Adam McEwen by Angus Cook

BOMB 91 Spring 2005
091 Spring 2005 1024X1024
Mcewen 01

Adam McEwen, Untitled (A-Line), 2002, C-Print, 84 x 50 inches.

The exploration of one concept—the dailyness of our lives—in terms of four distinct, and interrelated, others: artifice, authority, mortality, and the order of things. A series of minor adjustments to apparently inconsequential everyday objects—obituaries, a roach motel, to-do lists, despair—makes the disassociated item visible by both the oddness of its normalcy, and the familiarity of its offness. This weirdness ensures that the familiarity of the ordinary fails to inure us to its peculiarity. This peculiarity triggers the set of alienating devices, which in turn throw into question the thinking behind the fabrication behind the artwork.

Mcewen 04

Clockwise from left: Adam McEwan, Untitled (Madonna), 2004, wood, resin, and silkscreen, 22 x 40 x 14 inches; Untitled (Macaulay), 2004, C-print, 52 ¾ x 37 inches; Legal Notice, 2005, OCE print, 36 x 104 inches.

Untitled (A-Line): Note the resurrection of the well-hung corpses; first rotated, then rehung, as a modern-day ascension. Nearby, Sorry we’re dead implies by its tone that we’re not sorry because, by the logic of the utterance, we’re not dead. Neither are the subjects of the obits, propositions that have nothing to do with anyone’s untimely passing. The dead are raised from the dead and the living are consigned to their graves; that’s rectification for you. Re-presentation pursues and returns either a true value or no value at all. Like re-presentation, dying lends ordinariness much-needed rarity value. In this sense dying is the ultimate form of estrangement.

Mcewen 03

Clockwise from top left: Adam McEwen, Untitled, 2003, pencil and acrylic on newspaper, 27 x 22 ½ inches; Untitled (Lost), 2003, acrylic on newspaper, 27 x 22 ½ inches; Untitled (Dead), 2002, flashe on paper, 11 x 15 ½ inches.

Mcewen 02

Adam McEwen, Untitled, 2004, bedsheets, dimensions variable.

Banner, 2001: Moving a curtain one inch can move it to the exterior, where it remains a curtain, made strange by hanging on to the illusion of its normalcy when really the bed-sheets have become a flag, becoming a target, that will become a shroud: Sorry, we surrender.

Habituation precedes withdrawal. Everyday experience is not only the prosaic or routine in the physical world but includes the conventions of history, the codes of society, the processes of communication, as well as perceptions and emotions within an individual. Ideology, or inner life, is no less routine than the visible objects and images the mind engages with, and therefore the world of ideas and the margins of consciousness are no less unlikely to be numb to themselves, by habituation to themselves.

Multiple minor improvement on the original, this is how the spell of habituation is broken, which is how the object, and what it stands for, and all that it might be, becomes most fully realized.

The unspoken codes of obituary are equivalent to the sincerity of a shopkeeper’s fake apology; in each case, anonymity is purposeful.

The intersection of power, hate, love, and all that loss of life cease to be perceived as dualities. In fact, their intersection collapses duality. It’s hard to not feel: Sorry, you’re dead. The bewilderment of loss as a defamiliarizing mechanism. Elsewhere, the comedic possibilities of sorrow are played out; trouble is marked by stylistically inappropriate procedures: facetiousness, humor, optimism.

Thesis: death, antithesis: art, synthesis: life, or at least a desire for triangulation, not juxtaposition.

Angus Cook is an artist from Scotland.

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Originally published in

BOMB 91, Spring 2005

Featuring interviews with Constant Nieuwenhuys and Linda Boersma, Julie Mehretu, Alexi Worth, Pearl Abraham and Aryeh Lev Stollman, Robert Antoni and Lawrence Scott, Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Jim O’Rourke, Roscoe Mitchell and Anthony Coleman, Brad Cloepfil and Stuart Horodner, and Bruce Mau and Kathryn Simon.

Read the issue
091 Spring 2005 1024X1024