Intelligible Inversions of a Tired Reality

Published 21 September 2013 Simon Marsh

Desire, arguably is a fictionalised or indeed a fantastical aspiration and yet the hunger it engenders in the human psyche has the power to motivate actualisation: the power to satiate a seemingly uncontrollable appetite to possess. It is not a one size fits all, readymade human emotion and like a cut gemstone, desire exhibits a plethora of differing facets. From the surface response of a subjective gratification, it can also scream a more sinister collective zeitgeist. Ultimately, desire has the ability to chimerically inhabit the complete spectrum of human emotional stimuli. And yet a metaphysical ‘absolute’ desire, in this case, inhabits the realm of aesthetic appreciation, irregardless of whether that appreciation is of the sublime, beautiful, line, form, purity, light or colour of the artistic object being observed.

Brisbane emerging artist Caitlin Franzmann exhibits a cognisant, intimate working knowledge of this emotional and metaphysical spectrum in her most recent offering, Dissolve.

Constructed of two distinct, separate and yet inter relating halves, Franzmann engages with and intelligibly extends the minimalist, literalist, concrete, radical and formalist dialogue surrounding concepts such as light, surface, purity and objecthood and possibly not so surprisingly, in this, the centenary of Vladimir Malevich’s Black Square – the fictional logic Suprematism set in motion and the capacity, one may even suggest the necessity of the spectator to project meaning and fantasy onto artworks, in an attempt to inhabit the symbolic origin of the inherently unattainable zero of form – but more on this later. [1]

Upon entering the gallery space one cannot help but be overwhelmed by the playful yet directed inversion of the white cube. Traditionally elevating the gallery space toward an ecclesiastical hierarchy, the white cube, amongst others, acts as a mechanism to delineate the space between artworks and direct the gaze. But in this case, it casts a darkened shadow that encompasses and intimately frames the sublimely beautiful white light sculptural installation inhabiting the further most reaches of the room.

Unsurprisingly we are drawn to this embodiment of purity. However, upon arrival, we become cognisant of Franzmann’s desire for the audience to interact with the work. We are encouraged to break the cardinal rule of the gallery space by wearing one of the six sculpted helmets exhibited. It is this Fluxus inspired performative aspect to the exhibition that the audience through the artistic medium complete the installation. It is where the conceptual aspects of the installation create an unrelenting tension to those of an aesthetic purity. Connected wirelessly to one of three soundscapes that explore the audiences subjective aesthetic response to the altered and implied space, importantly we are also asked to explore our direct response to what it is we are hearing. Throughout this process Franzmann intelligibly navigates Adorno’s fraught divide between the autonomy of art and its systematic reduction to that of mere entertainment. [2] However perhaps more importantly, it is this Fluxus inspired performative aspect to the installation – where the conceptual aspects of the soundscapes and spoken word create a subjective, unrelenting tension to those of aesthetic purity – where we simply must consider an existential critique of the work. A critique that highlights each audience members subjectivity as being the arbiter of meaning. [3] And it is at this realisation that the exhibition simply explodes into a myriad of potential readings.

We enter the second space down a constructed hallway, reminiscent of entering a cinema, traditionally seen as a space where belief is suspended, at times a fictional, a fantastical space of consummate escapism. And this is where we must take a conceptual leap of faith, for what we are presented with is a large white rectangle of light. Often viewed as an artistic representation of the zero of form, this rectangle of isolated purity suggests, in one sense, reminiscences of a cinematic experience. However it is strongly suggested, that coupled with the collision of sound and text, we are more encouraged to follow the fictional Suprematist logic encompassing the ‘transformative power of art to create an altered consciousness”. The question we must ask ourselves is: what colour is a thought? And for that matter what shape does a thought inspire? [4]

And so it is that through the application of Malevitch’s Suprematist project, we arrive at the fictionalised linear progression of thoughts – inhabiting both colour and shape – that can be seen to be logically originating from the purity of the white rectangle – or in this case the zero of form. This in turn conceptually lends “body to all subsequent permutations of thought that must insist on pointing toward a vision of the future.

Now to continue to follow this Suprematist logic, the fictionalised temporality of these permutations of thought as colour and shape can never remain static, meaning, that we are obliged to constantly move away from and back toward their point of origin – the zero of form – or in this case the absolute purity of the white light of the rectangle, for to discover colour one must obliterate it. To know the absolute of a thing such as desire, must not desire likewise be obliterated? This spatial adventure into the metaphysical realm can be seen simply as testament to the all pervasive psychological emphasis that we as humans place on the concept – fictionalised or not – of the notion of the “point of origin”, of the notion of purity and absolute spirit.

In effect Franzmann encourages us to bear witness to the temporal interplay of both the collective and subjective psychological implications of desire as it communicates and at times collides across the spectrum of the conscious/unconscious mind.

The unremitting line of enquiry that persists surrounds whether we in fact require these fictionalised triggers to attain the metaphysical absolute of anything and if indeed we do, what then clearly defines the contemporary duality of the unreal/real? In a social order hell bent on a two byte subjective gratification in the pursuit of, or more to the point desirous of an absolute knowledge, absolute wisdom and technique, and arguably an absolute spirit, the question simply must be asked: does this receding metaphysical quest for the absolute intimate a site of immense loss? Possibly, though one thing we can be certain about is that the pure, embodied, post minimal, conceptual art of Caitlin Franzmann, in this case exhibits an ‘emancipatory potential for a social order that has systematically alienated itself and its environment’. [5]

Addressing, in the main, the crisis facing the human sensorium, the crisis of perception and the radically disappearing horizons of an absolute desire, all, arguably elements comprising the metaphysical absolute of spirit: intrinsically this show must be understood as not dealing in a currency of beauty or desire governed by possession or consumption but rather the aesthetic, embodied and perceptual beauty, an absolute spirit inspired and shaped by the metaphysical reach of art.

Header Image courtesy Caitlin Franzmann, Dissolve, Six helmets, audio, light box shelf and light installation. Fresh Cut 2013, Part 1, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane. Music Courtesy: Per Olov Kindgren, Air, Johann Sebastian Bach.

‘Caitlin Franzmann explores contemporary art’s potential to instigate change by way of critical listening, dialogue and self-empowerment. In reaction to the fast pace and sensory overstimulation of contemporary urban life, she creates situations to encourage slowness, mindful contemplation, and social interaction in both galleries and public spaces. These situations include conversation-based works and immersive sonic spaces such as wearable listening sculptures, architectural interventions and audiowalks.

Caitlin originally trained as an urban planner before completing a Bachelor of Fine Art at Queensland College of Art in 2012. She has exhibited nationally and internationally, including at National Gallery of Victoria, Institute of Modern Art, and MPavilion, and in Festivals such as OtherFilm and Electrofringe. Caitlin has been selected for residencies in Indonesia, Turkey and, most recently, with Brisbane City Council’s Karawatha Forest Discovery Centre. She was recipient of the 2014 Churchie National Emerging Art Prize and was selected to exhibit in Primavera 2014: Young Australian Artists at the Museum of Contemporary Art. 

As a member of the feminist art collective LEVEL, Caitlin has presented participatory works at Gallery of Modern Art, Museum of Contemporary Art and Australian Centre for Contemporary Art. With LEVEL, she has also co-curated exhibitions and forums with a focus on generating dialogue around gender, feminism and contemporary art’. View Caitlin’s full Curriculum Vitae. [5]

[1] Briony, Fer. On Abstract Art. Yale University Press, 2000.

[2] Hamilton, Andy. Adorno and the Autonomy of Art. Giacchetti Ludovisi, Stefano and Saavedra, G. Agostini (eds.) Nostalgia for a Redeemed Future: Critical Theory. University of Delaware, 2009.

[3]Gibson, Ann. Abstract Expressionisms Evasion of Language. Art Journal, Vol. 47 Issue 3, September 1988.

[4] Drake, Ryan. The Death of Painting (After Plato). Research in Phenomenology, 41, 23–44, 2011.

[5] Franzmann, Caitlin. Curriculum Vitae, Taken from, at 28-2-2018.