Reports

Lack of usefulness is what most frequently separates art from other objects, activities and phenomena that surround us. To put it very simply, if we begin to use a work of art in any useful manner, it would appear to cease to be art. In contrast, if we begin to treat a utilitarian object as art, it can very likely become art. Richard Wiesner’s project Gluon integrates utilitarian objects that have lost their usefulness with the loss of their owner into the non-utilitarian sphere of art. With transformation into a work of art, their redundancy is definitively petrified, albeit at a different level of quality. Normally, utilitarian objects are retained only so long as they serve their function. Through wear and tear they lose their right to existence. Even an object that can still serve its purpose is generally not held on to if it is considered technically or morally obsolete. Though it is true that, under certain conditions, utilitarian objects can become the subject of collector interest and are harboured in specialised museums, their new status is identical to that of artistic items – in museums they are primarily for “looking at”, not for using. In contrast, it is considered barbaric to throw out or otherwise dispose of a work of art. Museums even own many artifacts that will likely never be displayed, and yet maximum care is given to their preservation. In this sense, art creates the illusion of immortality.

Apartments are passed on, but their content is thrown out. Cleaning out such a flat is accompanied by a feeling of emptiness. It is no coincidence that this activity is increasingly entrusted to professional companies. Objects are not neutral, they are containers of memory. Throwing something out means erasing it. It is easier to buy new things of one’s own than to get used to the furniture and belongings of one’s grandparents. This emptiness – vanitas – is also a traditional theme that stretches through the history of art. Since the Middle Ages it has confronted the viewer with the finitude of earthly existence and the equality of people before death. Richard Wiesner’s Gluon can be considered a contemporary variation on this. The transformation of utilitarian objects into artistic ones has prevented them from being thrown out or sold off. It would seem to be no coincidence that the functionality of all of them has been “impaired”, thereby definitively forestalling the possibility of a return to their original use. The whole object or part thereof has been poured into resin and then cut into rectangular forms, which the author has re-assembled and integrated into the body of the original item in the place from which it was cut. This results in a structure that is rich in associations. The transparent resin blocks are reminiscent of icy hibernation or a strange and beautiful crystalline growth, decorating and parasitising the original object. They have undergone aesthetic euthanasia and at the same time been reincarnated into the world of art. Not only have they received a second life, such as that promised by recycling, but thanks to their metamorphosis into the world of art they also have a chance at immortality and care that promises to pull the material object out of the jaws of time.

Ondřej Chrobák

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