Liam Krijgsman has led us in with a vision- A low stakes vision: Sizzlers at a monumental scale. These symbols of wartime sensibilities rebranded with a 90s flair. Sizzlers -the notorious little bastards- cannot even be regarded as sausages because their content is less than 45 per cent meat. Rotating on a slick steel machine which reminds me of a rotisserie supermarket chicken, there is an uncanny feeling of the machine operating of its own accord, an automaton, cooking these not-sausages.
On close inspection the sausages seem to be made out of some sort of painted fibreglass material, grotesque and faux-fleshy in the same way those antiquated permanent exhibits at the Canterbury Museum are. Florence Nightingale invites you to shake her cool, prosthetic hand on a fake Victorian Street. This is my favourite unheimliche place in the city. I remember walking into one once, and apologising only to realise I was talking to a statue. If you were to speak to Krijgsman about the title and why it was chosen, he’d probably say something like
“It was fun for a while.
There was no way of knowing
Like a dream in the night
Who can say where we're going?”
and then maybe he’d do something like try to distract you from your questions by trailing off onto memes, capitalism and funny youtube videos. He is very much indeed, a young, engaged artist. In touch with the generational humour that marks an avid internet user, his work has always built on and appropriated the seemingly innate sense of comedy active cultural engagers have a grasp on. Somewhere between irony, cynicism and an intimate understanding of the failures of capitalism.
More Than This presents as a sort of riddle. Krijgsman’s refusal to transparency gives the work a greater intrigue by means of not limiting interpretation to a pre-digested conceptual framing. In going with a minimal information approach, at the very least I think audiences will find this work humorous, which is not a bad thing to bump into on a Saturday morning walk around Otautahi. Even with the small amounts of information provided it gives jumping-off points. It invites building a deeper personal awareness of the critiques of culture in our late-capitalist period, revolving slowly inside it’s own never-ending, recycled-meat repetition.
Krijgsman, as echoed by the tone of Fisher’s writing where references to film, music, art, and 20th century French post-structuralist philosophers are used in the same breath. Krijgsman draws on this democratic treatment of cultural material with a specific type of ease- one that suggests, but refuses to elaborate on the kind of thought process behind selecting the material.
Mark Fisher’s writing The Slow Cancellation of The Future, originally published in his book Ghosts of My Life (2014) in which he details the failings of late capitalism to push culture into the present, and highlights a repetition and obsession with fake-nostalgia. Fisher’s argument feels more appropriate when applied to art institutions, which in the recent past have felt the pressure of the late-capitalist desire to push art closer to being a commodity or pure formalism, consumable for instagram, rather than a tool for conversation. With the combined pressures of public scrutiny, a dissolution of institutional support and a lack of diversity, art in Aotearoa especially in public institutions has seen a repetitive discourse, one that is entirely agreeable, obvious and digestible to a generally liberally educated, middle-class audience. This is not an entirely negative thing, but cultural stagnancy is the red flag of late capitalism’s failings and Krijgsman’s work seems to build on these ideas. There is more to be overturned here, and I believe it will take more than one artist or show to make change to this.
Liam Krijgsman, More Than This
66 Gloucester Street
26 February – 7 May
1. Liam Krijgsman, More Than This, installation. Photograph: Sarah Rowlands