Global Positions 11

On Adrian Jones' work for "Global Positions"

Gargoyles and museums preoccupy artist Adrian Jones, who eschews the imagined contrast between the feral and the domesticated. Making scaly metal gargoyles for a recent public art project at a sports centre, he twisted their history as architectural finial/talismans (in old Europe, hexing away the demonic) by installing them to aggress upon the users of the building, inviting intimacy with demons. Thus museologically positioned in interior space, the gargoyles assume the unique perversity of the modern fetish. In a related installation gently overlaid upon an existing autobiographical museum, Jones fetishized the museum's fetishizing operations: He catalogued "emanations" from items in the collection, and connected these charged ephemera to his fanatical reproductions of the building's metopes. Another project produced a garden/mausoleum exposing the domesticating logic of exhibitions and their architectural shells.

These projects' conceptual structures are remarkably succinct as ground plans. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that Jones has been indulging a fascination for an archive of beautiful architectural plans for impossible buildings, drawn by a rather sinister 18th century French civil servant named Jean-Jacques Lequeu (b. 1775). Jones is particularly taken by a line of speculation, offered by a Lequeu biographer, that the eminence gris of high modernity, Marcel Duchamp, may have filched from Lequeu. The Duchampian Readymade may hence be suspiciously regarded. Or so Jones prefers to think, with wicked humor: If the biographer is correct, Duchamp merely domesticated – de-fanged, de-natured, made a fetish of – his own thefts.

Transgressions made seductive by dramatic philosophical shifts, shape memory in 20th century culture. What gets to become history is very much determined by a sleight-of-hand politics that ascribes wildness, ferality, otherness to peoples who are not savvy to a culture of rabid acquisitiveness. Presently living in Western Australia, Jones inhabits geography where the need is great for gargoyles (creatures to keep at bay what is imagined as wild and too close) or fetishes (lascivious possession of the purportedly wild). Mainstream discussion of "the Timor issue" is pervaded by anxieties about the nearness of the feral. In contriving a transgressive Proposal for a new museum for Timor Timor – transgressive, that is, towards architecture and museology – Jones draws attention to the sleights-of-hand wrought by these institutional practices in the politics of memory. (Offering his own sleight-of-hand, so to speak.) He figures that if gargoyles become fetishes through a simple shift of relationship with architectural space, he would rather that the gargoyle – appropriated to become Timorese – becomes the space itself.

Jones invited me to curate, not only his work on these pages, but the proposed museum. The work proceeded well after I recalled an East Timor revolutionary say, many years ago, that Timor is a crocodile.

(November 1999, Manila, Philippines)