The Inertia of Desire (Worthless Fat Fuck with Nullifiers) is a large stomach. It’s not even a torso; no back, no indication of limbs or neck, just a blobby, unappealing gut. Considerably larger than life size, it is nonetheless convincingly life-like in its degree of verisimilitude. It is a monstrously hypertrophied Ron Mueck’s Dead Dad, only more so. Too large, its bloated, overweight form lies on a carpet, spreading under the pull of gravity and surrounded by evidence of the sad, unhealthy excess that has got it to this state. Beer cans, and a half-eaten candy bar tell of drunken nights on which the only sustenance taken has been anything but a solid meal. Two band-aids stuck on the stomach tell of yet more unhealthiness, and hint at notions of puncturing and deflation. Being so heavy, it clearly smothers the carpet beneath, making sure that it won’t fly: no imagination, no spirit, no transcendence, just a deliberate, despairing march into oblivion. The whole thing is a grandiose statement of the artist’s perennial depressive nightmare that combines a frightening absence of ideas about what to make with the conviction that, even were one to think of something, it would be no more than an exercise in hubris to attempt its realisation.
But the beer cans and the candy bar, like the stomach, are marvellously well made. As well as Mueck, and a Kippenberger (self-) portrait, one thinks of Robert Gober’s body parts and simulated objects, or of Elizabeth Wright and Simon Starling among other UK artists who have, in recent years, set a benchmark in such out-of-scale things that is being superseded here. And the beer cans and sweet wrapper are just the exact same shade of blue as you can see in the patterning of the carpet, and the weak flesh pink of the stomach, which tells of a lack of sunlight and exercise, matches the warm, rose-tinted cream that you find there too. Furthermore, the shape of the stomach distantly echoes those works of Richard Deacon which seem to hover in status between sculpture and plinth, though in Inertia of Desire the inter-dependence of carpet and stomach is now becoming clearer. The carpet is the plinth, but one that carries within itself the seeds of that which it supports.
While it may be that none of these many references are intentional in the sense of having been deliberately introduced during the work’s planning and inception, they nevertheless constitute features in the cultural landscape in which we encounter it. Indeed, that they were not intentional allows us to see that the work, in its mix of maudlin self-pity, compensatory braggadocio and genuine reflection on the depths to which our fragile egos can plummet, is itself thoroughly intended. Far from being a gesture of abjection, The Inertia of Desire demonstrates, in Blanchot’s phrase, that ‘art is the consciousness of unhappiness, not its compensation’. Blanchot cautions us against misinterpreting Nietzsche’s famous line, ‘We have art so as not to go under on account of truth’. It does not mean that art preserves us from the harshness of truth but, rather, that the abyss is the domain of art. Art’s depth might be an ‘absence of profundity’ or the possibility of a foundation, but it is also always both of those things at one and the same time and this is its essential ambiguity. The Inertia of Desire, in the play between its precise formal niceties and its description of incontinent social irrelevance and mental hopelessness, holds that ambiguity before us. *
* Taken from Michael Archer’s “Sea-gherkins! . . . Freshwater swabs! . . . Ectoplasms! . . . Bashi-bazouks! . . .” an essay published in Keith Tyson, Geno Pheno. Pace gallery 2005