The flight to Tokyo from London makes one stop, in Moscow. The layover is interesting. You can’t see much from the air or the airport. Dismal and cold. There is a First Class lounge where you are served tea and ice cream. There are lots of magazines, but none are in English. In the toilet the ceilings have little open slats, which make you think there might be hidden cameras. You’re a little scared.
Before flying was a means to an end, it was a sensation, a thought. The desire to fly was to experience weightlessness, a release from corporeality. The "flying machine" made man superhuman. For Kal Spelletich, flight's future promise may be gone, but not forgotten. Where are the jetpacks? The flying cars, the escape pods, anti-gravity boots and moon colonies? This is the future, your future, but not the one that was promised.
Keith Haring wrote, with regard to his own pre-Steampunk, Neo-Primitive aesthetic, "Contemporary man, with his blind faith in science and progress, hopelessly confused by the politics of money and greed and abuse of power, deluded by what appears to be his 'control' of 'the situation'...believes in his 'superiority' over his environment...he has lost touch with his own meaning." Along with his friend and colleague Jean Tinguely, whose works prefigure Spelletich's, Haring sought to subvert the notion of "progress" and "mass culture" by creating artworks that reduced these ideas (power, progress, longevity) into stylized monograms whose very temporality (for Haring, graffiti, for Tinguely, self-destructing machines) undermined the notions of Art with a capital "A." Tinguely, Jean Dubuffet, and later Haring and Kenny Scharf, set precedent for groups of artists such as Survival Research Laboratories, Collaborative Projects (Colab), et al., whose practice did not revolve around making artworks per se, but rather objects whose existence was meant as an intervention, somewhere "between Art and Life," as Robert Rauschenberg eloquently phrased it.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the French writer and aviator, wrote that "one of the miracles of the airplane is that it plunges a man directly into the heart of a mystery." Spelletich's Unidentified Harley Davidson Throat Singer (2011) [pictured above] and outboard-motor-propelled jetpacks illustrate the improbability of flight and thus show us the mystery. They simulate the real objects, which we (now) take for granted, although, indeed, they are miraculous. Thus, we see how deeply our collective psyche has been transformed, in a mere one hundred years, by flight, as well as our other technologies. What depth of imprint it has left on our very souls.
It has been the role of the artist to point to elements of our lives that may seem trivial, if only because they are so often overlooked, so ingrained have they become. Pop Art did this. Performance Art in the Seventies. Dada in 1917. Punk. Steampunk. The list goes on. There is a need for this kind of work, and whether we call it Interactive, Performance, Sculpture, or Environmental (Burning Man is a great example), it is and will remain, for the foreseeable future, the best gauge we have for measuring how far we have come, as well as a compass to point in the directions we might yet go. Get yer wings. - Bradley Rubenstein
The Jack Hanley Gallery is at 136 Watts St. in Manhattan.
Mr. Rubenstein is a painter, story teller, and smart culture aficionado.