This type of work is a play between signs and form - the signs are the lost substances of a selection of objects and images, real things made into weightless surface effects; and the form, the arrangement of selections that creates some newer, flatter, smoother meaning from them. It’s a complex game of sensation and feeling, on the one side melancholy, on the other light.
The playfulness of the interaction of these elements is animated by a something like a sexual tension between viewer and work – it gathers the selected material into erogenous zones where meanings are concentrated, or separates them out where imaginative input from the viewer is required. If you find yourself liking it, coming up with a description to communicate this feeling might make you want to run your words together in breathless, advertorial style, as if trying to mimic the heightened concentration of the flow of associations. If you don’t, it’s easy enough to dismiss the selections as ‘meaningless’, and the work as a collection of random junk.
With Tastes Self the associations take on a humanoid form – sometimes male, when it’s reminiscing over gay men’s classifieds or thinking about Corinthian columns, and sometimes female, a bit obsessed with handwash and the Garnier Fructis range, forgetting that it has left its lube lying around. But Smith and Vivian also put the work in a rural setting, a spacious society of animals and machinery. Being uninhibited, kitty litter, multi-coloured fish-tank gravel and possum shit become just as valuable decorations as glossy photos advertising the latest tractors and harvesters, or a beautiful R.M. Williams model in a ten-gallon hat, partly obscuring the view of a four-wheel farm bike.
In the rarer moments where material elements have been physically altered in some way, not just picked off the shelf and put in position, for example, when a row of dishwashing sponges has been glued together, or an empty Perrier bottle is given a lick of pink paint, these additions look more like make-up than construction. The overall effect is that the work takes part in a beauty competition with and against itself – a flaying, bucolic fantasy that is seductive because of its narcissism, making you want to uncritically affirm that assemblage is the form of art and desire for a networked world.