This ostensible art installation, “yellow vehicle door against trees,” which I noticed on a trail walk in New Hampshire this weekend, reminded me of Michel Houellebecq’s novel The Map and the Territory, in which one of the projects of his main character, Jed Martin, an artist, consists of 300 photos of hardware.
Early on in the book, we’re told that “Jed launched himself into an artistic career whose sole project was to give an objective description of the world — a goal whose illusory nature he rarely sensed.” In an interview with Art Press, his sole comment about the meaning of his work is “I want simply to give an account of the world.”
When asked what it is to be an artist, Jed later says that it is, “above all, to be someone submissive. Someone who submitted himself to mysterious, unpredictable messages, that you would be led, for want of a better word and in place of any religious belief, to describe as intuitions.”
I looked at this rusted and faded, yet nonetheless still hefty, still solid, human-made door and wondered what its message was: When God closes a door, he opens a window? I should take a Greyhound and look for America? Paint the kitchen yellow? That, as Houellebecq suggests at the end of the novel, humans are transitory and “the triumph of vegetation is total”?
In the last 30 years of Jed Martin’s life, he becomes a sort of recluse. He drives his Audi to a wooded part of his land, focuses on something (wind, nettles, earth, tufts), and leaves a cameoscope plugged into the lighter in a running car for a few hours, then returns to sort through photograms, making a montage of “moving plant tissues, with their carnivorous suppleness, peaceful and pitiless at the same time.” His last works “continue to arouse in visitors a sense of apprehension mixed with unease.”
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