Alex Dordoy: Persistencebeatsresistance
Inverleith Gallery, Edinburgh
19 January - 23 March 2014
Review by Catherine Spencer
Although Alex Dordoy’s work explicitly engages with the continual development and concomitant obsolescence of digital and information technologies, his current exhibition at Inverleith House in Edinburgh’s Royal Botanical Gardens also attests to the strongly sculptural element of his practice. Across the gallery’s two floors, Dordoy has arranged a combination of plinth works and wall-reliefs, which address the legacies of minimalism and abstraction, while investigating the mutations established sculptural and painterly forms might take within the pixelated image-overload of online culture.
The plinth works, which Dordoy has christened ‘Congsumers’, consist of rectangular blocks covered with patterns and images, some of which Dordoy has lifted from a jadeite pattern found on Chinese graves, while others are reminiscent of circuit-board imagery and hastily grabbed screen-shots. Embedded at their summits, like discarded fetish objects from an abandoned civilization, Dordy has implanted found items including a defunct MacBook and Converse Hi-Top trainers. These pieces feel deliberately glitchy and overblown, infused with the self-reflexive hyper-awareness of contemporary signs and symbols - and the rapidity with which they are embraced and then cast off - that informs thousands of social media profiles and YouTube videos.
The spectre of outmoded technologies also shadows Dordoy’s ‘Dialta Cuts’, silicone casts made from old photocopiers whose rubbery epidermises hang from the walls. Through the casting process, hard materials are transmuted into yielding ones, while the negative space around the redundant machines takes haunting form. The intricacy of these pieces is very beautiful, but their bodily inferences have the same disconcerting effect as Claes Oldenburg’s soft sculptures, and the latex excrescences of Louise Bourgeois and Eva Hesse. Dordoy mobilizes this blurring between body and object to reflect on the longstanding convergence and tension between the human hand and the technologies it has invented.
In this respect, Dordoy’s exploration of computing and scanning technologies reflects another lineage within abstraction, represented by the work of pioneering computer artists like Manfred Mohr, Georg Nees, and James Faure-Walker. This is particularly apparent in ‘Folded, unfolded, sunk and scanned No. 50’ (2014), part of a series that take their star-like relief-forms from the paper folds required to make a paper plane, which Dordoy then builds up using jesmonite and fiberglass. Dordoy overlays this shape, which comes gently forward from the wall, with abstracted, fractal-like patterns through toner transfer to convey a process of deterioration and breakdown. This work, together with ‘Westerhope’ (2014) and ‘King Pitta’ (2014), which combine oil paint and watercolour with toner transfer, posit that abstraction, far from being the sole prerogative of modernist painting, can also be understood as a post-medium condition that has always accompanied computer and information technologies.
Equally, Dordoy’s installations of ridged sheets of polycarbonate, often used in the construction of greenhouses, underline minimalism’s technological and design affinities. Combined with fluorescent bulbs, these works are the coldest in the exhibition, blending perfectly with the bleached light which floods into Inverleith House during the winter, when the branches of the Botanical Gardens are bare. This isn’t to suggest, however, that Dordoy is without a sense of humour: in the downstairs gallery, looking out over the elegant park and the equally elegant Edinburgh skyline, sits a white totem-pole created from stacked busts of Karl Marx. The original bust was carved many years ago by Dordoy’s father, so that the work feels on the one hand like a personal tribute, laced with a touch of more general nostalgia for the passing of political convictions. On the other, who better than Marx to preside over an exhibition attuned to the precarious place of materiality within digital culture, whereby ‘all that is solid melts into air’‘