LOOKING CLOSELY Iain Kerr’s work demands examination.
Confronting and denying conventional aesthetics and modes of exhibition, Iain Kerr: artist, writer, educator, and founding member of spurse, an international peripatetic collective and experimental consultation service, intimately reinvents the project space at Gallery 37-A. The artist presents a series of two-dimensional diagrams and abstracted meditations on his cross-disciplinary proposal for a reconsideration of being. Ingesting and re-contextualizing the arguments of thinkers such as Heidegger, Whitehead, Deleuze, Debord, and Michael Pollan, Kerr intertwines art and science to provide an alternative approach to Western philosophy.
He invites a dialogue that gets at the most basic of problematic human assumptions with topological drawings of the self, cartographies of human error, and flow charts documenting the emergence of ideas and systems. These are bolstered in the gallery by sculptural furniture that demands a reexamination of functionality, and a curious curatorial model that ensures prolonged engagement. Offering provocations regarding the decentralization of the human perspective, Kerr deconstructs fundamental binaries he views as limiting, and links knowledge and interpretation to agency, encouraging an embrace of the unknown and a re-appropriation of instilled notions and narratives to productive or progressive effect.
Kerr's re-imagination of the gallery as laboratory, or a sort of incubatory lounge, is most blatantly introduced by a deep slate-puce paint job, steeling the gallery experience from commodified viewing. As the space and scaffolding of Kerr's philosophical argument are integral to an immersive engagement with the work, the details of his installation are critical. The wall color here evokes the allegory of the cave, reflecting the darkness that is simultaneously the expanse of the unknown and the potential of knowledge. This hue backdrops light works on paper, their whiteness serving as illuminations. Benches hewn from architectural salvage from the basement of the Wharf Street gallery are haphazardly constructed and precarious; uneven, they topple easily. While the benches are necessary to access some of the works hung far above eye level, or to rest on while wrestling with concepts presented in diagrams placed near the floor, they are inconvenient and unwieldy, necessitating renewed appreciation and interaction with a mundane object; Kerr is asking the viewer to struggle with alternative methods of approaching material. Through this interactive lens, Kerr maps out systems so intrinsic to our lived experience they have become obscured by proximity.
In his most didactic works, language and directionals are rendered so slightly they are virtually illegible. This ephemeral documentation of the process of making sense of systems and processes recognizes the mutability and fragility of the subject matter. In a series entitled "Process of Individuation," four charcoal and graphite works on paper, Kerr captures the ephemerality and changeability of the self, depicted as reductive topographical abstractions. By erasing and layering his materials and sculpting out arterial networks, the artist reflects on the constantly shifting sets of variables that sculpt our notions of the self, and suggests that by embracing that irregularity and infinitude, there emerges a freedom of expression.