Drawing on Franz Kafka’s description of a writing desk in his unfinished satire Amerika, which details misadventures in an imaginary American landscape, “Prolegomena to an apology for pragmaticism” takes the form of an inverted roll-top desk that relies on a combination of open drawers to stay upright. In its precarious scale and transposed configuration the structure embodies the conflicted status of blockade and shelter.
Literalizing Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of “war machine” as an object of resistance, the barrier/barricade form simultaneously deflects and destroys through its unwillingness — though in itself is unstable as an autonomous structure. In this fragility, a hyperbolic dialectic develops between the specific art object and its surrounding conditions. A ready made that is not already made.
Functioning much in the same way, Kafka’s ‘assistant’ characters in his novels exist in an unfinished and ambivalent state. Walter Benjamin describes these agents as outside of a given circle (power relation); they are essentially points of insubordination and means of escape. Accordingly, every intensification or extension of power intended to wholly suppress these points of insubordination can only bring the exercise of power up against its outer limits. Constantly operating in the state of exception, the ‘assistants’ are keen to this: “there is not one that is not either rising or falling, none that is not trading qualities with its enemy or neighbor … none that is not deeply exhausted and yet is only at the beginning of a long existence.”
Justin Matherly received his MFA from Hunter College in 2007, and his BFA at University of Pennsylvania in 2002. He is the co-founder of Basekamp collaborative in Philadelphia, and select group exhibitions include Gavin Brown’s enterprise at Passerby, Hunter College Times Square Gallery, and Elizabeth Foundation Gallery. Lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
This exhibition is part of a series of extended, serial engagements with individual artists and Dispatch.