Slivers and Remnants
Lockdown contaminated, as it conditioned, all this. What breathes through a liquid crystal screen? What touches without touch? Some artworks requested we hold tight to our selves until we can hold tight to others again, knotting hands, impossibly.
We exist in prison and a dream – window view dominates. Postcards of old holidays or the course of a London river radiates as memory and plan, if there is future left or unshattered pasts. Messy, exuberant strokes fling up spots newly named discomforting, gently reminding that they never were comfortable for all. Us and them collided: Animal-human transmissions: octopus or jellyfish being, self as rabbit, or a cow, on low-lying lands, dragged underwater.
Nowtime slivers: torn paper scraps as tiny cells, building survivable organs. There was melt, of glass, foams, collapse of structure, intimating that new, better supports are needed – until then, chaosmos and the consolation of an anarchic beauty in slivers and remnants. It was no surprise that Surrealism, not in apologetic quotation marks, but full-blown, declared itself here and there (as it did too in our pandemoniac world) in unpredictable dumps from above, blemishes in the bathroom, impenetrable walls, bust frames. The familiar – a biscuit – is now the world for us, a Beckettian/Blakean combine of grains of sugared sand.
Esther Leslie is a Professor of Political Aesthetics at Birkbeck, University of London.
Esther Leslie's books include various studies and translations of Walter Benjamin, as well as Hollywood Flatlands: Animation, Critical Theory and the Avant Garde (Verso, 2002); Synthetic Worlds: Nature, Art and the Chemical Industry (Reaktion, 2005); Derelicts: Thought Worms from the Wreckage (Unkant, 2014), Liquid Crystals: The Science and Art of a Fluid Form (Reaktion, 2016) and Deeper in the Pyramid (with Melanie Jackson: Banner Repeater, 2018).
Current research includes a text on the history and present of the device, a study of turbidity and media, a biography of the composer and radio experimenter Ernst Schoen, research for an exhibition at Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art on the chemical industries of the North East of England and the poetic and political significance of butter in Ireland for the Limerick Biennale, together with RCA lecturer Melanie Jackson.
She has written on and for a variety of visual practitioners, including Philippe Parreno, Jordan Wolfson, Marcus Weber, Agniesska Kurant, Heather Phillipson, Paul Simon Richards, Jennet Thomas, Adam Lewis Jacob, Zoe Beloff, Mark Leckey, and Larry Johnson amongst others.
At the RCA, she supervises graduate students and has given tutorials to MA Sculpture students.