Imagine, If You Will, for Once, That Nothing Is Lost, That All Is Right Where You Left It

by Janine Garrand

Petzel Gallery’s Summer Show Featuring Jorge Pardo, Dirk Skreber, and Jon Pylypchuk
Escapism has gotten a hard rap—it’s been dubbed a conspiratorial attempt to repress society by offering momentary relief instead of a solution. Panem et circenses (bread and circuses), referring to the Roman politicians’ offerings of cheap grains and entertainment to keep their votes up and the shouting down—but in a time where the Internet offers us a full spectrum ranging from brutal truth to ultimate fantasy, the escape is not offered by a tyrannical government, but by the very people who, one might argue, are most sensitive to the state of things. This therefore no longer falls under the category of “suppression,” but has graduated to “inspiration,” which, in and of itself, is quite excusable. As a society, we’re less blind to our own defects than ever, and our rapacious appetite for art has grown alongside.

We spoke to Kat Parker, Associate Director of the Petzel Gallery in New York City, about their upcoming show entitled simply, Summer Show. The group effort involves Dirk Skreber, Jon Pylypchuk, and veteran Cuban artist Jorge Pardo, whose dreamlike oeuvre includes painting, installation art, sculpture, and collage, often featuring objects that serve a dual-purpose: as both object and tool. “We are showing [Jorge Pardo’s “People Lamps”] for the first time,” Parker says about the work, which was created in 2008-9 but never shown, “And when presented in a space together, they completely activate and alter a space. They defy functionality and their surreal nature and life-size scale alter viewers’ sense of their own presence.”

Fitting, then, that this transformative escape shall house in our Summer Camp issue, where we’re busy exploring a world that is completely separate from the day-to-day, that has its own rules and physics. As with any ecosystem that is cut off from another, what evolves in one realm does not necessarily apply to the next. Similarly, the worlds created by these three artists form a separate but connected whole. “All three bodies of work by these different artists—all who have been working with the gallery for many years—create environments which transport the viewer.”

Dirk Skreber, the second artist participating in the Summer Show, explores moments in time that have been slowed down to the point that they are different worlds completely. German in origin, Skreber works in video, paint, installation and sculpture. Petzel gallery will show his film, “Turgidity,” which was shot at 1000 frames per second, on a customized digital HD camera. “[Dirk Skreber’s] film pitches the viewer’s anxiety parallel to their curiosity and often, like with his sculptures and paintings, reveals more about us as voyeurs and consumers of visual culture.”

Finally, Jon Pylypchuk, an L.A.-based artist specializing in the intersection between childhood and adult realities. Parker says, “[Pylypchuk]’s videos, installations, sculptures and paintings have always explored life’s depressing but understood losses: death, love, and violence have always been a core theme for him, but the self-deprecating nature in which his work is presented allows humor to resonante.”

With summer escapism in mind we asked the three artists what they were thinking.

How do you relate to the idea of a summer away from the norm? Do you have summer camp impressions or experience?

Jon Pylypchuk: “The concept of summer camp—I had seen it in movies, I had idealized the idea of going away to ride in canoes, shoot bow and arrows and fish—but the reality for me was quite a bit different. I think I was twelve years old and I went to altar boy camp at Ukrainian Park in Gimli, Manitoba. My camp counselor, the guide who ran our cabin just took a particular interest in fucking with me from the get go. He did a bunch of stuff. He put shaving cream on my eyes every night so when I woke up, I had shaving cream on my eyes.

By the end of the week, I decided to just wear my glasses. Instead, he would come and take my glasses off in the middle of the night, put the shaving cream on my eyes and put the glasses back on. He would tell me, ‘You have to bring everyone a bowl of soup at lunch.’ So, I would go and get a bowl of soup because I was the lowest on the totem pole. He would walk by me, nudging my elbow, trying to get me to spill the soup. I remember my parents coming. They were so proud, but I just wanted to go home.”

Summer becomes a kind of dizzying art form to some, as much is suspended or inverted in light of the weather, the spirit. How is your work informed, if at all, by the sentiments of summer, of the passing seasons?

Dirk Skreber: “My vision wasn’t focusing on destruction. The life of both the video as well as the sculpture starts in the second when the vehicle hits the pole. You can very well look at it as birth.

“Turgidity” describes the condition of turgor pressure in plants. Turgor pressure makes plants able to stand upright. You can relate the vehicle in my video to a plant that loses and gains turgor pressure repeatedly.

The work is as well a proven dream-machine. I once fell asleep in my installation and had the wildest dreams forced by the very slow highs and lows of the repeating audio. I slept so well.”

“Nostalgia” is a word often associated with Summer or camp. How do you define nostalgia, and what, if anything, are you nostalgic about and why?

Jorge Pardo: “I think that nostalgia’s been made a positive term in the last five to ten years. When I was younger I used to read it as something quite negative. I don’t think it’s quite the case anymore. I don’t quite know why. I don’t think it’s a good idea to look back at the ‘good old days.’

“Things have changed. But I like all the multi-informational posting that people operate with. I think it’s really good, it makes people a little smarter, you know more about a lot of things. I think it’s great that you’re walking around with a fully fledged library all day with your phone. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I think that’s super positive, it’s amazing actually. It’s ideology that’s the problem. Everybody’s really sure that somehow, these things are going to hold and they always fall apart anyway. You gotta remember, ideology is just over-coating.”

How do you relate to the idea of secrecy in your art?

Jorge Pardo:”I think there are a lot of people who wanna make art and just be left alone and I think that’s totally fine but I personally have very little interest in that. I like discursive things.”

To exit for the Summer; to renew; to escape; to rejuvenate; a season on the Riviera; a moment in the countryside; a beach in Mexico; a release from the familiar—Paris experiences an annual mass exodus so established that the period of return has its own name within the season, la Rentrée—this is an idea as old as the calendar, and so sensible it might as well be a prescription. The escape may not always take place in the physical, but since the dawn of storytelling, the escapist has been nurtured, and ways of leaving without leaving have left us beautifully longing for days of longer light.