Justin Rodier: Parataxis

When nature is characterized as a dark ecology and supernaturalism is dead, the psychopompcene of techno-talismans and post-peak experiences can constitute a new ground for thinking about the contradictions of transcendental aesthetics by engaging with a greatly expanded set of perceptual registers. This shows itself in any number of projects that are associated with Justin Rodier’s theater of psychopompery and the worship of oracle machines, all of which exist at the intersection of different types of “testing”. 

Whether we are talking about historical tests like the Turning machine or discrete encounters with Terrance McKenna’s machine elves, Rodier’s work explores the condensation of different models of making, the confluence of hybrid systems of belief, and the hope of becoming something more than a subject who is circumscribed by the exercise of power associated with pre-programmed inputs and outputs. Post-essentialist, post-organic, and post-psychedelic are just some of the sign “posts” you’ll pass on the road to interpreting his artistic practice. 

Crossing the threshold between two "Non-binary Oracle Machines" in Rodier’s installation signals the purification of the postmodern soul from the computational regime of zeros and ones - or overcoming the dark night of soulessness within the regime of techno-capital. To step into the arena of affect and aleatory gestures in Rodier's site-specific installations is an act of transgression that moves beyond the normative codes of existence. As a model of post-metaphysical initiation, the audience is recast as a community of neophytes who encounter the totemic powers of Chewbacca as a post-anthropocentric figure of cosmo-comedic significance, not unlike the role that the number 42 plays in Douglas Adam's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. 

Whether this sculpture represents a new David cast in marble, a techno-scavenger in the galactic fight against empire, or the lost image of a cargo-cult figure, we have to admit that Chewy B. holds the same sense of cultural cache as Cardi B. more than four decades after his first appearance on the silver screen, and maybe this isn't a coincidence. This statue could be said to pay homage to the outlaws, outcasts, and outliers that have outlasted the hype-cycle of cultural production. 

But ultimately, the image of Chewy gives us something to chew-on when we begin to think about the value of culture in an age of streaming content where “B list” actors have largely replaced the faces of Hollywood's golden age. Afterall, Rodier uses plant life as a metaphor for “live” entertainment; he samples from the natural world as much as the history of cultural production; and the chromatic intensity of the environments that he produces confound the distinction between nature and culture by demonstrating a love for both in equal measure. This distressed dialectic between A and B, this or that, and either-or distinctions is superseded in his installations by the multiplication of aesthetic choices, where one thing becomes two, and two divides into four, until the expansion of signification exceeds our cognitive bounds, ultimately transforming Harold Bloom’s definition of revisionary ratios into a parataxis of permutations.

We see this with the inclusion of Rodier’s “Edgelord Staff”, which is a cosmological reference that alludes to the figure of Starlord in Guardians of the Galaxy in addition to being a nod to "edge" or limit-experiences. Afterall, edging also describes a contemporary take on tantric practices, which are connected with prolonging “the little death”, not to mention the occulted pursuit of transcendental states. But those would be the extant meanings behind this deaths-head staff, which also has an intended meaning inasmuch as it was created to be in a dialogic relation with a futural site; to be part of a journey-work; to serve as a walking-stick; and to announce its carrier as purveyor of polyphonic meanings.

This can only be fully appreciated when it is revealed that the “Edgelord Staff” is the only object in this installation that the artist took on a road trip to Roden Crater, which is the first major Light and Space work designed to evoke unfettered celestial contemplation. Set amidst the Arizona desert, the image of Rodier descending the stairs into the hall of the famed east tunnel calls forth the idea of a stargate, a teleportation device, or even a moment of metaphysical re-orientation that connects the notion of the road trip with tripping, glitching, and flipping between realities both real and imagined. 

By engaging with ideas that slide between inferior and superior mirages, where one thing can quickly become something else, Rodier is able to return us to a sense of shamanistic wonder within the post-capitalist landscape, where images dematerialize, signs and symbols begin to dance and vibrate, and our entre into the experience of altered realities becomes a new model for living among "other" intelligences. Whether or not those intelligences can be said to lie within us, outside of us, or even far outside our universe, the meanings that abound within the oracular logics of Rodier’s art practice extend from the insights of the oracle of Delphi to oracle machines like general artificial intelligence. Get ready to exit the anthropocene and enter the psychopompocene.

Bio: Justin Rodier, (b. 1986) is an interdisciplinary artist living and working in Los Angeles. His work interrogates the presuppositions behind limited conceptions of ecology with a special focus on adaptive and evolving invertebrate morphologies that are used to create experimental post-natural ecologies. His recent work focuses on creating non-binary oracle machines, which are based on upsetting the logics of computational algorithms using real-time strategies of display and dispersion. These are often juxtaposed with how an organism’s multiple feedback systems can inform our understanding of game theory, evolutionary mutations, and other inerrant manifestations.

Rodier received his MFA from Arizona State University where he studied at Roden Crater with James Turrell. Utilizing this site as a jumping off point for his own investigations into object-oriented phenomenology has led to Rodier cultivate his own installations composed of hyper-objects. Moving between the play of analogue and digital screens, instability in the environment and the genome, and the recessive operations of salvage and junk aesthetics connects Justin’s work to a larger genealogy of interventions in earth, land, and environmental art that are both highly conceptual and radially experimental. His work is not so much an essay on the signs of the times but an effort to capture the vibe of the times by offering us a model of artistic practice that is based on the hypertrophy of aesthetic experience. 



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