--By Brice Terrace
CEO Blacks Paving Co.
To substantiate Beckett's recent windings in light of the theme of ‘Value’, I offer the following brief entry:
During 2003 Beckett created several formal museum-like spaces each documenting a given topic, bound often by characteristics displayed in the formative years of the industrial revolution, such as early patent trends in the name of intellectual property. Appropriately titled ‘Vacuum’, one installation was a room, mounted with various objects from x-ray tubes to the first vacuum pumps. In abstracting the subjects (it becomes apparent it is centrally about Edison) a voiceover explains object to object, sketching a path of influence from one figure to the next. If you have the patience to follow, you learn that a fluorescent tube is not that different from an x-ray tube or the vacuum tube of a television. In explaining the evolution of such inventions each tangent generally leads to issues of industry and mass-production. It is a cold re-enactment of an industrial culture through its’ stagnant product. In its’ relative clutter the room is intended as a ‘Wunderkamer’, a reference placing explicit importance on each object through the formalisms of archive to the extent of creating evidence in a historical crime of sorts.
In this sense, one has to wonder how it is that a light bulb made during the Second World War is still able to shine when one made a year ago sits in darkness. This marks a sibling stab Beckett makes at business ethic and the creation of market from otherwise stabile technologies. The effect is a provoking hollow, the technique more that of a clinical archivist than an artist.
In ‘A Partial Museum of Noise’ one is alerted to the extent to which the built environment is descriptive of its own nature and construction through irritating sound. Beginning with a series of historical accounts of attempts to suppress sound in cities, musty seventies cabinets lead you through related objects of urban infrastructure. Such an example is that of Nevsky Prospect, the main road running through St. Petersburg, when over a century ago wooden street surface had been employed to absorb the friction of noisy cartwheels. The streets were doomed to failure, as when water levels would rise, the wooden blocks would dislodge and float away. This is contrasted with a more modern brief for the construction of a sound barrier, isolating a Florida highway, a sub-urban enclosure to be painted with murals featuring the F-16 military aircraft. Placing documents in such close proximity creates an environment laden with accusation, in turn illustrating the extent of Beckett's frustration. The suffocating language of the museum becomes the uniform of a desire to understand diverse absurdity in human practice.
In this exploration something quite elusive becomes evident; the often crude and descriptive evolves into the hidden and sophisticated, -perhaps too much of our practice is taken for granted. In this, Beckett draws much from the writings of Dutch biologist Midas Dekkers. Dekkers is a macabre romantic with a healthy grudge against humanity. Conservation, for example, is his pet hate. The trimming of grass, the replanting of indigenous foliage, -humbug, he believes more in the likes of allowing actions to follow through to their logical conclusion, in this resides his view of truth and justice.
All said, the latest series of works I am not that fond of. He has become a bit too retentive in his approach and has, to some extent, forgotten the need for translation in favour of the raw hording, arrangement then presentation of information and objects from this world. In order to show his appreciation, confusion or just plain wonder, he has apparently become more of a second rate writer than the type of trash-cook with which I was once familiar.
Form your own opinions at www.jamesbeckett.tk where you can read among the afore mentioned, the life of ‘Larson Keys’ (a geologist come tugboat engineer who develops a skin disease and becomes a sub-urban recluse) as well as his latest lectures on sound (and a history of money in music) scheduled for presentation early April at the Nanjing University, China.