Deep State: De Ateliers’ 2017 Offspring catalogue

ed. Martijn Hendricks and Lara Almarcegui

 

Kevin Gallagher

by Pablo Larios


Working primarily with sculpture, but also performance and installation, the works of Kevin Gallagher display an interest in the regulation and administration of systems, environments and objects in spaces: whether biological, human, aesthetic, material or emotional fluidities; and whether those of life and resource or of waste and decay. His works conjure problems that are often rendered abstractly – for instance, circulation or regulation – but Gallagher represents them using everyday objects and materials that efficiently reduce abstractions into concrete amalgams. For the work Untitled (Acoustic 02), 2015, for instance, Gallagher modified an office air conditioner using a metal pipe and plastic bottle in order to blow vaporized water collected from a nearby reservoir. The work points to the systems that regulate air, water and environment – yet all humorously complexified into an object that veers toward a certain animistic autonomy.

With a cue to a post-anthropocentric age where objects and commodities contain their own agency and intelligence, Gallagher’s works are marked by the combination of organic, perishable or ephemeral materials, which are placed alongside the use of more traditional static sculptural media. Gallagher in fact exploits oppositions between the two. The use of corrosive materials is widespread; one new series are a totem-like pole made of gelatine: a bionic, animal by-product which seems synthetic but in fact has natural roots, and which requires the precise administration and regulation to keep it preserved. In other works, Gallagher creates small platform-like spaces – reminiscent of bank centres or airport passport checks – that evoke conditions of spatial segmentation; administrative procedures, flu shots and immunizations, or the secure realms of transit zones or laboratories. Gallagher’s works are marked by tension between natural forms, such as pollen, and artificial forms, such as plexiglass, which are pit against the expectation that artwork is something that lasts through time, to ask questions about perishability, system management, and the contemporary arenas in which art and humans as bodies circulate.

The production and regulation of sanitized spaces is thus linked in Gallagher’s works to his exploration of differences and tensions between living and animate material, organic and artificial, to ludically point to situations concerning the body and corporeality, as well as the posturing and affects of sensorial experience. His works ask: what are the processes of containing, distributing and regulating objects, including the human body? As described in one text, entitled ‘Statue Care and Rearing’ and read by Gallagher as a performance: ‘how should one go about shipping a statue? / Here is a comprehensive guide…’

In another recent sculpture, a mask-like object constructed out of a transparent plastic is embedded with everyday objects, such as a rubber ball or a cellular phone. The works, which may reference emergent technologies such as Google Glass, or Virtual Reality systems such as Oculus Rift, also exaggerate the notions of ‘interface’ – a phrase that literally means ‘between face’ – that occupy many of our technological and experiential systems today. Such a work alludes to the intermingling of bodily experience and the reality of objects and commodities, and the interplay of human subjectivity and objecthood.

Gallagher’s sculptures are crafted with an eye to the canny combination of unexpected materials – a common thread throughout his practice is the conditions of perishability. In one work Gallagher performed a text describing how a dog gnawed a semi-organic sculpture en route to an exhibition. He is interested in the rituals we employ in order to manage and create spaces and systems, and how we self-preserve through preserving the things around us. In order to regulate social behaviours, humans make use of mechanisms and tools for separation and isolation. Whereas today we might desire ‘open’ space for working and living arrangements, these too are underpinned by a necessity to segment and regulate one another. In this sense Gallagher’s works can be seen developments of investigations of the biopolitical, or of the interfaces between life and politics that was diagnosed by Michel Foucault as ‘biopower’ in the 1970s, marked by systems of management and regulation of living organisms.