Überfläche, 21er Raum, 21er Haus, Vienna, AT, (cur. Severin Dünser)
Überfläche (Übersurface) is the title of this exhibition by Andy Boot. The title suggests two things: firstly, that there is something that lies above the surface, and secondly, that this something is sublime. In our present-day life, which continually surrounds us with images, the underground is less and less able to break through all its smooth and shiny surfaces. It is not that the human being has been made transparent by surveillance, but that the individual has become a media entity. Andy Boot’s investigation of surfaces and patterns corresponds with this progressive blurring of the boundary between being, presenting and representing.
But what surfaces are to be seen in Boot’s exhibition? There is, for instance, the Bacterio pattern, designed by Ettore Sottsass in 1978, which withdraws from unequivocal identification and oscillates between the abstract and the figurative. The designer used it as a laminate for his Memphis furniture, as a means of negating materiality and structure, and in repetition as an industrial pattern, elevating it to the status of an antiform of its own. Boot applies the pattern to a sculpture mounted on rollers, which itself is made out of a supporting material – in this case shelves. On another occasion it appears as an object at rest within itself: as pure laminate, unsure as to whether it should be material or surface. In sharpies thumb a canvas is unpretentiously painted over in black; upon its surface Boot has mounted a photo showing two youths who in the course of perpetrating an unsuccessful burglary coloured over their faces with a felt-tip pen to mask their identities. Here the gesture of over painting doubly marks the fine line along which surface balances: between beautifying and disguising. Untitled also plays with this tension, and here again on two levels. A bronze cast of a makeup item is set in a wooden board, alienating and disguising its original function. And yet the surface structure of the makeup continues to transport the character of the product, which wanted to be applied to the skin. Another sculpture presents not makeup, but a backup – at the same time it marks the end of a container and conceals the space behind it, similarly to a work on canvas primed in white, except for an X that has been painted onto it. As a symbol borrowed from a graphic program, the X serves as a placeholder for an image yet to be defined, here for a self-referential metaphor of acrylic on canvas. A further definition of image and painting is found in a canvas painted light blue, upon which Boot has put little cat stickers. Here the gestural aspect of abstraction is treated ironically as the mere covering up of the surface, while the stickers on it invite one to touch their furry surfaces: Boot’s decoration would like to be understood as sensuous figuration. The largest work in the exhibition also ventures a jibe at Pollock: in e who remained was M, Boot drops noodles dipped into paint onto the canvas. This produces a neo-abstract-expressionist pattern, which on account of its absurdity degrades the gestural to mere ornament, thus opening the floodgates for illusionism in his paintings. Something similar happens in Untitled (ambassador), a concrete cylinder in whose topside the inner space of a martini glass (after a design by Oswald Haerdtl) has been left open as a concave – robbed of its function; it is only readable as a sign.
In Andy Boot’s work, the querying of surface’s status also entails reflection on materiality and functionality. Through the transformation of patterns in materials, gestures and painting in ornament and decoration, and all of this vice-versa as well, he puts our perception of surface above both form and function. Ornament and its repetition is no longer a crime, rather a reflection of reality. A reality in which being, self-presentation and self-representation have become increasingly blurred, where even the ego itself is visualized and lived as a mediatized entity. The individual has become a screen with the largest possible surface, an Überfläche: I am the message, because I am the medium.