Roulette – the organ of chance, 2012 © Geoffrey Smedley


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Dissections brings together several works by Vancouver-based artist Geoffrey Smedley and reflects on many disciplines such as the history of science, geometry, philosophy and architecture. The exhibition takes the form of a cabinet theatre in the mode of the absurd, staging the mythic figure of Descartes’ Clown, a neurotic and insecure robot that dissects himself with the machines on display in the hopes of discovering the organ of his existence. In a critique of the mechanization of man argued by Descartes in The Description of the Human Body in 1647, Smedley develops an expression of the world that is both wholly mathematical and rational, but also unreasonable and inconsistent with the psychological facts of experience.

The installation features four sculptural works, each related to a metaphorical part of the Clown’s anatomy. Escapement, the organ of endurance, is a moving structure with a self-propelled pulse and refers to being and the self. Three wooden mortuary tables, sarcophagus-like objects and a brain table carry the dissected part of Spine, the clown’s organ of extension. Logos is a large machine resting on top of a wooden structure and refers to the organ of remembering and forgetting. Finally, the fourth component is the Roulette, the will of Descartes’ Clown and his organ of chance. The sliding mechanism operates a marble that by force of gravity finds its own route through the upper plate of the sculpture.

The exhibition is accompanied by a selection of personal notebooks and drawings that reveal the conceptual process of Smedley’s practice and its connections to architectural thinking, from the first sketches through to design development illustrations.

The opening of Dissections is on 6 June at 6 pm.