Artist: The Little Professor (1971- ), in collaboration with Victoria (1999 - ).
Title: Book Boxes with Cat and Couch.
Materials: Cardboard, books (clothbound and paperback), microfiber, wood, cotton. Also a cat.
This work-in-progress demonstrates the artist's ongoing engagement with the material properties of texts, especially their suitability for experimenting with various three-dimensional forms (see Overread and Essence of Numerous Biographies). Here, we see two significant advances on the artist's previous reinscriptions of the text within the domains of sculpture and architecture. First, the texts themselves have been cannily concealed within anonymous containers, simultaneously undoing the very possibility of encountering the text as text and implying a pun on The Prison-House of Language. In fact, the erasure of these texts from the visual field forces the viewer to reflect on the relationship between signs and their potentially invisible or even disruptive signifiers: the installation's title is a text that promises the existence of other texts, and yet the "books" of the title remain tantalizingly out of reach. Second, inasmuch as the title tempts the viewer to open the boxes, this installation subverts the logics of curated space within the normative art gallery. The prospect of interactivity--the viewer might even wish to rearrange the boxes--disrupts the otherwise hegemonic and hierarchical relationship between untouchable art object and passive viewer.
What significance should we grant to the alliterative "cat" and "couch"? We note, to begin with, that the cat's participation in this project was clearly contingent on its own fickle desires, which rarely coincide with human needs and wishes. As a result, we may conclude that the cat's presence offers subtle metacommentary on the complexities of ascribing authorial intent to any artistic product. The cat's sideways glance, which resists and indeed rejects the demands of the human gaze, further undermines the normative project of scopophilic relations established in the context of the modern art gallery. At the same time, the cat's inability to treat the boxes as anything but a purely utilitarian convenience further calls our attention to the contingency of a text's meaningfulness; here, removed from their original and organized shelf space, books cease to be sites of potential learning, and merely become sites. By contrast, if the cat suggests the uncontrollable free play of signifiers, the couch offers up the present yet semi-occluded promise of cultural stability. Partly concealed by the boxes that threaten to overwhelm it, the couch represents the last-ditch effort of the modern academic to ground interpretation in materiality. Further boxes may erase the couch altogether, thus indicating the threat of pure materiality to academic interpretive gate-keeping.