‘atrə’filēə: desire for collapse or stasis
In a conversation between James Baldwin and anthropologist Margaret Mead in Rap on Race, Mead posits the invention of the boat as the beginning of the accelerated movement of peoples and, in turn, a singular moment in the birth of colonial history, which is also the history of modernity. Boats, like trains and airplanes, have remained important—and relatively unchanging—devices for the circulation of objects and individuals, as well as individuals as objects. In the “Carrier Bag Theory of Evolution” novelist Ursula K. Le Guin posits that the first cultural device was likely a bag, rather than the penetrating spear or club: “A leaf a gourd a shell a net a bag a sling a sack a bottle a box a container. A holder. A recipient.”
In ATROPHILIA, Jesse Darling and Phoebe Collings-James engage comparative mythologies and theologies as a way to imagine both a counterhistory and an alternative to accelerationist narratives of technology and progress (atrophilia is a term coined by the artists to mean [the libidinal] desire for collapse or stasis). In this new series of sculpture work, both artists attempt to interrupt the cycles of signification normally assigned to objects and in this way give voice to what Fred Moten calls “the eloquence of things.”
In her new sculpture, PCJ considers this historical and political space between the sac and the boat in both their actual and hypothetical trajectories. Thinking beyond associations to wombs and women’s work, the artist imagines the container as an un-gendered multi vessel, an “extra set of hands.” These works refer in part to the votive altars of municipal message boards and street side shrines, framing common food bags and ubiquitous PP transit sacking, arranged here to highlight their respective roles in globalized trade. Displaying these remnants in almost coffin-like boxes, PCJ recalls the brutal human cost of this market.
In an ongoing project to denaturalize the theological ecosystem of capitalist modernity as “an arbitrary, violent fairytale,” JD’s work and research examines object relations as a form of syncretic worship—a technology in itself—in which agency is conferred to the objects themselves. Imagining the high church of the modern as a moveable or precarious tabernacle, these new works feature an array of free-floating consumer goods, liturgical devices and mythical symbols detached from the architectures and taxonomies in which they have their place—and draw parallel lines between the long nodal teleologies of empire, from “bread and circuses” Rome to the USA of today.