For the 18th Biennale of Sydney (2012), Peter Robinson presented Gravitas Lite (2012) in the Industrial Precinct on Cockatoo Island.
Robinson employs polystyrene to investigate the gallery as site. Scale is manipulated, presenting contradictions in weight and strength which often have the effect of destabilising the viewer’s sense of perception. The works are often massive and require teams of people working together to physically structure the work and solve problems, creating a sense of community.
For some time now, I’ve been working through a love-hate relationship with minimalism and various forms of its mannerist and populist legacies. I love its po-faced assertions of egalitarian values – it’s weird hovering between a steel-fronted refusal of politicised content, and an oblique pitch for radical political valence. I find the fierce attention to conditions of material existence and perceptual behaviours – which much minimalist practice tried unsuccessfully to fix through formal rigour – freshly relevant in our so-called digital age. We are more than ever impelled to think about material conditions, modes of organisation, systems of knowledge, and how we can make sense of them in ways that have relevance beyond the ‘merely formal’. What do we do with all the stuff we have, that we produce, that others lack? My use of polystyrene over the last few years has been a somewhat self-parodying, self-defeating enterprise as it is a material that, while carrying associations of environmental degradation, seems truly invented for fabricating corruptible artifices, brittle fantasies, luminous delusions. Its industrial neutrality is fraught with a sense of massive inauthenticity that touches on the triviality of the instantly disposable and the sheer absurdity of our contaminated idealisms.