Solo presentation at Villa Tokyo, 2011

You the decorative amoeba with no hope of replication!

The lowest of all cells! Not even a bastard, just born from crumbs and possessed of nothing! You, the woeful picketer, plenty to say but shy of his voice. Take a stand, but sit down! So the brick-on-the-head moment reformulates, the singular little block standing realigned as checkered toothy grin, an en masse solid of third-wall ready to receive the smashed-through silhouette of new dawn’s villain. Or tessellated hole as superhero stamp, comic logo of strength and stupidity – arms, legs, violence all flattened into gaping 2-D. The tragedy of these two dimensions barely contained; pixels not rendered but groped into space. And somehow the damage is triumph, a perfect framing of movement, of personality, of violence again. Comma. Pregnant pause. And there is something of the aspirational in the slapstick, a referential giggle to the pathetic but hopeful, too: the biggest hat at the wedding, a kissing goodbye to erectile dysfunction, not missing the train but getting the wrong one and in the wrong direction.

The audience smirks, but with who? Is the handling artful or irreverent? Material is traversed with fingers and thumbs but somehow handled with the elegant ritual (or dissembling tact) of the magician’s glove. You can build edifice with artifice because where there is dilapidation we might as well just see a preposterous luxury. Wood grain glued as umbrella, as home-making quiff, stylized grating dryness in the face of all this moisture. We’re in a place where material is read as tight-necked vicar poised to whisper earnest parables into gloopy, promiscuous ear. The hinge is like a crazy form of violence. All that two and fro, relentless back and forth but going nowhere. Sex and not having it. And relentlessly those tiny ball bearings just squeeze repeatedly over around one another, a rolling, lolling gorgeousness of grease and motion. Precise fluidity or fluid precision; cheek to cheek. Sweating, oozing and never drying up. Just wearing down. This body has an additional limb, it is spare, extra, on its own and therefore poor – a poor prop. Out on a limb, we would say. Or it’s a wobbly moustache and the potential for tweaking and eeking out begins again.

So this is the stage where crumbs creep from shadows to form something bigger, something in a moment where they say: ‘I love the marble in that sculpture’ and you reply, for the pleasure of the words in your mouth: ‘No, that’s folded ham’. And in that rapid moment of material deception, coyness replicates in image, too – lies, vowels and adjectives are caressed, compressed, assessed but left ultimately without temperature. Hands move to define or assert a hierarchy of scale, always touching, repositioning for the perfect photographic angle, but the forensic’s brush is useless here and the fingerprint leaves no trail of name or romance. These comic hands are as cold as the photograph glaze, yet some wet-paint tackiness lingers so well defined that you could kiss the surface and get your lips stuck.

Helen Marten 2011