Infinite Jest @ DCA

Review by Ben Robinson | 03 Jul 2012

The word 'epic' was at one time used in the context of a film or poem, but these days it’s an adjective for anything, what the Urban Dictionary describes as 'the most overused word ever, next to fail.' What used to mean 'grand in scale' can now be applied to the most commonplace of activities or things, and so we come to this complex and beguiling show which is named after the thumping 1000+ page doorstop of a novel by the American writer David Foster Wallace.1

Across a diverse spread of works by three artists – Cinthia Marcelle, Rob Pruitt and William Mackrell – patterns and mirroring repeat themselves in art that finds the sublime in everyday materials, using what the gallery handout describes as 'circular narration, infinite loops and möbius strips.'  On the opening night, DCA gallery assistants were kitted out in football strips for William Mackrell’s 'performative tool' 90 Minutes, a concrete ball in the centre of the first room.2

The video still Deux Chevaux pictures two horses struggling to pull a car of the same horsepower through Northumberland countryside, the artist teasing out poignancy from this futile act. Also in the first room, Cinthia Marcelle screens films of traffic being disrupted or disruptive in urban landscapes. In Volto ao Mondo (Round the World), white vans pour onto a tree-filled roundabout, and for Confronto fire jugglers interrupt a zebra crossing to the annoyance of impatient drivers. Rob Pruitt twists pairs of blue jeans into mathematical symbols with Esprit de Corps: Borromean Knot and its companion piece Esprit de Corps / Mobius Strip.3

Next door the artist shows Pop-Pop’s Chocolate-Chip Cookies. These are two huge MDF discs, and DCA staff bake cookies that are placed into the sculpture for a mise en abyme effect, another example of the mirroring process taking effect throughout the show. Wallace was always a champion of the heartfelt and the playful, even when speaking through several layers of irony. This show succeeds by finding the marvellous in the everyday, and that’s what makes for an epic win. [Ben Robinson]

1 A disclosure: your correspondent has never read the aforementioned book but I’m a confirmed DFW fan through his stellar gifts as a short story writer and essayist. Infinite Jest is regarded as a defining novel of the 90s and I fully intend to make a start on it during this exhibition’s run.

2 As punishment for failing to reach the 1994 World Cup finals, Saddam Hussain’s son Uday made the Iraqi football team play with a concrete ball. This knowledge makes the object appear both malevolent and absurd.

3 The iconic garment is made to signify the infinite and eternal, but the twisted legs are also a bit unnerving too, the cowboy limbs self-replicating endlessly forever.