 2013) or building-scale installation (The Ground, 2017), the sculptures — which is the term the artist uses — represent as many attempts to ordinate what is between the living and the lifeless, the human and the non-human, in which each entity is given an equal ontological value. Following the footsteps of assemblage and actor-network theories, McKean depicts a reality in which human conscience is no longer the sole determiner, a reality as a purely emerging state, constantly redefined by the correlation of the various agents inhabiting it.

The Garden, The Comedy, The Folklore, The Yucca Mountain, The Religion : be they depicting great symbolic and political human constructions, geographic or temporal realities, the sculptures build dense nonlinear and non-hierarchical networks, from within and beyond.

Most objects keep their physical autonomy, it is therefore up to the viewer — himself an agent among others — to qualify the nature of the implemented connections. Although, sometimes, the contagion takes hold. Here, a branch escapes from its box to hybridize with the potted plant in the neighbouring box; there, a strange alchemy transmutes a water pipe into a branch, through the intermediate state of a laser-cut profile; here again, the motley objects used in the composition are buried under a thick layer of dust, a single grey value unifying the whole.

The garden or the folklore… each of these assemblages is reified by the definite article preceding its title. They would only be contingent realities within a network bigger than the world, themselves able to plug in one another and to hybridize together. The world through McKean’s lens is profoundly complex; however, it does exude a strange form of simplicity.

The pre-eminence of data in our post-digital world validates the « Utopia of Quantity » Archizoom described in the late 60’s. On this cohesive grid which the Italian radicals believed to be uniting, that one can also find in the solar panels McKean uses as a background for his collages, everything is nothing but information. Everything — human and non-human, object or social behaviour — can be abstracted into a quantifiable, measurable, computable format.

However, the discreet nature of the digital becomes tangible to us only when it becomes analogue, when it reintegrates our tangible world by materializing. From this, the persistence McKean has in sculpture, a medium that may seem anachronistic due its evocative heaviness and time span, but that draws us from the data’s generalised abstraction to better make us dive into a materiality bearing the mark of the artist’s hand, of his precise and patient labour.

His compositions mix together ready-mades and handmade replicas made out of paper, wood and silicone. The objects are organised within the gallery space or, more often, in luminous boxes in pastel shades that frame and delimit the idiosyncratic relational systems in each ecology. This enclosed structure is what paradoxically restores the sculpture as such, giving it a unified dimension and simul- taneously bringing it back to a form of flatness. The volume then blends with the image, the sculptural sustainability with the digital stealth, the space with the screen.

McKean’s works thus combine various spatial and temporal regimens. They have the potential to suggest the possibility of other origins to our post-digital contemporaneity, alluding to an ancient time beyond our human chronology. This persistence of the archaic takes form in the recurrent use the artist has of fossils, stones, bones, or in the almost mythological presence of rainbows simulated from rainwater and meteorites (Certain Principles of Light and Shapes Between Forms, 2012).

Along the lines of Agamben, who indexes the contemporary to the archaic, the artist thus becomes an archaeologist, not searching for a bygone past, but exploring the subterranean forces at work in our contemporary condition. Between naive realism and active images, McKean’s speculative materialism offers us a comprehensive vision not of what was or will be, but of what could have been a possible time.

Emmanuelle Chiappone-Piriou

Escougnou-Cetraro Gallery Gallery
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7, rue Saint-Claude

75003 Paris

T. 09 83 02 52 93


Chemin Vert
Saint-Sébastien – Froissart

Opening hours

Tuesday – Saturday, 2 PM – 7 PM
Other times by appointment

The artist

  • Michael Jones Mckean