Tasked with picking a great artist of the future, Jesse Darling asks ‘which future’, ‘whose greatness?’
It feels strange to write about this work under the rubric of ‘future greats’. Which future? Whose greatness? The broader practice of Adam Farah, aka free.yard, seems to contest everything inherent to a received understanding of these concepts. ‘Greatness’, in the context of the corrupted mediocrity of the mainstream art-canon, is gendered, racialised, encoded in a matrix of limitations imagined as axes of taste – and when the idea of a linear futurity is predicated on the idea of linear memory, what happens to the people, places, objects and experiences that are structurally and consistently displaced by the apparatus of that linearity? Time, after all, is a phenomenon of the specific, not the universal; and maybe the ‘great’ artists are the ones who don’t really want to be ‘artists’ at all.
The description on their website lists Farah as an artist and composer, but they are also a rigorous archivist and restorer of obsolete but functional technologies and media, a gourmet cook, an active reader and researcher, and what one might describe as a psycho- geographer (though in their own words: “sometimes the only literary historicization on a particular topic of interest is limited to the exploits of white men – but it leaves you with all the gaps to fill in thru how you might see the world based on a different way of experiencing it – […] imbue it with what you know of ur own worlds, in this case my own endz”.) As free.yard they trade as a curatorial platform, or mutable brand identity, whose logo (resembling the now-defunct p2p streaming network Limewire) may be found on a series of downloadable gift wraps, a range of homemade hot sauces or in collaboration with various art co-ops and organisations, including not/nowhere; flatness.eu; The Showroom, London; and the South London Gallery.
This is a practice set in motion (as in momentum, or by the artist’s own definition, momentation, meaning “a pronounced moment with a specific purpose or desire attached to it [that] highlights the action and movement, the moving spirit existing in various moments”) by the advancing frontiers of gentrification, racism and neo-conservative homophobia – but also by a loving kind of roving, an embodied re/search for and into the objects and places that remain exempt from, or outside of, these forces. There is nostalgia for the promise of connectivity shut down by capitalism: the demise of Limewire can be seen as analogous to the slow violence of London’s gentrification, in which the spaces of community are eroded by money and whiteness. It isn’t a linear progression forward into some kind of capitalist future; it’s a practice in perpetual fugitivity, in the back-and-forth, in the in-between. In Farah’s videos TuRNpiKe | Technics | 2000 (2018) and MEDICATED SUMMERS / BENEFITS TRAP / ENDS PORTALS (2019), the picture moves backward in slow-mo through busy London streets while a device – respectively a hi-fi system and PlayStation Portable – is static, front and centre in the screen (the time loop and the slowdown are phenomena familiar both to connoisseurs of 1990s r&b videos and to those suffering ptsd). The first videowork plays Dario G’s Sunchyme (1997), the second Sugarbabes’ Stronger (2002). The music is everywhere; it’s everything. In a further series of videos, including AFTER THE JUDGEMENT DAY (2018) and Revelation NW9 (2018), we’re out by the orbital: overpass, underpass, the moving spirit embodied in the rise. The modern spatial theorist Michel de Certeau wrote that ‘space is a practiced place’, and here we are in the privatised limens of London, but there’s music, of course, and the new city with the old songs seems to call back a rich tradition of remix and homage. There is no future: there’s just the momentation, this life here, now. Later’d. Elated. Greatness.
Jesse Darling is an artist based in Berlin
From the April 2020 issue of ArtReview