BY Douglas Heingartner in Reviews | 11 NOV 03
Featured in
Issue 79

Fabian Marcaccio

Emmapassage, Tilburg, The Netherlands

BY Douglas Heingartner in Reviews | 11 NOV 03

Fabian Marcaccio's seething hybrid of painting, sculpture, advertising and architecture De-realized Paintant (2003) sprawled into the belly of the beast. Smack in the middle of a generic shopping centre in The Netherlands, a place where the malls seem to resemble each other even more closely than they do elsewhere, his installation shone a glaring spotlight on the shopping masses.

A large rectangular lightbox, illuminated from within and wrapped in a gelatinous skin on to which a panoply of images and textures were superimposed, looked like a precognitive prop from a yet-to-be realized film by David Cronenberg. It's hard to distinguish the real paint and gel from their digitally printed counterparts - like the best dreams, it's at once playful and scary, gleefully indeterminate. A cross between a shark tank and an airport baggage scanner, its shelves are lined with photos of objects supposedly taken from Marcaccio's own home, turning the piece into an unforgiving X-ray of consumer excess - everything on display is slightly bigger and brighter than the real thing.

The gurgling structure, uncomfortable in its boil-ridden skin, was part of a Fundament Foundation-curated series of works for downtown Tilburg called 'Shopping'. Marcaccio met the challenge with coltish solipsism, filling De-realized Paintant with globbed and printed representations of his own effluvia. This particular 'paintant' (Marcaccio's long-standing pun on painting and mutant) included stuffed toys, silicone gels and Johnny Depp DVDs. Brushstrokes intersecting with magnified prints of themselves meld in a kind of digital action painting. The toothpaste and juicy salves here could easily come from the Body Shop across the way, and the installation's sound-track (composed by fellow Argentinian Claudio Baroni) mimics Marcaccio's frantically syncretic aesthetic: it's hard to tell if the whirrs and hums come from the sculpture itself or from one of the neighbouring shops. Rubbery and viscous, the work is a wasteland of recycled images and sounds, mirroring the disposability of the wares hocked throughout this retail cornucopia.

At first glance it's actually a welcoming beacon, vibrant and colourful, a conflation of banality and glamour. If the toasters in the adjacent shop can be sexed up as 'must-have' lifestyle accessories, then surely an artist's supplies can enjoy the same elevated status: the paints and acetones we see on his shelves bear witness to their starring role in the piece's creation, and the labels displayed - Fantastik, Spirulina, Krylon, Dawn - could easily replace the names of the shops that flank them: Mikro, Fresh, Linolux, Score, soulless brand identities crafted to pacify.

Yet like the opening zoom into the deep green lawn in Blue Velvet (1986), closer inspection reveals danger and decay: a severed leg, a hidden pistol, leaking chemicals. Most of the kids who walk by try to touch the surface, but their parents quickly shoo them away, as if it were diseased, a glob of someone else's ice cream melting on the asphalt.

On this sweltering summer Saturday they have a point. The goo is indeed hot to the touch, almost liquefied, possibly even toxic, and this is certainly no time to be inside. Yet almost everyone is - I'm not sure Koolhaas was exaggerating when he called shopping the last form of public activity.

You also start to wonder about some of Marcaccio's own darker proclivities: what household hobby does dismembered flesh allude to? There's definitely a high gore content here, but the zombies being addressed are not so much George Romero as the ones in the film 28 Days Later (2002). Today's teeming undead are as likely to regurgitate as to devour, eagerly reproducing their favourite slogans on command.

Consumerism continually jettisons the old to make way for a fantasy future, and Marcaccio's paintants both feed and transcend the frenzy. By impishly referencing Warhol, Rauschenberg, Pollock and even Hieronymus Bosch, Marcaccio both caricatures painting's past and reaffirms its vibrancy. His experimentalism is more wet-lab biology than gossamer abstraction, aware that stirring up the primordial ooze keeps it infinitely malleable. The process of cross-breeding leaves a lot of spent energy in its wake, and the glass-jar oddities that result aren't always pretty - but then mutations rarely are.