Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Land of Unlikeness

People will probably say that Sean Higgins (not to be confused with the basketball player, also delightful) is an L.A. artist because the city has inspired his interest in imaginary, decontextualized, and scarcely visible places, being such a place itself. If you want a surreal California, though, those adjectives more describe Irvine, and even more so, suburbs anywhere in the U.S. that don’t realize how weird they seem to anyone who’s been anywhere else. If Los Angeles is hard to see, that’s partly because of the centralized frames of vision that people from other regions of the U.S. bring to it. It's what’s occluded by the naturalized grid of the normative U.S. place. Higgins’s mixed media works (inkjet and acrylic on plexiglass) refer to promontories, isthmuses, icebergs, and surf, suggesting something fundamental. They look like images from the window after a long night’s journey, or glimpses of the curvature of the horizon we think we get from climbing. These estrangements from the local mark the beginning of knowing there’s a lot more to know. After going to Patagonia and back in 2005 I thought there would be some bodily realization gained from going literally around the world—that it wasn’t just an idea. So Higgins’ works remind me, not of the atmosphere(for all that the air is lurid with “particulate” in Orange County now), but of Kant’s figure for knowledge, a foggy island in an icy sea, something like empiricist England, unpromising real estate but worth a second look:

it will be well to begin by casting a glance upon the map of the land which we are about to leave, and to enquire, first, whether we cannot in any case be satisfied with what it contains—are not, indeed, under compulsion to be satisfied [nicht allenfalls zufrieden sein könnten, oder auch aus Not zufrieden sein müssen], inasmuch as there may be no other territory upon which we can settle; and, secondly, by what title we possess even this domain, and can consider ourselves as secured against all opposing claims. (Critique of Pure Reason A236/B295)

Image 1: Sean Higgins, Terraform, 2007

Image 2: Sean Higgins,
Edge of Empire, 2007

1 comment:

50percentopacity said...

Today I came across a bookmark of this post while preparing information for my next solo show. I remembered that I wanted to comment on it back then. Good to find interesting words written about my work floating out there on the internet. thanks. Sean Higgins