Kim Adams

Galerie Christiane Chassay

Dodes ‘Ka-dan, 1993, the centerpiece of Kim Adams’ latest show, examines a consumer culture in which utilitarian values have gone into hyperdrive. Loosely titled after Akira Kurosawa’s 1970 film about an adolescent who drives an imaginary trolley through a combined garbage dump and shantytown in the wastelands of Siberia, this post-consumer wagon train is put together with the practical know-how and childlike ingenuity of utopian engineering. A full-scale, nonfunctioning model of a truck cab—with pink windshield wipers and a turquoise body—pulls a septic tank and water tank on wheels, as if ready to roll in a nomadic trance from suburbia to the promised land. The only thing that seems to stop it is a series of vertical metal supports held in place by hockey pucks.

Adams has riddled the bodies of these plastic containers with multicolored plastic funnels, viewer observation posts that provide us with private views of a carnivalesque world. Filled with scenes of holiday-goers and parked Winnebagos, a marching band and a fully operational circus, a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet with parasols, streetlights, dinosaurs, and a giant, green, toxic mutation-monster, Dodes ‘Ka-dan figures a postdevelopers’ Eden. Jammed amongst these scenarios, industrial mine sites, trailers carrying trucks, smokestacks, and images of general despoilment vie for our attention. Appearing and disappearing at regular intervals, a model railway train chugs its way around, tooting occasionally, only to arrive at the same place again and again.

Putting a backspin on Bosch, and replacing the superstitious fables of the human condition with a fanatically detailed yet strangely comfortable cataclysm, is not all that Adams does. He also includes a tiny, perfect maquette of one of his earlier sculpture installations, as if to parody his own place as an artist in this mélange of cultural critique and fabulism.

As creatively hamstrung as they are technologically correct, the miniscule personages who play out escapist dreams inside Adams’ object-containers are as decontextualized as the environmental disruption that surrounds them. Similarly, the partial glimpses we have of the interiors make us aware of the discontinuity of our own passive perceptions. If, in a sense, Adams puts all his eggs in one basket by focusing exclusively on the problems of the commodification of life in a technological age, Dodes ‘Ka-dan is more than simply another apocalyptic vision. The vehicle itself and its compartmental exteriors—the septic tank and the water tank—suggest a renewed sense of the value of self-sufficiency. The whole issue seems to revolve around the question of how we perceive our own purpose in relation to reality (read: nature). Adams realizes the artist’s potential to transform apparent chaos into creative catharsis.

John K. Grande