by Daniel Kine
published via The Modern Review
In an interview with the Smithsonian’s Archive of American Art, Paul Karlstorm described Charles Linder’s Refusalon, an unstructured multimedia and lifestyle exhibition centered in San Francisco SOMA District in the mid 1990’s, as “A conceptual piece investigating the often conflicting worlds of creative idealism and business realities.” More than a decade later, Linder’s application, much like the city where he resides (San Francisco), seems motivated by a similar subject: divergence.
At the center of Linder’s fourth solo exhibition, Fencing Luminaries, which recently ran at San Francisco’s Gallery 16, was the sculptural work, Pinocchio. A dexterously hand carved frame, fixing a mirror, from the center of which protrudes a common household plunger. Simple and, bearing its title in mind, deceivingly unadorned in metaphor. And yet the state of modern art and the city of San Francisco loom heavy here, both in visceral extremes. The childish fairytale, the interlaced skill and elegance of tradition in handcrafted ornamentation, and the prop—the emblem of an idea at once sustainable, consumable, and dismissible.
Samuel Beckett wrote of mundane, detailed scenarios. Nothing vivid, no action. The plot consisted of the lives that these common characters had or had not led before entering into the lights of the stage. Often Beckett’s audiences cited, if not boredom, confusion. They could get this at home, these muddled dialogues and subjective non-illuminations. No one was attending the theatre with the intention of seeing themselves, rather their presence as spectators was predicated on the belief that, in order to escape, one must present themselves with a perceived potential. A possibility. Something new.
For the majority of those attending galleries and exhibitions of contemporary art, daily American life consists chiefly of a specifically mundane separation—the narrative of the self separated from the idea of the displayed work or their own romanticized notion of the life of the artist, and the separation of oneself from their surroundings. When asked by a critic why he made such boring films, Godard once said that he did so because people lead boring lives. They work selling products, like hamburgers, which they themselves do not believe in or care about, and then they leave work and come to the cinema to relax, to get away from reality and to see themselves or what they could, in some alternate reality, one day be. And so why not give them what they want: themselves. Their mundane, fragmented and senseless lives. A hamburger.
That said, there is no surrealism or superheroes or vivid illustrations present in Linder’sPinocchio. There is, however, a plunger, a frame, and a mirror. There is an idea, the face of the spectator, and the background consisting of patrons of contemporary art coming and going from an exhibition to the city of San Francisco. And of course, there is Pinocchio, who, through his own delusion, has descended into a disturbingly mediocre and yet palatable version of hell.