Exhibitions2008Burnt Out

Burnt Out

5 Apr 08

Kunsthaus Baselland

Burnt Out, at Kunsthaus Baselland, was Gavin Turk’s first solo show in Switzerland. The exhibition highlighted the impressive breadth of Turk’s artistic oeuvre, including bronze works, ready-mades, wooden sculptures, silk screens and his wax figure, Somebody’s Son (2007). The latter shows a Queen’s Guard bearing the artist’s traits in one of those typical sentry boxes that mark London’s traditional tourist image.

Questions of identity, authority, authenticity, and their associated values were posed in the show. In Faded Glory (2007) two faces are blended: Turk’s and Elvis Presley’s. Coated with a yellow layer of paint, the model barely shines through. Details disappear, as do memories — but who is actually remembered?

Relations (2005) is a store sign made of wood bearing the two words “Gavin TURK”. Turkey Foil Box XL, in contrast, contains the artist’s name in an existing ready-made, a piece of packaging foil that refers to the process of packaging — an act designed to enhance the value of something, or to protect an object whose material and non-material value has already been augmented.

Most of the works displayed at the exhibition addressed the issue of waste. Waste (2006) is a garbage bag painted in black and cast in bronze. A garbage bag, a stand-in for the enormous amount of waste discarded by today’s societies, becomes a monument and memorial made of indestructible material. Painted Bronze III (2004/06) features two scrunched beer cans.

Turk’s works Spent Match (2005) and Ariadne (2006) are miniature sculptures affecting viewers’ emotions in unexpected and direct ways. The spent match and the apple eaten up to the core, both made of painted bronze, radiate a poetic presence, and question our way of dealing with artworks and everyday objects as well as the value and status we ascribe to them.

Burnt Out Fire and Ash Pile (both 2008) are both made of bronze, and may be interpreted as an ephemeral, but physically solidified ready-made of an affluent high-performance society that alternates between unbridled enthusiasm, the constant craving for something new, and the threat of burnout.