Canadian artist, David Altmejd combines political symbols with everyday objects and themes of despair and horror (such as his famed werewolf-inspired pieces). Altmejd says in a 2004 interview with C Magazine: International Contemporary Art (republished by Akrylic) ‘I am really not interested in gore. What I make has to be positive and seductive. Instead of rotting, the characters in my work are crystallizing. This makes the narratives of the pieces move towards life rather than death’.
I am fascinated by Altmejd’s discussion of complex meaning systems and reappropriation of powerful social symbols. In this explanation of his earlier work, Altmejd is working towards the opposite of what sociological inquiry is about – rather than attempting to shed light on social meaning and explaining complex processes, Altmejd is invigorated by purposefully obscuring meaning. Despite this, I find his art and his discussion of his thinking deeply wonderful:
I am interested in complexity as a form. I am happy when people are fascinated by the thing itself, when they are absorbed by it and know that it contains something more. Personally, I like experiencing complex objects, but not because I necessarily wish to understand the system. I am seduced by complexity itself. From my perspective, my work is intuitive. I am not able to mention specific reasons why I associate these things. I get a feeling from certain combinations, a feeling that something is going to happen when I mix things together. I do not have to say something; the object will say it. I see my installations as organisms. I start making something but at a certain point it starts making choices by itself…
Rather than a language, I am more interested in how the elements create energy. I know that the things I use, the Star of David or certain words affiliated with political activism, are charged and have important meaning potential. I inject them inside the installation and the meaning potential transforms into energy. My involvement is to create something that is alive that will be able to say new things. The energy of these living abstract organisms depends on the meanings of the work being unresolved, uncontrolled. When meaning is controlled, the resulting object is not alive, there is no tension in a logical system that functions.
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David Altmejd, L’air, 2010, plexiglas, chain, metal wire, thread, acrylic paint , epoxy clay, acrylic gel, 143 x 52 x 39 1/2 inches
Artist of the day: David Altmejd