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L Budd & Lionel B

Lionel's lotus bag N.2

2008
acrylic and packing tape on paper carry bag
450mm x 430mm

Note This work carries text on both its front and verso sides. The front side reads the body is the tree/The mind is the clear mirror/Incessantly wipe and polish it/Let no dust fall on it. The verso side reads nothing like a tree/Nor a clear mirror/Eventually not a thing exists/What is there then for the dust to fall on?.

Provenance

Private collection, Auckland.

Essay

The works of et al. persistently engage with various forms of pseudo-science and fringe thought, aberrant ideas that appear to conform to society’s consensus expectations abou...

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Estimate $1,800 - $2,600
Footnotes
  1. P.T. Mistlberger, Rude Awakening: Perils, Pitfalls and Hard Truths of the Spiritual Path (John Hunt Publishing, 2012), 211.

The Science of the Irrational: Text, mysticism and communication in the work of et al.

by Andrew clark

The works of et al. persistently engage with various forms of pseudo-science and fringe thought, aberrant ideas that appear to conform to society’s consensus expectations about the functions of structures such as science, government and religion, but that actually subvert and misappropriate them. In this vein, the collective’s work has invoked Dianetics, the religious “technology” created by L Ron Hubbard around which Scientology was formed; psychic research and extrasensory perception; the orgone accumulator boxes of Wilhelm Reich; spirit photography and psychic mediumship; and various aspects of New Age, millenarian and Gnostic theology. In et al.’s work, these ideas are contextualised by being presented alongside content that deals with contemporary geopolitics, philosophy and science, simultaneously legitimising the “fringe” material and causing us to question the certainty with which we approach other, more conventionally “serious” intellectual pursuits.

Of course, exploding the distinction between fringe and mainstream, high and low, inside and out is a mainstay of postmodern practice, but what distinguishes et al.’s method of operation is how they present these deconstructions. These are works that offer questions rather than statements, and that often demand unpacking and investigation on the part of the viewer; indeed, it could be argued that viewing et al.’s work is an insufficient form of engagement, when what is really required is an act of reading. Although they are generally displayed in a gallery setting, these works are characterised by their literary (or, perhaps, para-literary) qualities. However, the absence of a consistent authorial voice—someone or something that the viewer/reader could feel was speaking to them—lends them a sense of opacity; often, they seem to be intercepted communications between “others” whose identities are likewise obscured, messages loaded with meanings half- or three-quarters-grasped, but presumably fraught with significance for their nebulous, unseen recipient. In this context, rather than an authorial agency, what et al. exercise is an editorial function: selecting and identifying texts,redacting, correcting and modifying them, and finally collating and presenting them in various forms and as parts of broader installations and interventions.

In this sense, the gestures towards metaphysics and fringe science that et al. incorporates are positioned as part of a dialectic between other parties whose nature, aims and methods of operation remain obscure to the viewer. Indeed, one of the core thrusts of the work seems to be exploring and critiquing the politics and mechanisms of institutions; thus, some of the texts embedded in the work feel like internal communications, whose rhetorical substance reflects a disjunction or argument taking place within an institutional context. Others seem to be directed outwards, part of a public campaign, although whether these communications are best read as propaganda, advertising or altruistic advisories is unclear.