IMN #13 — ROBNESS
It's Monday Night #13
Tonight, let’s share thoughts about @robnessofficial’s work.
For once, I will focus on one single piece: the «64 GALLON TOTER». a work that is destined to become a founding myth. Founding of what? I have some hypotheses. Let's go.
The work is a gif of a trash bin from the Home Depot website. The Toter has no apparent interest: first, because it's a bin; second, because, among bins, this one does not possess the slightest singularity. No matter how hard you look, you will not find anything special about it.
So Rob designed a gif of a glittering dotted bin that spins around in an infinite loop. The image is of poor quality. It would probably give you a slight headache if you looked at it too long. Nothing remarkable so far.
But let's be a little more precise in the description.
First thing: there is not one, but several bins, one on top of the other. This bin gif, absolutely banal in itself, contains a plurality of bins. It's a false unity, a real multiple.
The Totter is not a bin that splits, it's a set of bins orbiting around the same empty centre.
Second thing: the bin goes through different colour states during its rotation. It is, so to speak, in tension between two energies: obvious coolness of blue and warmth of red-orange-yellow. This chromatic radiance or aura gives the object a kind of unstable, shoddy sacredness.
In the course of its gravitation, @robnessofficial Toter becomes both what we look at and the frame through which we look at something: the Toter itself. I believe that in fact the Toter stages nothing less than the appearance and round of a simulacrum.
The toter seems to represent the appearance and the round of a simulacrum. All that one discovers when looking inside a simulacrum is yet another simulacrum.
The Toter turns on itself like a clock or a planet.
On the one hand, the Toter loop evokes the course of a clock hand: the bin, the final destination of all waste, is turned into a unit of measurement of time.
On the other hand, the Toter's round evokes the rotation of a star: the bin, on the fringes of all physical realities, is suddenly placed at the centre of the universe, like a pixel sun.
Much has already been said about the Toter. Its legend is already being written and I do not claim to be its author.
I know that the Toter is a fierce response to the accusation that critics have made to Rob of producing trash art.
Rob Toter is the illustration and denial in action of this criticism.
Better, he destroys the reproach by taking it in the most literal way: yes, Rob's works are garbage, and this is not even a metaphor, but this trashing of artworks may transform the whole aesthetic. Or not.
@robnessofficial has often been compared to Duchamp. It's hard not to see the connection. In fact it is so easy that it is necessarily too easy.
But if you think about it for five minutes, Rob's Toter follows a symmetrically opposite trajectory to Duchamp's Fountain.
One turns a urinal into a work of art - it basically shows that the artist has the power to invite anything (not quite anything, but that would be beyond the scope of this review) into the official history of art.
To put it simply, he can give the Medal of Honor to any slob, the slob will really be ennobled, sublimated. The more random the better.
With @robnessofficial, on the contrary, it is not the urinal that becomes a work of art, it is the work of art that becomes waste.
But why on earth would the work of art become waste? Rob's statement is of great historical relevance here. This is strict materialism.
If the work of art becomes waste, it's that all the rest becomes waste.
Art is promised to no special salvation, it has the same destiny as all the beings that inhabit the world of late capitalism.
The era we live in is that of industrial waste and production of disposable goods.
If programmed obsolescence is now the rule, works of art will be no exception; at the same time, the Toter is not itself a waste, it is a garbage can - that in which one makes the garbage disappear - which confers on it a form of eternity.
But @robnessofficial Toter says something more specific.
Every society has its waste, its filth, its dirt, its grime, its rottenness, and it builds itself by keeping this abject part out.
At the same time, this marginalization of dirt tells a lot about symbolism, rites, values of a community. You learn a lot about the history of a system by looking at what that system has excluded. It is in the waste that vicissitudes of a civilization is written in small letters.
Any archaeologist knows that.
@robnessofficial know that.
But he grasps a paradox more finely than anyone else: the 21st century has already produced much more waste than any other, and yet it has never been so invisible.
One object takes all the light: the garbage can, which is a kind of idol or new god, which is there to receive our offerings and make our waste disappear.
The trash can is the new universal. It is an industrial object - like the Toter - that contains other industrial objects.
It is the industry that mass-produces a commodity that can swallow other mass-produced commodities.
Except that the trash can is not dirty, it is a sanctuary, a space of deliverance, even of purification. Opening it is a bit tricky, closing it is divine.
It is a benevolent goddess, who frees us from the anguish of pollution and contamination.
It contains the best kept secret of our metropolises: its mud, its hair, its plastic wrappings; a secret that is however available at any time and to anyone.
Because the Toter is also a utopia: waste is this reality which is «res nullius», everyone can seize it.
If, like me, you live in a big city, you know that waste is probably the only thing in your landscape that doesn't belong to anyone, that could be yours or anyone else's.
The condition of the waste is to be appropriable, transformable, infinitely manipulable: no right is exercised on it, it lends itself to all uses.
@robnessofficial captured this dimension perfectly.
But his Toter is not a waste product, it's a trash can.
The trash can is a death processing plant but it seems to be immortal. Who, in his life, has ever thrown a trash can in the trash? The Toter is a digitalized trash can. Tokenized. It has no use value anymore. It becomes allegorical, in a way. A sign.
It completes this access to eternity that every garbage can carries in it, in a way that only art makes possible. It is a utopian garbage can: it shelters all the impurity of the world and yet it is a completely pure being.
It is no longer there to maintain order in the city but it looks at us like a sphinx, carrying an enigma that has at stake the figure of humanity.
Small means, big effects. Like God. I’m kidding.
P.S: I'm going to cheat and add 4 things I would have liked to talk about in telegraphic style:
1/ The mention of the 68 gallons in the work's title: the bin is reduced to its capacity, more precisely to its volume. Double process of standardization and spiritualization of the bin which becomes a number.
2/The loop is not perfect. Unlike the movement of the planets or the clock, there is a break or rather an ostensible reset effect: the cycle must be interrupted; it is the interruption of the cycle that is cyclical.
3/ I see Rob as a prophet: remember that prophets are often wrong. Remember also that they see some things that you can't see.