by Kate Moskwa
And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists, through catalogues, through collections in museums and through encyclopaedias and dictionaries. (1)
A desire to order, to organise, to record, to control. The process of list making, whether for a practical purpose or for pleasure, assists the writer in their ability to categorise an unfathomable world. The common list stands in for memory - your cue at the supermarket, tasks needing completion, useful references like menus and phonebooks; these are pragmatic tools for navigation. But beyond the prosaic is a realm of fantastical inventories, a directive unfettered by the need to find order. Artists Johnnie Dady and Roy Ananda compile taxonomies with titles like Standard je ne sais quoi and Standard sleights of hand - ‘standard’ proposed with a wry smile. Part game and part challenge, their undertaking reimagines conventional classification, offering an alternative way to interpret our surrounds.
Dady and Ananda have melded their literary pastime with their visual arts practice, transposing the written convention of list-making into visual form. The artwork Standard Negotiations of an Incline is positioned in the Australian Experimental Art Foundation’s 24:7 exhibition space; an east-facing window. It is Part One of Three Lists, a series of works in which unwritten lists are physically realised before being interpreted into analogue written form. How does one materially and spatially manifest a list not yet in existence? The artists began by considering the place of the viewer, standing on street level below the exhibition space. Five shelves are tilted on inclines increasing with the height of elevation. They appear to simultaneously observe the same inclination. Objects occupying each shelf all manage in varying ways not to topple or slide off towards the window; wedged, propped, and adhered.
Standard Negotiations of an Incline presents an alternative physical reality to the one we observe, a perspective made possible by the exploration of list as artform. As we try vainly to make sense of our place in the world we are invited to free the limits of categorisation, and in doing so gaze at the unending opportunity it presents.
Umberto Eco, placates Infinity of Lists, 2009, New York: Rizzoli.