”And if you go chasing rabbits
And you know you're going to fall
Tell 'em a hookah smoking caterpillar
Has given you the call
When she was just small”
- Grace Slick, White Rabbit
In their seminal work, A Thousand Plateaus, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari introduce the notion of "holey space.” Holey space is a space of complexity, ambiguity, hybridity, contradiction and otherness. The metaphor of holeyness evokes the subterranean – tunnels, caves, mines, sewers and burrows – with connotations of clandestine and illegal activity, and of the unknown.
John Beckmann applies this subversive thinking to an empty art gallery that is filled with rabbits frolicking around, artificial burrows and escape hatches for gallery visitors. Here an apparently Alice-in-Wonderland aesthetic masks something more challenging and profound. This is entirely in keeping with "Alice in Wonderland" itself: a surreal fictional world where nothing is as it seems, and where, according to Lewis Carroll, it's playfulness masks a deep philosophical intent to question the functioning of logic and the nature of reality itself.
"Rabbit Hole" is dense with artistic references. The flamboyant architectural fantasias of M.C. Escher and Piranesi exist in tension with intimations of the dizzying installations of Yayoi Kusama, whose swarming spots have here been dug out into holes. There are resonances too with artists like Robert Gober, Jonathan Latiano and Henrique Oliviera who rupture gallery walls and floors, treating them as part of their sculptural material. Ladders evoke a rich heritage of meaning about aspiration and ascent. Symbolically ladders (Jacobs ladder) link earth with heaven and the underworld. The ancient game 'Snakes and Ladders' enacts the ups and downs of karmic rebirth, while artists from the visionary William Blake, Joseph Beuys to Louise Bourgeois have used this mundane object to represent spiritual ascent or psychological evolution.
"Rabbit Hole" fuses these diverse ideas into an architectural installation and performance that raises questions about the contemporary art world. Is it really a powerful underworld of counter-cultural subversion whose liminal spaces allow people to move beyond society's status quo? Or is it a warren of anxiety, self-reference and solipsism? I suppose it’s both.
Concept and Design: John Beckmann | FOMO Projects
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