If, as Bertrand Russell wrote “Modern logic … has the effect of enlarging our abstract imagination, and providing an infinite number of hypothesis …”[1], then the artwork of Alan Magee excels in its’ logic.

Magee’s work is less concerned with making sense of the world and more involved in exploring the possibilities of being, of becoming, in the world.

His work proposes transformation as an aesthetic. In a skirmish with representation, it unleashes an immanent transformation away from normative functions of objects.

Immanence here is the Deleuzian[2] idea of existing or remaining within. It is that embeddedness of an internal reality. For example, a coatrack’s raised arms, typically a means for nothing more than hanging coats – under Magee’s renovation bows its’ head in humility. And a chair, customarily a lap to perch upon, bends its front legs in submission. Magee shows us the humbleness in the coatrack and the powerlessness in the chair.

Magee’s bowing and kneeling furniture produces affect; those moments of intensity that are a reaction in (and/or on) the body at the most basic of levels. Affect is the matter in us responding and resonating with the matter around us. In repurposing these objects, Magee produces a different kind of utility; suggesting a creative re-ordering of ourselves in relation to our world. This affords us the opportunity to see alternatives to what we have already seen – a deterritorialising functioning in the realm of affects.

Simon O’Sullivan[3] suggests that the basic function of the identifiable ready-made is to territorialize, to regularize, control and encode the unpredictable world in regular and reliable patterns. Yet, ultimately, the object never remains purely closed and stable. It’s emergence from chaotic flux is only provisional and its rhythms always issue forth to the cosmos at large.

Magee gives us the opportunity to access our world experienced differently. In his room sized sculpture of the word ‘SORRY’, rather than an anthropomorphizing that brings humanness to the object, the piece advocates what could be called a transhuman experience. There is an opening up to the non-human universe that we are a part of.

As subjects we are positioned within the temporal predicament of representation, only rescued by something genuinely unexpected that emerges from the encounter with affect. This production of affect waits to be (re)activated by us, by the spectator. Pointing out the fissures in representation, Magee turns representation back on itself through the employment of humour and tenderness. This is a logic well beyond normative utilitarian interests.


[1] Russell, B. 1914. Our Knowledge of the External World. p 18

[2] Brian Massumi, The Autonomy of Affect, Cultural Critique, No. 31, The Politics of Systems and Environments, Part II. (Autumn, 1995) p.94

[3] O’Sullivan, Simon, D. 2001. The Aesthetics of Affect: Thinking art beyond representation. Angelaki: Journal of Theoretical Humanities, 6(3), pp. 125-135 [Article]


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