Botched Execution

The invention of the ship was also the invention of the shipwreck.
--- Paul Virilio

Heidi Schwegler’s work emerges under gray, asthmatic skies. Far removed from the witheringly overheated citadels of conspicuous art consumption, Schwegler surveys and plucks detritus from a geography of shards, intra-zone districts common to the minor city and the megalopolis alike: exurban parking lots, dead malls, half-bulldozed hutong, half-civilized floodplains, blighted medians, depleted warrens of light industry. Her studio is a barely-working machine that sucks hue and churns utility from the cultural rejectamenta that litters these spaces: exploded boxes; folded mattresses; punctured vessels; filthy toys; atonic crutches; water logged pillows entombed in wax, again in concrete, and, finally, in glass. She replaces their palettes with brake dust, atomized gravel, and viscous, poisonous substances; she effaces symbolic outlines to reveal the fundamental grammar of things. Offering more than a formalist gambit, Schwegler tracks the socialized patterns of reception and rejection, desire and demolition. She elides the strategies of appropriation, bricolage, and reconstruction; objects are deranged by a single pang of violence and by methodical, chemical disintegration. Under Schwegler’s duress, the once sparkling, new, and useful becomes alien, depraved, and useless the once-desired is demoted to the denied.

Brancusi, the bomb maker. One millisecond before the explosion, gravity warps, light shrinks, a tumor of silence. And the eye drags its sticky gauze across shattered glass; a shallow breath frosts the inside of my unlit cornea.

Initially trained as a metalsmith and jeweler, Schwegler is deeply skeptical of the presumably innocent precepts of good design. The domains of the authored craft object and the manufactured product are increasingly indistinguishable from one another. Each pirates codes from the other. Each successive generation of makers 1 artists, designers, industries 1 is successively represented as newly subversive protectors of authenticity. Schwegler argues that however stridently its advocates protest, the crafted object can never transcend the stillborn condition of product, the crude machinations of commodity fetishism. The broken spirit of obsolescence haunts cultural production. Her gestures are remorseful, critical, and nihilistic. These are swiftly executed, improvised repairs and annotations using modest materials and techniques: fiber flocking, resin casting, concrete mold making, twelve-gauge shotguns. Schwegler does just enough to parody craft, design, and art – and deftly demonstrates that the world of things as they are is far more interesting than that which we wish them to be.

The object is a starving vortex. Vortices are the latent nature of things. Thoughts and ideas are not identical. Things and objects do not match. Words are on one side. Language is on the other. Objects are somewhere in between. Things are nowhere to be seen. Oblivion is the secret key to desire.

One can consume far more art on a twenty-minute Instagram jag than an entire Saturday on the Chelsea death march. Most painting is destined for the landfill. The prospects for sculpture are just as grim. Nowadays, “post-everything” artists withhold tangible evidence of production and content themselves with, well, posting everything. Surveying the ignored, the abandoned, and the ruined, she sees that objects, whether art objects or otherwise, have been issued a conceptual death sentence the moment they enter the world. Schwegler argues that, however well-made or well-intentioned, the stuff of the world is inexorably marred by this finality.

Catalog Text: Jason Loeffler