For the Time Being: Blue Republic’s Vanishing Acts

Delightful and Permanent Conditions of Impossibility, 2012, TWO TRULY STRAIGHT AND PARALLEL LINES WILL NEVER INTERSECT NOT EVEN IN ETERNITY, vinyl on wall, 700 feet long. Toronto Pearson International Airport, Terminal 1, US Departures, post-security. Photograph: Blue Republic.

The two-person art collective who show as Blue Republic are partners in life as well as making. Married couple Anna Passakas and Radoslaw Kudlinski have been creating a wide range of provocative, beautiful and genre-breaking work for years. Indeed, it is not easy to characterize their practice in any simple fashion, for it embraces drawing in a variety of mediums both material and otherwise, fluid installations that morph and ramify over time, and gorgeous interventions on and with material objects in the world. I want to say that Blue Republic—is it a place, a notion, a community?—offers the ideal package of visual and tactile commentary on the contradictory and imperative presentism of the early 21st century…

Delightful and Permanent Conditions of Impossibility, 2012, TWO TRULY STRAIGHT AND PARALLEL LINES WILL NEVER INTERSECT NOT EVEN IN ETERNITY. Photograph: Toni Hafkenscheid.

BR has long been preoccupied with the temporal infoldings of past and future, alongside their engagement with the idea of the city. The city, like the notion of a person, is a constant negotiation between what has come before and what we imagine as possible in the future. There are imperatives of order and control sketched on the grid of streets and circulation systems of various kinds—for bodies and vehicles, but also for money, desire, goods and services, food and waste. At the same time, these attempts at regulated movement and consumption, the norms of mundane commerce, are forever being disrupted and inverted, made unpredictable. BR finds opportunities for minor-key joy in the unplanned enclaves of the city, forgotten squares and architectural spandrels where possibility lurks, unmastered and unexpected. Like the reiterated installations of miniature cities and murals they call “Beautiful Infections,” these chance encounters with the unplanned city are, in effect, constructed of found objects. What was once discarded or waiting for some other use—wooden dowels, LEGO blocks, toy soldiers, paint cans, partially deflated balloons—are rescued and repurposed as the towers and figures of a suggestive new urban field. “Spectres of meaning,” to use a phrase habitual with BR, are the payoff here: not fixed or determined meanings, still less measurable outcomes like the ones that now dominate conversations about education. Rather, meaning in the BR universe is always elusive, fugitive, on the move—like the spirit of the city itself.

Delightful and Permanent Conditions of Impossibility, 2013-2014, TWO TRULY PARALLEL LINES WILL NEVER INTERSECT NOT EVEN IN ETERNITY (English and Cantonese), vinyl on pavement. Installed as part of the Biennale at a 2-acre site, Universiade Center, Longgang district, Shenzhen. Photographs: Blue Republic.

There arises, too, a pervasive sense of melancholy along with the joy, because time’s one-way arrow is a deadly shafted dart as well as an irreversible vector. In common with the best contemporary art, BR’s works everywhere arouse and complicate desire, revealing not just the ad hoc and deranged qualities it can so often exhibit, but also the eternal conundrum of satisfaction that the object of desire, retroactively posited by the ranging (and raging) human libido, can never give us what we want, namely the cessation of desire’s restlessness…

Delightful and Permanent Conditions of Impossibility, 2013-2014, TWO TRULY PARALLEL LINES WILL NEVER INTERSECT NOT EVEN IN ETERNITY (English and Cantonese), vinyl on pavement. Installed as part of the Biennale at a 2-acre site, Universiade Center, Longgang district, Shenzhen. Photographs: Blue Republic.

To read the rest of Mark Kingwell’s article on Blue Republic, order Issue 131 or subscribe.

Mark Kingwell is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Toronto and the author, most recently, of the essay collection Unruly Voices (2012).

Volume 33, Number 3: Painting

This article originally appeared in Border Crossings #131, published September 2014.

Border Crossings looks at contemporary art with interest, passion and thoroughness. Subscribe to Border Crossings today for as little as $24/year.