For “Mainstream,” Timur Si-Qin’s first solo exhibition at Société, the artist lined the gallery’s two rooms with thirty-two computer printout copies of posters for the movie Transformers (2007) and overlaid each with plant leaves of varying shapes, sizes, and species. In casual, asymmetric arrangements that do not necessarily respond to the composition of the posters, the botanical material serves a primarily symbolic function. Nature and culture, here framed in stark contrast to one another, nevertheless exist on the same plane. In fact, the logic of mechanical reproduction and the aesthetic of mass culture constitute our contemporary natural order. Si-Qin’s art, in the free rein that it takes on culture, simultaneously embodies the act of consumption and the ethos and forms of digital media. Contemporary society’s dissociation from a state of nature can be seen in the screen-tested aesthetic regime of Transformers, where lines deriving from American car production designate Optimus Prime as the kindred, benevolent protector, and organic design elements identify Megatron as an evil, foreign body threatening destruction.
Occupying the center of the floor in each of the gallery’s two rooms are arrangements of plants plucked from their pots with the dirt still attached, which evoke something between domesticated exoticism and the decor of a quasi-domestic space with exotic elements. In a broad-stroke gesture, a comically oversize blue carpet covers the gallery floor, transforming the atmosphere into that of a waiting room or clinic. The decoration highlights the harsh reality of the space: Since the opening, the plants have wilted, browned, even begun to rot. This ephemerality is not unrelated to the grotesquely short life cycle of consumer goods as well as the pitfalls of simplistic artistic gestures. But that’s the world we live in, and, as we know all too well, there will be a new attraction “COMING SOON”––as the movie posters madly reiterate and Si-Qin’s recent presentation blithely admits.
— John Beeson