Jac Leirner: Junkie

Art Free
3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

The title of Jac Leirner’s exhibition is ‘Junkie’. And in case you’re wondering how literally to take that, here’s the gallery’s own description of the Brazilian’s latest project: ‘Gathered over several years, the objects used in these new works were assembled and photographed during a cocaine binge over three nights.’

This oddly matter-of-fact tone also characterises the photographs themselves, with their neutral, undramatic lighting. Kept small, they depict the minutiae of drug taking and its attendant rituals: rocks of cocaine, measuring scales, razor blades, banknotes. Some images offer a more whimsical perspective – the coke whittled down into little heart shapes or faces, or placed atop tiny doll’s house furniture. Arranged into short sequences and mounted on to long, plywood bases, the banks of images form strange, Ikea-like wall sculptures, and are mixed in with other pieces made from cigarette rolling paper packets. The installation becomes about turning these ephemeral objects and playful, transient moments into something solid and permanent. Unfortunately, you don’t get the sense of much beyond that, or of anything really significant being said about pleasure or addiction. Instead, too many jokes come off as facile, such as the recurring images of quartz and stones – other rocks, geddit – used as plinths for the white stuff. Then again, treating weak ideas as if they contain deep insight is classic stoned behaviour – so in that sense the display’s meandering, recursive tone is pretty evocative; it just doesn’t make for great viewing.

The upstairs installation, thankfully, is more cogent. Consisting of thin wires strung across the gallery and hung with hundreds of burnt roaches, roll-up butts and other paraphernalia, as well as with plastic spirit-levels, its multiple, crisscrossing directions somehow seem both aimless yet perfectly calibrated, as if implying a kind of precarious, narcotic equilibrium.

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