Justin Fiske’s solo exhibition, on at the Standard Bank Gallery in Johannesburg, bears the name: But Men Do Not See It: Kinetic works in the realm of simplicity. The show comprises numerous large and small-scale interactive installations that are imbued with a distinct sense of poetic wonder.
Fiske’s installations are constructed from simple materials – wood, found objects, garden utensils – and employ basic mechanical principles to create profound, even cosmic, outcomes that the viewer is invited to experience quite literally, first hand. He calls his installations “mini experience machines”, where the viewer is prompted to ask “how does this work”. The interplay between the mechanics of suspension and motion act like a kind of microcosm for the larger wonders of the universe – those cosmic conundrums where the mind falters even as the eye sees.
Each of the works relies on the viewer’s participation to be ‘activated’. A wooden handle beckons, and perhaps just a single arrow serves by way of instruction. These two most basic features juxtapose the wonder that bursts into life once the handle is turned. In one piece Galaxy-91 (mirrored in large-scale in the main gallery), the twirling of a dial stick causes intricately suspended pebbles to begin revolve in a wave-like helix dance, connected by a criss-crossing network of hundreds of strings. This physical act of turning a handle is important to Fiske, who sees it as a kind of metaphoric gesture of a more authentic notion of ‘interaction’.
Many of the works in this show have their origin in the digital realm. After seeing a screensaver that consisted of interactive virtual blobs, Fiske felt the urge to recreate this mechanically in the real world. In his artist’s statement it says:
All of his work is a reaction against today’s digital, ‘over-technologised’ world, and a tribute to the old analogue world and the machine age. He finds modern technology and the user interface limiting and unsatisfying, and considers it to be both a blessing and a curse. “Most of our lives”, he says, “are mediated through the virtual, through some device…There is a huge absence of the analogue in the human experience and this is what I try to explore through my work”.
The installations are intended to encourage viewers to interrogate the complexities of motion and the mechanics which make this visible.