Jordan Azcune: Raw Prawn

Dear Diary,

Jordan Azcune’s object relations are familiarly uncommon. They negotiate actions of strapping, balancing, leaning, extending, buggering, blending, bending, shrouding, hanging, twisting, puncturing, spilling, stretching, strapping and tying. His assemblages emit and scramble the physical networks of bodies and lived experience and act as barometers and mirrors that question their processes and place. When viewing Azcune’s works, one can track intuitive material observations alongside snatches of thought and make-shift mannerisms that push familiar strategies for thinking and experiencing into array, melting and spreading their corporal conditions in luminous and playful ways. Azcune also has a tendency to make work from ‘re-working’ choice materials in new scenarios, leading one to view his work as ‘measurements’, ‘surveys’, ‘tests’ or research of the very ‘stuff’ to which they are made.

In formulating arrays of quotidian materials, Azcune employs common strategies in contemporary art that simultaneously highlight the consumer cravings characteristic of our time, while offering alternative ways to ‘think’, consume and re-recognise what ‘familiarity’ dubs as absolute and invisible. His works regularly use site, situation, sporting equipment and a ‘utility-tray’ pallet as subject and material. I’ve noticed him employing in his displays tie down straps, saw horses, bricks, bungee hooks, roof tiles, pool noodles, fans, floats, raw timber, mesh, tarpaulins, tin, and plants in ambiguous stages of life and death. A large selection of these objects appear to be rounded-up from the local hardware or the artist’s own shed/backyard. By reinventing and arranging such blue-collar relics into art and framing them within deadpan or ‘anti-decorative’ displays, Azcune draws forth slapstick and absurdist sensibilities. His titles also tend to heighten and complicate these dynamics and his installation titled: ‘I’d give my left nut to see that again (after Edward Scissorhands)’, reminds me of the exuberant and unapologetic poetry of Francis Picabia. Francis Picabia (a defining figure in the Dada movement), like Azcune, had no qualms in the art of re-editing and re-wording his outputs and was more inclined to ‘throw monkey wrenches into language’ than wait patiently for inspiration to knock at his door 1. Just as the man who mistook his wife for a hat, Azcune adopts ‘wrenches’ or a raw prawn mentality to mix and ‘mistake’ object and things. His shirts and raincoats evade the body, air blows through them, or they are bunched into balls. In ‘neck pain’ 3 (May 15, 2015) a saw horse with long timber ‘extensions’ fixed with yellow zip ties, reaches across the gallery to balance a flaccid rainbow umbrella. Such works are eagerly mysterious and rather than promising hard outcomes they encourage multiple entry points and play out in real time.

Gavin Pretor-Pinney, the leader of The Cloud Appreciation Society (TCAS), works to dissolve negative perceptions of clouds in language. A business term he likes to debunk is ‘Blue Sky thinking’. Pretor-Pinney rejects Blue Sky Thinking because it implies that one must be removed from the ‘reality of the present’ to gain perspective and increase creativity. I feel people like Pretor-Pinney and Azcune are importantly unanimous in rejecting this view. They understand that beauty and creativity are much more omnipresent and that our problems and solutions are messily engrained in the material networks (or within the clouds) around us. While the TCAS remind us simply to look up, Azcune uncovers for us something unexpected within something familiar. He self-consciously experiments with materials to make them ‘conductive’ and he uses concepts of parody and pastiche to start this process. Azcune also relays a sliding scale of personal and art historical references through his works and engages in collaborative side projects as a sort of economical way to collect new content and enthusiasm to feed back into his repertoire. Like the process of painting, Azcune introduces tensions and developments by way of textures, materials and ideas, ruffling our feathers to remind us how rigid and fluid our relationships with order can be and potentially questing the integrity of meaning itself. Yet rather than feeling completely awash in a sea of private languages, Azcune is a strong story teller and avoids long winded tales and slow cooked meals. He constructs works that we can walk ‘through’ and he encourages us to experience works directly and intimately, allowing meaning to arise ‘in-between’ thought and experience. In butting together the subjective experiences of the unfamiliar with the real and physical present, Azcune confronts the ways in which we usually re-tell our more immediate realities, and in turn provides incentive for us to reflect and fine-tune our own backyards.

I’d like to sign off now with one of my favourite poems by Picabia, Easel Wife.

EASEL WIFE

Its abnormal leaves foreign parasite
Hold news items
in a country heavy with nerves.
The walnut tree in the banal unknown
is the only truth
further off.
———————

Essay by Erika Scott

Courtesy of Cut Thumb ARI, from the exhibition by Jordan Azcune: Raw Prawn.

1. Lowenthal, M. 2007. I Am A Beautiful Monster : poetry, prose, and provocation Francis Picabia. MIT Press: England p12
2. Sluggish Videos 2015, fighting blue sky thinking. Available from: . [19 January 2016].
3. Azcune, J 2016, Jordan Azcune personal website. Available from [21 January 2016]