I like art that makes me think. The art of Jacko Restikian makes me think.
In 1917, the Society of Independent Artists in New York City held an exhibition. Marcel Duchamp entered Fountain (a urinal) – one of his first ready-mades (his first was Bicycle Wheel, 1913). Of even greater significance, Duchamp did not sign the urinal with his own name. Instead, he signed it “R.Mutt”. Of the work, Duchamp stated: “Whether Mr. Mutt with his own hands made the fountain or not has no importance, he CHOSE it.”
For Duchamp, art was not the manifestation of the artist’s original creation, but rather the manifestation of the artist’s idea. Similarly, in signing his name “R.Mutt”, Duchamp openly brought into question the authenticity of “creator”. Since the conception of Fountain, the deconstruction (and reconstruction) of originality and the value an artist’s name confers upon an artwork has been an ongoing exploration by many artists. Two of the most recent and notorious examples of artists who have explored these concerns are Gavin Turk and Damien Hirst. Gavin Turk’s English Heritage Plaque memorializing his presence as a sculptor when he was, as yet, an unknown artist, is now a familiar story as is the fact that some of Hirst’s best Spot Paintings were done by one of his assistants, Rachel Howard.
Jacko Restikian is yet another artist who explores the concepts of originality and authorship within the artistic context. His Made in China series openly questions mass production versus original creation. The title, alone, signifies the universally recognized definition of de-identification – the mass production of “stuff” by nameless, faceless individuals who the Western world neither sees nor thinks about. In the case of Restikian, however, originality and authorship are not the focus but rather the starting point from which to examine the more complex, albeit interconnected, issues of displacement. For Restikian, displacement is not only on the artistic front, but on the personal and political front as well.
On the personal level, Restikian struggles with the uncertainty of identity. On the surface is his dual connection to both Lebanon and Canada. On a deeper level, dual-citizenship becomes intertwined with a political duality – the history of Lebanon’s war with Israel echoed within the broader context of what has happened to Canada’s Northern indigenous communities following the implementation of neo-liberal policies; Policies which have seen the systematic erosion of a traditional way of life in favour of a more Western-influenced approach. Erode a culture, erode an identity.
Comprised of various performances, Restikian’s latest Made in China series (exhibited at the Université de Quebec’s gallery) is not afraid to explore and push the de- and dis- of everything to the limit. In the ultimate physical act of creator disconnected from his art, Restikian leans against a stack of empty, made in China canvases. On top of his head, more empty canvasses.
As such, art is not one person’s interpretation of an event but is, instead, a filtered down interpretation depending on who is interpreting and who is using (the actor Restikian hired for the evening also answered all questions pertaining to the work of Restikian).
The de-identification, the dis-placement and even physical de-socialization is something that is part of our facebook world. Artists, through history, have been looking at the effects of changes in society on people. Jacko Restikian makes us look at these issues today.