CURATORS Robert Leonard and Heather Galbraith PARTNER Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane OTHER VENUES Institute of Modern Art, 21 October–25 November 2006 PUBLICATION essays Robert Leonard, Jason Markou
Hany Armanious’s formally diverse work is marked by its perverse conflation of opposing values. The Sydney artist morphs high-minded modernist formalism into hippie neo-paganism, confuses Scandanavian modernism with Arabian bazarr kitsch. When he titles a show Intelligent Design, is he referring to Christian fundamentalist ideas, Bauhaus principles, or Raëlism? Sometimes he seems to make bogus analogies with the seriousness of a conspiracy theorist, other times with prankster humour. However his underlying point is phenomenological, pointing to the turns of mind that generate these errors. His work exploits our tendency to make links between things which resemble one another in form, material, function, and process, on the way providing a corrective to the blunt modernist formalism that informs the work of many of his contemporaries.
Armanious’s show is titled Morphic Resonance after Rupert Sheldrake’s whimsical pseudo-scientific new-age theory. Sheldrake coined the term to describe the unseen interconnectedness of things, and his faith in the magical influence they exert upon one another at a distance. In framing Armanious’s exhibition, however, these words now suggest what happens when artworks are brought together—the way they resonate with and infect one another as forms and signs; the way their logics echo, mesh with, and complicate one another; the way they make new meanings in new configurations.
A number of works examine new consumer goods. Progressive aspirations are challenged through Armanious's reworking of hi-tech objects by hand, in basic but often surprising materials. In the sculpture Blindness (2006), what appears to be a simple home work station complete with Apple Macintosh laptop computer, on closer inspection reveals more curious aspects: the computer is made from a manila folder, and the lower shelving area houses a collection of limp casts of tequila bottles. Bubble Jet Earth Work (2006) takes the form of a printing machine fuelled by a mixture of bubble fluid and worm castings (nutrient rich worm excretions—a byproduct of worm farming).
The Danger in Extracting Meaning (2006) features another machine. A model Victorian-style building facade is brushed with a flurry of (polystyrene) snow, while the interior reveals an unsettling tableau, as a hunched figure rifles through the innards of a corpse. Meanwhile, Magic Muffin Mountain (2003–6) displays a stack of voluminous trippy muffins fashioned from expanding foam.