Fourth World Problems


Alex Gawronski: Fourth World Problems, 2018

(Disjecta 1-8 – Digital photos on archival cotton rag, framed)

(Surface Effects – Styrofoam, resin, Perspex, enamel paint, bottles, aluminium cans, leaves, twigs, cigarette butts, glass, paper)

(Last Impressions – Acrylic on unprimed canvas. Stretched)

True Estate, Brunswick East, Melbourne, VIC.

In the hierarchical order of imagined worlds, the ‘Third World’ is typically that territory dominated by the misery of poverty and failing economies, of environmental degradation and cheap mass production. Despite the poverty traditionally associated with the so-called Third World, such regions are often also associated with their extreme productive capacities, mainly due to an abundance of cheap labour. A paradox persists though given that if the First World were reduced to the conditions of the Third – if Third World manufacturing ceased – so too would the privileged lifestyles of First World societies. While we depend on a daily basis on Third World manufacturing, the lives of the majority of those living in these geopolitical regions are practically forgotten, reduced to a state of permanent invisibility.

The Fourth World I am proposing in this exhibition is an ironic one: a Fourth World of discarded things, of objects rather than humans, thrown away. These otherwise mute objects nonetheless speak. They were once purchased and cherished, now they are reduced to utter uselessness, a material inconvenience to be ejected from our lives as quickly as possible. In this prosaic discarding, this perpetual getting-rid-of, that which we no longer wish to see in our private habitats, becomes eminently public. It is all too visible in the streets and alleyways of the metropolis. Everywhere discarded ‘stuff’ piles up in broad daylight exposed for everyone to see. A potential treasure trove for scavengers, this stuff is simultaneously a persistent physical manifestation of the endless cycle of obsolescence and entropy; the constant failure of objects to fulfill human desires.

Today Cultural Studies proposes a New Materialism of things to represent an allegedly Anthropocene historical moment. New Materialism, barely political it would seem unlike historical Materialism, theorises the reality of things that ‘feel’ and ‘see’. It attempts to redress a (failed) humanist tradition that has placed humans at the centre of everything. Proposing a post-(or, arguably, in-)human alternative to centuries-old humanist tradition is deeply ironic however when so many people living today in barely imaginable conditions, are already effectively treated as things. Fourth World Problems are the imaginary challenges of a world dominated by wasted objects, a mass network of stuff that is decidedly post-human.

Hidden within these works almost like clues are suggestions of various alternative potentialities; the series of photos of discarded rubbish (Disjecta 1-8) conceal an uncanny formalism, the incidental memory of a constructivism waiting to rise; the series of ‘shadow-paintings’ likewise suggest hidden constructivist possibilities; the bricked ‘waterlogged’ trash-pit (Surface Effects) separating these two series was reconstructed from photos of the utterly disregarded exterior of a very famous contemporary art museum and speaks of the gritty underside of institutional self-presentation, that which the glossy interior cannot admit. Left unattended, so-called high culture returns to the street.

Ozco Logos

Written by alex gawronski

November 29, 2018 at 9:54 PM