A knob, switch, tool with no definable explanation. An object which occupies a space with becoming a term in it. A thing that questions what a gallery is for. Jake Singer’s sculptures – or man-made morphs – trigger this unsettlement. They are not things which make sense. They defy the spaces that would embalm them. They ask us to rethink what we mean by art.
Crude ramifications, Singer’s sculptures implode the classic Apollonian aesthetic – its symmetrical volume, its governing centrifuge – so we can no longer understand the rationale behind its existence. ‘Vector Glitch’ conjures a derailed trajectory while ‘Glitch Worm’ x-rays a virus at the core of a system. Made of pins, drop sheets, mild steel, threaded rod, an F-clamp, these works shift the material conventions which inform sculpture. Along with packaging tape, electrical tape, LED video lighting – the materials used in ‘RGB Sky’ – or the ink, spray paint, acetone and archival paper – used in the ‘Channel’ series – Singer’s materials – his matter – mark a shift to the post-industrial.
Singer’s widgets, his works, are made from materials retooled, freed from their use-value, recombined in the creation of useless things. For what is art if not something manically rarefied and intrinsically useless? An atheistic religion? A luxury good which marks the excesses not only of taste but humanity?
This age, our age, the post-post-industrial digitised age, now possesses its own timeline and geology – The Anthropocene – which defines an earth and a civilisation governed by human impact. It is this man-made morph which Singer places centre-stage. His combines – which includes rocks – reveal the new splice of Man and machine, geology and polymer, which Wired magazine dubbed the ‘Plastiglomerate’.
It is these new and strange agglomerations which, compacted, ramified, like a muscle threaded with steel, which drives Singer’s vision. Therein the geometric meets the larval, the grid its corrosion. His C-prints on rag – ‘Promises of the City, Burst’ – reveal a roiling humanity engulfed by plasticity. The colours are lurid, childlike, recalling the infantilised world of playpen and supermarket. These works markedly contrast with the ‘Channel’ series – desaturated, moody – in which a finite gridded world meets its obfuscation and erasure.
‘Space is digital’, Singer writes. ‘Body is landscape / Architecture is algorithim / Monuments are megabytes’. Each morph announces the dissolution of our human vanities. The imperial fantasy that we are the self-possessed masters of all we survey is now lost, as is the integrity of the body, or the buildings and monuments erected to our misbegotten arrogances. The poem ‘Ozymandias’ reminds us that all is ground to dust. Christopher Nolan’s ‘Inception’ reminds that every dimension can be breached. Singer’s strange widgets describe, perform, and insert this fathomless-toxic-mutant life into this life that is no longer ours.
This strangeness we feel when arrested by a Singer work is the deranging strangeness we cannot escape.