“Automaton”, 2009
Drawing, video, installation, photography

" (...) From 19 till 21 March 2009—about the same time as the controversy over EarnestIsabel Löfgren, Kenneth Feinstein, Kenny Png, and Jeremy Fernando attempted to think the notion of art as praxis, think the relationality of art and the artist, through different media—sketchings (Löfgren), video (Feinstein), photography (Png), and painting (Fernando)—in an exhibition at Night & Day Gallery entitled ‘Operation Automaton.‘  Löfgren’s work involved the repeated drawing of a Möbius strip, until such point where the body automatically takes over, and cognition fades into the background.  Feinstein’s repeated showing of train-tracks and public housing allowed the viewer to open the relationality between the two seemingly related, but yet unrelated, objects of everyday life.  The individual photographs in Png’s piece were minute, and situated within electric-plugs: whomever wanted to catch a glimpse of them had to squint through the plug; calling into question the notion of seeing, and shifting the position of the viewer from neutral onlooker to active witness.  And in Fernando’s piece, three blank canvasses were left next to headphones: people were free to paint whilst listening to the vastly different genres of music playing on the respective headphones.  In various ways, not only did the exhibition foreground the viewer and the work in relation to art, it calls attention to the gap between the artist and the art itself.

This is an approach to art that acknowledges that part of art always lies outside the person; that at best can only be glimpsed momentarily.  This is art in the precise sense of a craft at its highest level; where it consumes the practitioner, often in ways which are exterior to one’s cognitive ability.  In this sense, art remains invisible to one; at best, it expresses itself through one.

If one can never be sure of the status of one’s act—whether it is reproduced through memory, or whether it is a new act due to a forgetting—every act is then both (n)either a first (n)or a reproduction.  By extension, each time one performs an act, one is both neither a virgin and always already virginal.  This is also a foregrounding of the illegitimacy of authority; one cannot legitimately say whether something is art or not.  In other words, any judgement is based on nothing except the praxis of judging itself; where one cannot have any metaphysical comfort, or certainly, that one is correct (or wrong).  Hence, art lies in its praxis, in each attempt at making something, doing something, practicing one’s craft; at best, all that can be said is that art is a gesture towards the possibility of art.  More than that, whether something ever reaches the realm of art—a reproduction that is not just a reproduction—or remains just another reproduction—not that there is any logical difference between the two—always already remains a secret from us, perhaps until it happens.  And when it does, its reason might still remain unknown to us; which means that all attempts to reproduce the gesture might always only remain a reproduction. (...)"

- Jeremy Fernando, On Art

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