PANACEAS TO PERSISTENT PROBLEMS
Metal invokes with its scintillating glimmer, warm burnish, and gleam,
whole inner worlds of fantasy, aggression, desire and promise.
Alternately signifying wealth, stature and destruction, the metal object is
laden with associative content. It is precisely these associations, social,
utilitarian, and emotional, which Sherman's objects do not attempt to
circumvent, but rather to exploit riotously and fully, insisting that the
object return to fantasy and meaning, to moral choices and
consequences, to nasty reality. Collectively, Sherman calls these works
"Panaceas to Persistent Problems: Devices for Social Survival."
Interestingly, we don't recoil at the title. Rather, our interest is piqued: a
foreboding augur of our increasing willingness to look hopefully and
trustingly towards "solutions" that emerge from techno-wizardry, from
visionary tinkering or engineers both social and technological, and their
arcane yet "scientific" combining of materials, quantities, and energies.
That this title should feel plausible is a fitting introduction to Sherman's
dead-serious comedic intentions.
If the title seems plausible, the objects are more so. The "Arbitrator" the
"Pavlovian Trainer," the "Universal Preening Device," the "Injection
Forming Harness," and others, participate to an extraordinary degree in
the look, feel, and presence of the "useful" machine. Plug it in, flip the
switch, and it works. They are familiar enough to appear believable,
technically complex enough to appear "expert," weird enough to really
look like the future, and sufficiently beautiful enough to compel desire.
The stunning mechanized aesthetic becomes a telling barometer of
one's own moral ambiguity. Sherman's objects represent, like the
"panaceas" which seduced a significant portion of civilization earlier in
this century, a "final solution." Although these implications may not be
consciously available to every viewer, there does seem to be a point at
which fascination and allure are gradually displaced by anxious disquiet
- easily disowned and projected onto the objects as its imagined source.
Sherman's traveling exhibition, "Panaceas to Persistent Problems,
is an extravaganza of 30 amazing mechanized devices and wearable
prosthetic sculpture. Past venues include the Exploritorium, San
Francisco, Maker Faire, San Francisco, McAllen International Museum,
the Savannah College of Art and Design, Concordia College, Denver
University, University of Colorado, and other college and university
Copyright © 1998-2009 Ira D. Sherman l All rights reserved
An Exhibition of Devices For Social Survival