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Sargent’s Daughter’s “The Coverly Set”

​Currently on show till June 30, 2017

"If there is an equation for a curve like a bell, there must be an equation for one like a bluebell, and if a bluebell, why not a rose? Do we believe nature is written in numbers?"

Thomasina Coverly, from Tom Stoppard’s play Arcadia

As I peruse Sargent’s Daughters’ current exhibition The Coverly Set, I’m struck by Coverly’s quote.

It seems to me that I cannot escape the theme of Arcadia, even though I’m in the concrete forest that is Manhattan. Instead, I’m forced to come off of Lupertz’ Arcadia of unspoiled harmonious wilderness into a 21st century version of Arcadia, whereby technology and modern manmade objects (i.e. water bottles) become the spoiled wilderness that we must reconcile with.

In this summer entity of a group show, my two favourite pieces are Chloe Wise’s “Lars Von Trier’s the Sound of Music,” and Jon Kessler’s “Swan.” Wise’s work riff’s heavily on the materialistic consumer driven culture and social media influenced trends that are such a critique on society; in such a self-deprecating fashion that I cannot help but align with her. Her clever use of juxtaposition makes me literally laugh out loud. Her work is sarcastic and genuine at the same time. It also is an apt commentary of the millennial culture: how there is a certain aspirational yearning for old-school romanticism while being completely consumed by consumerism.

Kessler’s work has a video camera within it, is made of photos, and mirrored aluminium. It’s objectively jagged and ugly. But, because it’s shiny, I can see my own image, and the cut-outs are wildly haphazard. I’m intrigued; it’s a favourite. I love this piece because it’s complex: it’s transformative (it’s one of Kessler’s many Swan’s); it aims to highlight the way we only give things attention if we see ourselves in it because we’re image-obsessed; it speaks to the way our culture is surveillance-dominated and anyone and everyone can use technology to promote and monitor each other. I love this piece because it shows me just how much our current culture both needs and despises being watched.

As I move through the gallery, I’m increasingly exposed to the use of technology in art and the transformation art is given. I see projectors, hidden cameras, and plasma screens all showing me art’s slow evolution, and I find myself questioning this delicately calculated ideal of beauty and the intricate relationship whereby technology is not only a subject for art, but also the means by which it is made.

To me, The Coverly Set highlights the complex ways we’re entwined within our modern (read: technologically enhanced) nature, and how our relationship and development of technology can be used to enhance as well as endanger the world around us. This exhibition feels exceedingly relevant given the current climate of affairs.

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