A Song of Yearning (1993)


// 2012/09/25 - 18:30 /
"Like a sparkling showroom advert refracted through a faint psychosis, "Assign of Yearning" is one of the gentler manifestations of Peter Sinclair's work. Quite simply, it's a just-less-than-lifesize inflatable kitchen unit (modeled quite faithfully on the one in the house where he stayed in Cork), its white satin-finished plastic surfaces sewn together, wiped squeaky clean, and crowned with crenelated turrets in a soft, baggy, floral design.
Animating it with maudlin life, a couple of quiet electric fans alternate in subtly inflating the structure, as though it were constantly taking breath. Framed over the 'hob' as you enter - but positioned at the rear of the room - is the ghost in this formica topped machine, a tv monitor showing Galway-based actor-clown Little John Nee intoning a ditty, almost pathetically, to camera. He sings , then is silent, sings , then is silent - like a human canary in a video cage who'll sing for as long as they plug him in.
Walk around this kitcheny thing, and you see the tubes, wires fans which support it's vital functions. The incongruity of it, the whiff of poignant absurdity against the video: the whole thing punches a gasp of baffled laughter out of you. Soft and sad as it is, it's strangely satiric tilt at archetypes of status an escapism within the uniform cushioned mundanity of the 'modern' western household; an engaging portrait of a human condition which is more mournfully ridiculous than nihilistic, stitched together to forlornly rejoice as much as to lament.
Over the years, Peter's work has often involved humor, partly as a byproduct, sometimes dark, sometimes abrasive. Among his early menageries of sonic sculptures, he gave a performance in which his fibrous tangles of polyphonic junk were powered by a line-up of oiled, posing body builders in their smalls. Other work was informed by the adrenalised delirium of the discotheque, the curiously archaic machinery of pulsing lights, glitterballs and turntables assaulting the senses like an improvised post-) apocalyptic juke-box; a kind of enforced entertainment planted within the art gallery.
All in a way are engines for generating emotions, although they're no longer built from junk but planned and made from scratch. In his use of decidedly non heroic materials, Peter's allegories have an admirable, almost narrative directness. A lot of his past work has been a symbiosis of performance and sculpture, but here he is the director, populating his set with a video actor.
Most often, it seems , we dramatize our technology and artificial environments with phobia and horror - from the anxious peal of the telephone in cinema, to the doomsday scenarios of technological totalitarianism and environmental disaster. By perverse extension, technophiles eroticise the cybernetic age and relish the dark dystopic spaces of 'industrial' culture.
Peter Sinclair operates on much the same astroturf, but takes unexpected flights of fancy with Machine Age Man on a completely different frequency. At its most deflated, so to speak, "A Song of Yearning" is a visual metaphor for the illusionistic myths of consumer durables and their marketable dreams; the castle keep filled with sighing air, a tragi-comic suggestion, with a lonely and fantastical tinge, of extremes and ideals of ourselves sustained against a backdrop of mundanity, frustration and disenchantment; the creeping unease that blights our stunted souls in a world of manufactured conveiniences, toys and easy-clean surfaces.
This endearing air-conditioned balloon, this innocent, frankensteinien travesty of a kitchen, seems to affirm life-principles in its melancholy way, as if somehow it had the consciousness to realise that one day it will be discarded. Incidentally, it is curiously male kitchen, with a male soul; a sort of soft, masculine fortress; a blow-up doll's house, if you like, of the male heart."

Text by Mic Moroney.