Leigh Tennant’s practice is fugitive, ceaselessly metabolizing and re-metabolizing trans, feminist, and economic discourses. They seek to enunciate autonomous feminine signs and consider how trans might mark the return of the excessively feminine under a different name. Speaking with the history and materiality of painting, they explore what transgender embodiments do to the sexual archaeology of signification. Tennant was a founding member of the Vancouver project space TopDown BottumUp, active from 2011–13. They hold a BA in art history and an MFA in visual art from The University of British Columbia. Tennant lives and works in Vancouver.
June 4–July 22, 2016
Curated by Tarl
JUNE 4–JULY 22, 2016
The flags smell of an anonymous, universal newness; the whiff of a petroleum-based rainbow of fibers and dyes. When I stand up and hold the edges, the tight package-pressed folds fall open. There they are: Crayola primary and secondary colours. This is seemingly what is left of alternative inclinations, Queer temporalities, and “free” sexualities.
While these objects are signs produced by politics and markets, there are also other possibilities for signification. Through a reciprocal process of organizing and breaking apart the organization of constant flows of signs and objects, things that made sense prior stop making sense anymore—the production of Queer politics as rendered within these flags moves offshore to another factory. The nonsensical is rewoven, fixing you to an “I” or unmaking the “I” by crossing individuals, becoming trans-individual. These processes are contradictory; they run across and through representation, subjection, causing machinic action. The moment when you don’t know yourself again is the moment when a signification crosses your category and with it your relationship to the propertied self.
Colour is a mode of expression through which the body participates. It is an inbetween-y sense object that occurs between the body and its environment, an eroticization of the nerves. It is hardly attributable to a ‘me’ because it inspires not speech but movement. The coloured lines of the flag possess all of the colours necessary for painting, exaggerating the restrictive modality of the tube of paint. Through procedures of breaking up the flag we do the work of constructing aesthetic and political devices that experiment rather than represent. An experiment in unbinding, of being guided by various forms while eliding visibility to think between what is and what could be possible.
Historically, rope has facilitated two opposing actions: quantification and flight. Rope was used as an early tool of geometry (or earth measure as translated from Greek; geo “earth” and metron “measurement”). It was used for measuring and marking, bounding and building, a graphic line on the earth’s surface in service of architecture and taxation. Rope and the desire for flight are emblematized in the image of the wily criminal crawling out a prison window and down a knotted bed sheet, vivid in its connection of architecture, property form, identity, and revolt. [Non]quantification or [non]identification and flight or threshold crossing, are all threads of the same rope. Rope as an experiment in making a practice an escape from the practice itself.
There is an interesting correlation between rope as it was used for “earth measure” and the quantification and objectification of queer identities into an ever growing taxonomy of desires. Any form of measurement obscures its own uncertainty. Could we find in Queer politics a way to locate the excess of the measure of our taxonomies of being, giving the formless form and transforming the field?
Identity politics is an appeal to the encyclopedic, a willingness to pay taxes assigned by arbitrary measures. To reject the work of self-valorization handed over by hegemony is to reject the system of measurement itself, its units and the rules of relation. Choose instead, however unintelligible as yet, new units and new relations.
Historically colour has been painting’s fundamental device. Contemporarily, we must also contend with it being a favoured tool of differential simulacrum. Life becomes work, work becomes money, money becomes a flag, which in turn becomes a painting, which becomes a rope … meanings ‘insist’ in the movement from one to another without it properly being said to consist in any one of them. It’s a process of composition and decomposition, changing and crossing.
This endless process of exchange, deferral, and transformation masks an open secret and it’s through that door that leads out the back. However this rope, this time, is not leading but barring the door, turning you around towards the front along its line ad infinitum.
July 16, 2016
Minimal difference: Leigh Tennant artist talk July 16, 2PM