Charles Leonard discusses the “Doric disorder” and the comic sublime in Anouk Hood’s Attachment Unavailable.

Anouk Hood — Attachment Unavailable (installation view)

The sublime is a kind of terror. In the conscious mind the sublime, alert in the language of architecture, corresponds to the perception of power, where aesthetic consciousness bridges what is unknown with what is perceived. Inherited from the classical world, the western architectural system comports new values to the realm of perception in a post-modern forum of infinite re-appropriation, re-absorption, and the placement of the familiar and commonplace into self-referential systems in which they assume new, alien signifiers. Architecture purveys sublime power, but it does not do so unquestioned.

Anouk Hood — Attachment Unavailable (film still)

Anouk Hood’s installation Attachment Unavailable assumes the shape of static Doric columns, but is nothing like the motionless, sculptural configuration of power; nor is it a mere parody of this power and the dialectics and signs that compose it. The sublime, in art as in nature, occurring to the conscious mind as both fear and beauty, is in Anouk’s columns rendered powerless and ridiculous.

Your world is a comedic one. You are aware, often, of the joy of subversion. You will observe a specific totality in the columns by Anouk. They are, quite comically, pitiful non-erections, things-not-to-be-feared. In the classical world, the columnar innovation in architecture was a public, visual eroticism, an eroticism of signs; the classical Greeks were fully aware of this visual relationship. The consonance between virility, stone and permanence was a popular idea: though the column occurred with some simultaneity in the ancient Mediterranean, it was in Archaic Greece that drummed columns of quarried stone formed the principal supports of dedicated religious structures.

Air dancer on lawn.

Greek life was replete with reminders of male dominance of which the column was a plain, widely readable statement. The Roman world retained the column as a symbol of power; male sexual omnipotence, which is temporally and spatially impossible and a source centuries of Greek paranoia, is remade in Rome as simple, structural power. Rome was a civilization of people that never smiled. Stoicism, severity, and expanding power were paramount. In the Roman world, every Roman settlement was like Rome. Every city had a theatre, baths, axial furrows, an arena. Colonnaded temples and public works were standardized throughout the world. The Greek columnar orders became global devices in the dissemination of power, so easily discovered when European civilization sought to legitimize its own auspices of authority.

Anouk’s columns are not an indictment of these architectural features, their historical or contemporary meaning, nor a true satire. Like the inverse of the Roman appropriation of the columnar orders, contemporary art practice has repositioned the value of the appropriated system within another sub-system in which sincerity, once admonished, is now playfully re-engaged. The image of the column retains signifiers of an ancient and perhaps transcendent power-system that Anouk reconstitutes in the language of play. The movement of the columns states and restates the moment of the perceiving agent in time. Anouk’s “perverse classicism” is not located in this moment, however; this is not a process, not conceived in its documentation, for instance, but as part of a moving spectacle, an unbound multimedia event. The mirage quality Anouk declaims in the column queries the possibilities of seemingness, of signifiers that falsely project what they are not. The “contemporary sublime” as Anouk envisions it in Attachment Unavailable, a title borrowed from the banalities of digital life, is a process of fearful misapprehension, an awe at things in facsimile and reproduction. The object seeks to become a spectacle apart from the viewer’s actual encounter with it, in such a way that it does not matter even what it is, only that you observe it.

— Charles Leonard

Anouk Hood is an art practice represented by Inert. Learn more.