Untitled Document

Lache pas la pataté and Pulp - Stephen Adams/Robert Clark + Tom Hackett

Date: 8 – 29 January 2004


The exhibitions features two of three installation works from Tom Hackett’s highly successful textual triptych tour in 2003 which took place at PM Gallery, London, UH Galleries Hatfield and, Rugby Art Gallery in 2003.

With lache pas la pataté the viewer is presented with a sweeping configuration of approximately seventy cast concrete open books. Each book has a hollowed recess on its opposite pages to suggest the idea of a hidden compartment. In the left recess of each book lies a cast resin potato form. Embedded inside each cast potato form is a short phrase collected from a different person from the Rugby locale. This eclectic mix of maxims, aphorisms, and truisms become the central core of the resin potato forms and the project.

lache pas la pataté is developed out of an old Cajun saying which, translated, reads ‘Don’t let go of the potato’ meaning ‘hang on in there’. It is poignant that something as humble and unpretentious as the potato should be cited as metaphor for an essential, fundamental principle: as something to hang onto. In spite of clichés, certain phrases at specific moments, within cultural specifics, function with quantum potency. A saying like ‘Stick to your guns’ or ‘Hang on in there’, despite literal relevance can transcend into icons of optimism. Such phrases serve as the embodiment of unequivocal belief that, whatever ‘it’ is, is achievable. Likewise, other phrases limply challenge adversity and are tainted to forever serve the alter of negativity. The work considers the notion of ‘economy of speech’, a paring down to bare essentials. It serves to flag up phrases that are succinct, that stick; words that become and exist as force beyond literal reading. The composite imagery of the two forms suggests the notion of an essence, a crux, a fundamental, embodied through the glistening, refracting potato form. Its location within the heavy book form simultaneously evokes the concept of concealment and revelation, the potential uncovering of a fundamental basic, a hidden truth or agenda. The books themselves encode a sense of permanence and history, the handing down of messages and information through the ages. The slightly frosted appearance of the resin potatoes will invite the viewer to read each phrase but ultimately challenge their ability to decipher, presenting a partial glimpse, a clue, but not an absolute.

With Pulp 200, medical drip bags are patterned in a rhythmic configuration along the long gallery wall. Each drip bag contains a pulped text or a piece of theory nominated by an invited contributor. Faced with a field of shredded texts held in the bags, with a dangling mass of capillary tubing, the viewer is presented with the opportunity to be fed by the pulp, the theories, opinions, thoughts, and narrative of others. In actuality, the final experience offers only the objects themselves and the Gallery: a space for viewer contemplation; that of the discursive and negotiated field between artwork and audience, amongst the inescapable schism between the written interpretative and the actual. The texts are diverse in intellectual weight and they generate a curious dialogue between themselves in a world where Foucault or Barthes are as likely to be cited as cultural reference points as ‘Frasier’ or the ‘Big Brother’ house.

Over the last 15 years, Tom Hackett has built a trademark signature of space and site interrogation through the realisation of a significant body of works throughout the United Kingdom and beyond. From the late 1990’s onwards, Hackett’s work evolved to incorporate various strategies of collection and contribution as part of an integral and open process. With Vertical River, Worcester City Art Gallery, 1997, Hackett rowed continuously up and down the River Severn over a 24 hour period, collecting a test tube of water every 5 minutes. These were then suspended, creating a time-based picture of the river. Life Support, Edinburgh College of Art, 1998, saw him collect exhaled air from members of the College community in rubber lung forms. With The Physical Letters, Angel Row Gallery, Nottingham, 2000, Hackett began to conceptually interrogate the problematic between the written, the verbal, and the visual: personalities from the media, arts, politics, and beyond, donated a short text which Hackett then converted into his own language of sculptural pictograms. This exploration of the interface between the written and the visual experience has since grown into a core line of enquiry.

Pulp was commissioned by UH Galleries, and lache pas la pataté by Rugby Art Gallery and Museum.

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