Berlin

View of “Park McArthur,” 2014. From left: Black & White Plaid Commode, Breakfast Commode, Pink Love Commode, Calvin Klein Commode (detail), 2014; Passive Vibration Isolation 4, 2014.

View of “Park McArthur,” 2014. From left: Black & White Plaid Commode, Breakfast Commode, Pink Love Commode, Calvin Klein Commode (detail), 2014; Passive Vibration Isolation 4, 2014.

Park McArthur

Gallery Lars Friedrich

View of “Park McArthur,” 2014. From left: Black & White Plaid Commode, Breakfast Commode, Pink Love Commode, Calvin Klein Commode (detail), 2014; Passive Vibration Isolation 4, 2014.

Park McArthur’s exhibition “Passive Vibration Isolation” needed just three straightforward elements to broach a topic both urgent and far-reaching. In Lars Friedrich’s new, though perhaps temporary, ground-floor space, five loading-dock bumpers hung on the walls surrounding five steel stands draped with pajama pants. Extending a narrative concerning access that McArthur had already introduced with “Ramps,” her widely acclaimed exhibition at Essex Street in New York last year, “Passive Vibration Isolation” looked at the interaction between a body and the environment it inhabits. Here, access led to friction, more specifically to a concessionary exchange wherein a body has accommodated its environment. Though the work on view didn’t look like much at first glance, by cleverly setting three terms––installation, accommodation, and commodities––into relation, McArthur opened up a conversation on the material reality of the politics of accessibility.

All three of the elements in McArthur’s exhibition were, by design, painless to install: The black laminated rubber loading-dock bumpers mounted low on the walls had been bolted into predrilled holes; the steel stands, modeled after a display in a Japanese department store, have wide bases that require nothing more than empty space on the floor; and the holes in the worn-out pajama pants made them perfect for looping and draping on the steel armatures. What’s more, the bumpers and the stands were designed to prevent stains and marks. The bumpers are medium-soft, non-marking black polyurethane rubber, and the stands are stainless steel. In the gallery space, these objects were grouped casually near one another.

Even before their adoption by McArthur, both the bumpers and the pajama pants were products specifically designed for ease of use. This kind of bumper is used in warehouses to absorb the force exerted when a truck, picking up or dropping off deliveries, collides with the walls of a loading dock. It protects both the truck and the dock from damage and keeps the process running. The pajama pants, being flannel, are insulating. And being baggy, they provide a lot of give for someone rolling around in his or her sleep or moving around the house. (In fact, the pajamas were McArthur’s, and the wear is the result of friends and family helping lift her in and out of bed.) These features have been developed, and these goods are widely available, because of a demand that is centered to a large extent around the human body. These commodities exist to accommodate, and, as the press release points out, “accommodation is a commodity too.” By turning her attention to this fact, the artist is taking a specific tack––via material––toward the integration of immaterial values in today’s consumer culture, which currently relies on the prioritization of lifestyle as well as on rapid, large-scale circulation. But the way in which McArthur approaches material is also specific: All three elements in her exhibition already existed in the forms presented here, although it made sense to have new versions of the stands fabricated instead of appropriating them, as with the bumpers. By using these materials, she’s insisting on reality. And by deploying them in this way, she’s outlining a political perspective, too: McArthur is a vocal advocate for disability rights and awareness––she herself uses a wheelchair––so her commentary is urgent and specific in addition to being compelling and far-reaching.

––John Beeson