The dislocation of all the senses known as Modernism, stretching over the century from Manet through Duchamp to Rauschenberg and (maybe) Johns, from Flaubert through Schoenberg to Godard, still drags us in its massive wake. Post-Modernism has been succeeded by nothing more than post-Post-Modernism. But Modernism itself,a propulsive engine of scientific and artistic progress, based on the Enlightenment's model of human achievement continually advancing, still saturates the fabric of our world though the model is broken, and progress is a dirty word. We believe, or at least behave, as if there was never any pre-history, as though our minds have been wiped clear of any antecedent.
Our present, the future created in the past by sci-fi, inevitably looks quaint as imagined then, as hoped for, as worked towards (all active states difficult to countenance now in the post-modern po-faced stasis we inhabit). As we look back to ideas of the future preserved in museums, in libraries or archives, heaven forbid in formaldehyde or, most particularly, in 'ironic' quotation marks, we notice a significant omission.
Post religion, post everything, the pervasive feeling is of an apocalypse that never happened, a Rapture that we were not summoned to… a doom that is still distant because we have stopped being aware of moving towards it. We are biding our time, waiting for a Messianic being we yet cannot put any trust or faith in – a Robot saviour and labour-saving device that (in an echo of the transformation of 'Maria' in Fritz Lang’s ‘Metropolis’) is nevertheless born of the Human, our need for control; to better ourselves to the point of self-annihilation. A new slavery willingly adopted.
‘…Someone to claim us, someone to follow
Someone to shame us, some brave Apollo
Someone to fool us, someone like you
We want you Big Brother…’
David Bowie ‘Big Brother’ 1974
For an artist still in his twenties, Robin Seir has a keen understanding of what he's doing, and what needs to be done. Not that he gives the game away at once: techniques are used that mimic others' yet whose true process is concealed. Thin fabric is stretched over more solid canvas, hiding the paint that has been applied behind it, the information re-coded on to the screen, a projection from beyond the wall. And rather than fields or panels in a late Modernist aesthetic, blanking off interpretation (California Hard Edge / Post Painterly Abstraction / Washington Colour School), here are doors to another world, open but un-entered. Existing on the threshold between this world's uncertainties and knowledge of its secrets. Meanings, if we struggle for them, resist us. In the movement from piece to piece, any response is met by its opposite: soft/hard, organic/geometric, seductive/impassive.
Call it a dialectic, the synthesis is left up to us, the human behind or in front of the canvas.
in their seeming slickness, Seir's paintings give us a world in standby mode for us to waken.
And that is maybe the precise point. One possible reading of that synthesis: the switching back on of the humanistic in a world in default mode. As the title of the show instructs us: play dead. A strategy for survival. Keep breathing.
Robin Seir was born in Goteborg, Sweden, in 1986. He has studied at Central St Martins and Chelsea Colleges of Art, and is currently attending the Royal Academy Schools postgraduate programme.