Phil Aitken: Useful Tasks #5 & #6

WHEN : 9th - 19th December

Cultures are imagined orders, orders that are safeguarded through constructed social norms and imagined myths. Objects, as part of a material culture become representative of these constructed cultural orders, social norms and myths. These cultural orders and their associated objects in turn become artificial instincts.

In the parable ‘The Madman‘, Friedrich Nietzsche suggests that “god is dead” and that, “We have killed him – you and I. All of us are his murderers.” Nietzsche further asks us, as god’s murderers, “Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”
These material objects, as part of a larger suite of works titled Useful Tasks suggests that we have not become gods. Humanity’s level of self esteem is not collectively strong enough to lift the notion of god from its myth and accept the role ourselves in reality. Instead we have built a reliance on the machine, from the war machine to the self defining object, and it is the machine that has become god.

Humanity’s increasing reliance on the machine is multifarious. It is used as a means of supporting and contesting existence in the here and now, and also through the ongoing processes of consumption and presentation. In terms of both its material and non material characteristics the machine has become an all important object in our cultural orders.
Religion, as human construction has its various gods. But the machine as a human invention has now become god.

Aitken then asks the question: Is the empty promise of a life everlasting being subsumed into history by the process of mechanisation and the ego of consumption and presentation?
Operating as aesthetic object and metaphor these kinetic constructions respond to the notion that one created reason for existence is being redefined and substituted for another. And that these machines, as human constructions are as much gods as are the constructed myths of the past.

There is of course a distinct lack of productive output and as machines they are about as useful as the religious gods. Useful Tasks then becomes an ironic title and they become simultaneously useful – not useful, machine – not machine and they become god – not god. They are machine, they are god, they are merely another human construction.
This forms the basis of Aitken’s doctoral research.

Phil Aitken is a sessional arts tutor and doctoral candidate with the Queensland College of Arts, Griffith University. He has a Masters in Sculpture from The University of Canterbury, NZ and a Post Graduate Diploma in Visual and Material Culture from Massey University, NZ. His interest in the myths of religion and consumerism go back to his early teenage years as a choir boy. When he wasn’t singing the hymns and psalms, he was distractedly scribbling on pieces of paper. And he only sung because he was paid. A mere cog in the consumerist machine supporting an imagined cultural order.

Dates: Wednesday, 9 December – Saturday, 19 December 2015
Opening Event: Friday, 11 December 2015, 6 – 8 pm
Venue: WEBB Gallery, QCA, 226 Grey Street, South Bank
Gallery Hours: 10 am – 4 pm, Tuesday to Saturday

Image: Phil Aitken Useful Tasks #4 2015, timber, steel, motor, electronic components, 350 x 600 x 100cm (detail)