Critics’ Picks

Manuel Gnam, The Sea Business, 2012, adhesive on wood panel, latex, polyester carving wood, seaweed, dimensions variable.

Brussels

Manuel Gnam

dépendance
Rue du Marché aux Porcs 4-8
July 7 - August 17

The largest and most remarkable work in Manuel Gnam’s latest exhibition is conspicuously absent from the show’s checklist and press release. Made of faux-terrazzo tiles, the piece spreads out from the entrance to the back office, where a series of intricate carvings at its edge create the impression of a wave crashing on Dependance’s artisanal stone-and-tile flooring. If the aquatic motif quickly sends us back to the enigmatic creature lending its title to the show—“Plankton”—the floor-based work also provides an architectural and conceptual framework to consider I went into the net of fishermen. one of them opened my mucoid chest and a small, soggy gray man comes out. Perhaps he will survive (all works 2012), a triptych in which mathematical systems and organic processes at once reveal and obfuscate each other. Here, probability curves printed on adhesive are displayed on three wooden panels. Between this triptych are delicately arranged whorl-like overlays of dried latex, herbs, and synthetic matter that (unconvincingly) imitate sticks and driftwood covered in sand. The data visualized here—variables such as “creep rate,” “retardation,” and “deformation”—employ the lingo of marine biology, but the ostentatiously artisanal elements suggest an allegory between those bacterial ecosystems and digital social networks, for example, which produce immersive environments wherein interactions often cause deleterious strains to break out.

Gnam’s investigation of this condition sometimes relies on artifice to lament the rarefaction of genuineness in a media-saturated world. The Sea Business, 2012, a statistical graph in which “corruption” is charted in relation to “time,” is printed on a panel connected to a polyester carving resembling sand. A blade of seaweed, the only nonsynthetic element here, is nested between the wall and the wooden panel, offering a faint glimmer of authenticity.