Canadian artist Babak Golkar’s latest body of work Time Capsules—mysterious forms composed of taxidermy, ceramics, 3D printed polymers, among other materials—questions notions of value creation and the role of the artist in governing these systems. Through the artist’s use of time as a key connecting material, all works unpack dominant geo-political issues that have emerged through his close engagement with each object and their associated histories.
“For the project I bracketed roughly 200 years in researching materials and their processes; experiences and conditions from the last hundred years and how they have or will continue to affect us”
Some look like classic statuary; and others, like everyday objects, each work in Time Capsules, contains a concealed artwork unknown to anyone but the artist. It is ill-advised to unveil their interiors until the suggested time has passed, inevitably outliving the artist and those who initially acquire the work. If any capsule opens prior to the passing of one hundred years, the artworks become void and their economic value drops to zero by way of a written agreement between Golkar and the collector. It is only at this threshold that the objects fully manifest themselves, becoming anew in 2116.
“It’s a form of preserving time – denoting a certain subject but also what it is not there. There is a frame that plays with both a concealment and exposure. I am often unresolved with photography and perhaps the capsules make for a more complicated simultaneity of pseudo-presence and tokens of absence. The difference here lies in the potency of what is entrapped within the capsules. In Time Capsules art transpires in the space between the container and the contained.”
Through these considerations of valuation one returns to a historical perspective of the avant-garde not only through associations made between these works and the readymade, but also in thinking of art and agency. In Marcel Duchamp’s 1957 text The Creative Act, he outlines a power within the viewer to define the weight of art, on an aesthetic scale, through their subjective engagement. He outlines that an object’s participation with the public delineates its social value, perhaps initially outside an economic system. In the case of Golkar’s Time Capsules, the objects are made with an added system of value regulation in mind. By doing so, the artist gains a power to uphold specific formal and conceptual intentions in the face of an increasingly nebulous audience and market.
Long Live Max Yasgur is composed solely of objects associated with the context of Woodstock. Atop the three stacked components is a sculpted acoustic foam object that references the Age of Aquarius, fashioned as a graphic form with peaks and ridges. Below, a large ceramic pot is wedged into the base of this crowned top and is historically tied to the water buckets Yaskar used to keep the crowds hydrated during the festival. Supporting the entire sculpture is an MDF plinth disguised using veneer from a much more cherished wood found in the forests of the festival. Each element has been combed from the past ecological and social environments of this utopian event, forming a work that carries with it an equally generous yet deceptive philosophy between materials and concealment.
Just as Golkar’s process of renewal speaks to destructive and immaterial gestures within key historical works of art, marketing terms are equally relevant here. One could say that a single acquisition produces two artworks (quite literally two for the price of one). This prompts an additional nod to a 20th century avant-garde in thinking of art as a larger social tool for challenging moral and economic ideologies through works that demonstrate both playfulness and critique. This proposal made by Golkar underlines how the use of time assists to build more complicated relationships with art and objects, affording us to fundamentally question what influences us to collect, conceal or attribute value.
Read Artsy’s related article.
Golkar’s Scream Pots in his 2013 exhibition Dialectic of Failure at the West Vancouver Museum clay, and the idea of craft, are used to speak to the painstaking and delicate nature of compromise and negotiation between dichotomies—historicism and modernity, art and craft, modern reasoning and traditional mysticism.
The engagement with the idea of craft derives from its slow process, which allows for a different model of production and time for thought and reflection; a model that can be studied and adapted to address conditions of contemporary life. The clay-based artworks are the reconciliation of a medium conventionally defined as craft and therefore outside of critical contemporary art discourse.
Hand thrown on a wheel in two parts, these terracotta ceramic vessels are designed to muffle the sound of a scream. One end is designed to fit around the mouth while the other end is closed with a very small hole to let the air out. They are participatory works and visitors can choose to pick up a pot, bring it up to their mouth and scream into it. The other works in the exhibition are the product of clay being forcibly thrown against a wall. In this work, there is a sense of release and satisfaction achieved by hurling the clay, similar to the effect of screaming.
Underlying all these works are themes of suppression and emotional distress as contemporary human conditions. People are compelled to react, scream or revolt in response to fear or pent-up emotion from continual and mounting pressures that are often unexplainable by reason. Dialectic of Failure invites the viewers to re-evaluate material and the function of craft and art while considering limitations of reason as the sole means of understanding and coping with global challenges.
TIME TO LET GO.
Building further upon Scream Pots, Golkar created even larger vessels in his exhibition TIME TO LET GO. at Vancouver Art Gallery’s Offsite, each resting atop a large stack of burlap bags.
In this installation I was interested in screaming as a release but also a gesture or a form of contestation. We tend to let go in private, not in public, and that letting go has to do with exposing our vulnerability, which here is reflected, not only by the action of participants through engaging with the works and screaming into the vessels, but also through the use of terracotta as a fragile medium.
About the artist: Babak Golkar (b. Berkeley, U.S.A., 1977) spent most of his formative years in Tehran until 1996 when he moved to Canada. He obtained a Masters of Fine Arts from the University of British Columbia in 2006 and has exhibited in venues internationally since graduating. Selected solo exhibitions and presentations include In No Particular Hurry, Galería Sabrina Amrani, Madrid, Spain (2016), a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work, Edel Assanti Gallery, London, U.K. (2016)The Exchange Project (La Collection Imaginaire), INCA, Seattle, U.S.A. (2016); Of Labour, Of Dirt, Sazmanab, Tehran, Iran (2014); Time To Let Go…, Vancouver Art Gallery: Offsite, Vancouver, Canada (2014); Dialectic of Failure, West Vancouver Museum, West Vancouver, Canada (2013); Parergon, Sharjah Contemporary Art Museum, Sharjah, U.A.E. (2012) and Mechanisms of Distortion, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, U.K. (2012). Selected group exhibitions include When Form Becomes Attitude. Contemporary Calgary, Calgary, Canada. (2017); Mass Individualism: The Form of Multitude. Ab/Anbar Gallery, Tehran, Iran (2016) Residue: The Persistence of the Real. Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, Canada (2015) Crisis of History – Beyond History, Framer Framed, Amsterdam, Netherlands (2015); Common Grounds, Museum Villa Stuck, Munich, Germany (2015); L’avenir, 9th La Biennale de Montréal, Musee d’art Contemporain de Montréal, Canada (2014); and Hajj, le pèlerinage à La Mecque, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, France (2014). Golkar works and resides in Vancouver.
Text from Babak Golkar Studio
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