words by miriam mcgarry
Only commodities can afford such illusionist values; for instance, soap is 99.9% pure, beer has more spirit in it, and dog food is ideal; all and all this mean such values are worthless. As the cloying effect of such values wears off, one perceives the facts on the outer edge, the flat surface, the banal, the empty, the cool, bland after blank; in other words, that infinitesimal condition known as entropy. - Robert Smithson
In describing the idea of a dream home, writer and activist Rebecca Solnit imagines bruising her shins on the invisible furniture which populates her imaginary dwelling. The daydream is an ‘eternally postponed preliminary step to taking up the lives we wish we were living’ rendering our spaces as ‘cluttered with dreams’ that leave no room for reality. These vacant promises for the future are explored in Show Room, where Herbert offers the potential of a zombie minimalist dream, through monuments to a future that can never come to life.
The exhibition performs in both duplicate and duplicity, firstly through a reincarnation and explicit poaching of Robert Morris’ Untitled L Beams sculpture. The original works, by a key figure of the 1960’s minimalism movement, have the sharpness and replicability of objects from an industrial production line. In her second mirroring, Herbert performs a visual charade by plastering Morris’ sculptural forms in a superficial marble-look adhesive. Her sculptures offer a hollow seduction, by simulating the decadence of marble without the integrity, value or strength of the material.
In both her video and built sculptures, Herbert applies a veneer of blandness. The text in the advertisement is spoken by an eternally familiar but indistinct middle-aged Caucasian voice. The voice and script are non-descript, and act as a verbal white-space, where banality is a façade for concealing the political. Herbert’s humour strips and reveals accepted norms surrounding consumption, production, and disposable materiality.
From Country Road to Kmart, the ‘marble-look’ finish as an interior design trend populates kitchens and Instagram feeds, where the dishonestly of the materiality is obscured with the right filter. In Show Room, there is no such attempt to deceive. The space mimics a display centre, illuminated by harsh white fluorescents, and blatant in its advertising.
The upfront honestly of Show Room’s duplicities calls into question concepts of authenticity and materiality. If your childhood was floored with linoleum, how do you relate to the current Cabin Porn phenomenon? Can you manufacture nostalgia through purchasing a leather-look armchair? What are the ethics of consumption, in replacing cheap but functioning pots and pans with new designer Le Creuset? Which is more honest? In liquid modernity, can art be sold like show room furniture, where materialism transcends the physical object, but instead captures a desire for possession of identity?
Robert Smithson contents ‘not only do we communicate what is true, but also what is false. Often the false has a greater ‘reality’ than the true.’ Show Room exploits the dishonesty of materials to create a display of the honest replica. In the truest sense, Show Room is a genuine fake.