Diana Lloyd on Asa Desouza-Jones

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When I first saw Asa’s installation, I suspected there would be something lurking beneath the rather generic and homely surfaces of sofa, cushion, lamp and magazine. Something already felt to me a bit incongruent when I noticed that a number of pages in this professionally printed magazine lying assumedly on the sofa, had been recently glued together to create the type of rippled texture you get when you use too much PVA glue to attach paper. This amateurish DIY intervention embedded in the glossy magazine intrigued me, due to the object’s inherent material contradictions. At that point I was unsure of the artist’s intentional decision behind this.

However, I put this to one side and continued to relax and make myself comfortable on the sofa, casually browsing the pages of the magazine as if I were actually at home. It was easy to do so due to the artist’s clever use of lighting, as the main gallery space was significantly darkened to ensure that the lamp was the main light source. For me the choice of lighting was very effective in achieving a cosy, familiar and intimate atmosphere, which I associate with being at home. At the same time, because the type of furniture and homeware used in this installation was very bland and generic, the installation could have been anywhere apart from home like a waiting room for a GP, dentist or hair salon. For me the experience of browsing the magazine in this simultaneously homely and contrived stage-set made me feel at once connected to and disconnected from reality. It also contributed to another layer of superficiality and manipulation that the magazine displayed as I was turning its pages.

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The pages in the magazine, they too felt very familiar. I had seen these images and texts before many times on Instagram and on Youtube videos and on blogs. They were the seductive photographic images of Starbucks cups, of the exotic tropical beach holidays of far-far-away; they were the “inspirational” quotation memes. It was clear that the artist had appropriated such aspirational images from Instagram posts. I like how Asa collated and sequenced these photographs to highlight the on-going mass repetition and proliferation of such imagery used to present us with a highly individualistic, consumerist reality. I felt Asa’s magazine exposed how we can both feel connected to and disconnected from the digital world at the same time.

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What I most liked about Asa’s work however was the performance aspect, in which we were invited to tear open the magazine pages that had been glued together. This is because for me it was a really playful way of shifting the audience from being passive consumers of aspirational images and objects to active participants who could choose to break down and destroy this particular representation of reality to create something else instead. The process of tearing the pages apart transformed the magazine into both a sculpture and a collage at the same time. I am really interested to see where Asa takes this work next.

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