Chauney Peck at SOIL (A Powerful New God is Coming)
my heroes died of syphilis, April 4, 2010
By Amanda Manitach
In some corner of my brain, Bataille is continually rattling around or whispering marginally profane subtexts. For instance, a few days ago at a bar lounging on an overstuffed couch with mixed company, I could be found fervently discussing with my husband the possibility of assembling a piece of household decor combining an egg holder (the kind you find at certain French bars that look like wire candelabras for hard boiled eggs) and the up-turned bottom half of a mannequin. An homage to the solar anus and other Bataillean white rounds. So today while listening to Chauney Peck discuss her recent works on display at SOIL, I couldn't help but draw Bataillean points of reference around themes of fetishism, gift-giving, and displays of atomic destruction. Rather than begin from the concept of limitedness or scarcity of supply as a universal economic motivator, Bataille suggests an overabundance of energy, from a solar scale to a social and economic one, as the driving force behind biological life, lived experience, and culture. Excess - that accursed share of feverish, effervescent energy which must be disposed of or wasted - is spent in numerous ways, including gift-giving, the production of spectacle, non-productive sexuality, the destructive violence of war, and so forth.
When Chauney discussed her fetish objects, she mentioned a fascination with Marxist commodity fetishism and her pleasure in dispensing her works as gifts, when possible. For her the act of giving without lucrative exchange creates an emotional or spiritual reward that's unattainable through commercial transactions. The time and labor invested in these objects translate into a substantial and pleasurable sacrifice in their being, in Bataillean terms, wasted. Her interest in this kind of gift-giving economy of course called to mind the tradition of the Potlatch ceremony, something which Bataille addressed in his economic theory and which seems compounded in its relevance to Chauney's work considering the tradition originated in the Pacific Northwest.
If we are considering Chauney's work in terms of energetic excess and its colorful, euphoric expenditure, it isn't at all surprising to find images referencing total atomic demolition, like A Powerful New God is Coming, juxtaposed to the fetish/gift objects. As depictions of gratuitous, blinding expenditure, these violently colorful collages teeter between celebrating the awesomeness of a spectacle which, for its creators, entailed an unparalleled game of chance (for all they knew, the bomb might obliterate the whole planet) and acknowledging the enforced displacement of individuals from a piece of earth that was snuffed out in a single, deific stroke. The aggressive, vertiginous cheer of the blast is enthralling, and in terms of Bataillean economy, suggests and celebrates the volatility and potential
beauty of excess.