New York

Mark Leckey, GreenScreenRefrigerator, 2010, still from a color video, 17 minutes 5 seconds.

Mark Leckey, GreenScreenRefrigerator, 2010, still from a color video, 17 minutes 5 seconds.

Mark Leckey

Gavin Brown's enterprise | 620 Greenwich Street

Mark Leckey, GreenScreenRefrigerator, 2010, still from a color video, 17 minutes 5 seconds.

In the annals of inhalation, we’d have to count Miley Cyrus’s recent hallucinogenic hit and Bill Clinton’s pot dabble (and denial) among the more infamous entries. But Mark Leckey’s might be the most, well, intoxicating. During a brief performance inaugurating his latest work, GreenScreenRefrigeratorAction, 2010, the artist draped himself in a sheet and apparently took a lungful of coolant. He drew in deeply. Why? Perhaps to better unite with the thing standing next to him: a humming, immaculate black Samsung refrigerator—part obdurate Tony Smith cube, part Kubrickian monolith, part ’00s bachelor-pad machine. Flows of ether and energy permeated artist and appliance, conjuring a contact high, a heady system that could never function smoothly or reach homeostasis.

The icebox also spoke. Leckey recorded the refrigerator live against a green-screen backdrop; the video feed was simultaneously displayed on two freestanding monitors on either side of the set, amid a booming Auto-Tune-like monologue that seemed to issue forth from the device itself. “1, 1, 1, 2, tetrafluoroethane. 2, 3, 3, 3, tetrafluoropropene,” it incants in the resulting video piece, GreenScreenRefrigerator, 2010, hysterically using the nomenclature of organic chemistry to call out the gaseous compounds circulating through its chambers, vapors which are “sent through passages, constricted, released,” just as “a spirit goes through all states of matter.” This pseudoscientific, pseudo-eucharistic banter continues as the fridge lists its own branded features and inane desires: “Cool-Tight Doors . . . Immense Inner Space, Wide Open Take Out Tray, crisp, crisper Crisper. Arctic and Fresh Select Zones, Quick Space Top Shelf.” “It’s so cold here in the dark. With fifty thousand watts of power . . . Gland, cud and udder, hum beneath my breath.” The language of Best Buy meets that of Bachelard, recalling Leckey’s former face-offs between, say, a towering sound system and a 1940–41 Jacob Epstein sculpture.

Yet the funniest and canniest animation here ensues via video effects. Leckey superimposes fantastic backgrounds “behind” the refrigerator, so that the box appears to be transported into pastoral fields, intergalactic space, primordial Stonehenge-like scenes, psychedelic vegetable bins, demos for other Samsung products. One sequence has us tunneling into the appliance’s own circuitry and refrigeration piping as if led by Carl Sagan on nitrous. And since the green screen is shaped into an infinity curve, this projected background is all the more seamless, even as the agglomerated images verge on the lo-fi look of a cable TV weathercast. Leckey, half-robed in green, is thus able to wander into the camera’s field of vision without detection on-screen—communing with his counterpart—and then decloak, arranging himself half inside the frame. The riveting postperformance installation left the video projection, refrigerator, and green screen in the gallery, stripped of actual actors or audience. But somehow we didn’t miss them. The remaining inanimate objects were alive enough.

Such mutual interpenetration of dumb things and sentient beings is no simple leveling, however. There is no Minimalist invocation of a phenomenology of perception, of a pure copresence of objects and subjects alike. Nor is this an easy illustration of the supposedly unimpeded streams of capital, of information and commodities, modeled by that vague term neoliberalism. No, Leckey’s world is one in which everything is mediated, over and over again, but this transubstantiation—from matter to spirit and vice versa—is messy, clumsy, even adolescent. At one point, near the end of the video, Leckey intrudes, uncovered, and leaves a note on the fridge door like a latchkey kid. “I sink myself and stand in brotherly relationship to my neighbour, to everything in this place,” it reads. Yet that communion is impeded, always leaving something behind, a breath that hangs in the air.

Michelle Kuo