Anna Carluccio

fabric of the universe
Fractal Division, Loading Dock, Brisbane
6 - 13 December 2013

While playful and clearly tongue-in-cheek, Anna Carluccio’s artworks are multilayered and complex in concept. Both her installations and two-dimensional works present a self-aware corniness on the surface, but reveal an underlying seriousness. Fabric of the Universe investigates utopian ideologies and universal logic, exploring the tensions between freedom and control, personally and universally.

In the digital prints, scrunchies (fabric-covered elastic hair ties) are formed by collages of constructivist textiles, digital images of the cosmos and new-age aesthetics sourced from the internet. The universe is in a sense a fabric, as it expands and contracts, like the elastic band of a scrunchie. Placed upon background images of the universe, these scrunchies refer to black holes. The collages include close-ups of a mouth (or possibly other bodily orifices), which can also form the shape of a hole. The installation works actually invite audience participation with literal cut out face-in-holes. The references to black holes inherently suggest the inability to escape from a powerful vortex, and the many references to holes in general—both physical and figurative—indicate something empty and hollow, potentially; something that needs to be filled because something or someone is no longer there.

Carluccio’s work invites a comparison between uniformity and utopianism through Russian Constructivism and new-age aesthetics. Following the Russian Revolution of 1917, the use of constructivist textiles in everyday dress was one element used in order to break from the past. Strongly rejecting traditions and disregarding pre-existing fashion and bourgeois methods of making art, Russian constructivists embraced geometric abstraction as their visual language. The aim was to bring utopian ideologies into everyday living through the visual reinforcement of textile clothing.1 Comparatively, the cosmos aesthetic is an example of many trending aesthetics that have been widely disseminated on the internet, some (like the cosmos) are considered beautiful or agreeable, while others are gimmicky. Collectively, these aesthetics fall into the category of ‘The New Aesthetic’, a term coined by James Bridle,2 which refers to the visual language of digital technology and the internet in the physical world, and the blending of virtual and physical. In a sense, this blended collage aesthetic of the world around us is also a form of visual conditioning.

Kant argued that ‘nothing that can be an object of the senses is to be called sublime’,3 by which he meant it is our reaction to a situation or object, rather than the situation or object itself, that is sublime. It is an entirely subjective experience; not evoked by anything exclusively, but an immeasurable, or ‘absolutely large’, feeling positioned somewhere between fear and attraction.4 In an image-centric world it is rare for Kant’s sublime to be evoked by something aesthetic, even images of the universe do not instill fear, or even emotion beyond the pleasure that comes from witnessing an agreeable image. However, the universe itself does initiate such a response; the very knowledge of the sheer size of the expanding universe is enough to instill a feeling of total insignificance as a human being. Simultaneously, this insignificance evokes existential fear and appreciation for absolute freedom. This all comes full circle when considering the politics of utopian ideologies; in terms of our insignificance within the universe, human beings have absolute freedom, as in—nothing that we do will really ‘matter’ in the grand scheme of things, however our sense of freedom is suppressed if it is infringed upon by another person or political group.

Carluccio’s prints embody this paradox; they are at once indulging in the evocation of the sublime from the representations of the universe, and lightly critiquing the popular aesthetic that these representations have become. In the vein of Baudrillard’s simulacrum, these prints demonstrate the artist’s love-hate relationship with the inescapable multitude of images and representations of reality that are so infused into our everyday. It is this point of tension between the virtual and the actual that Carluccio explores in ‘Fabric of the Universe’, and she hints at a reluctant acceptance.

Anna Carluccio, Fabric of the Universe, 2013. Details. Mixed media.

Anna Carluccio, Fabric of the Universe, 2013. Details. Mixed media.

notes: 

1. Djurdja Bartlett, FashionEast: The Spectre that Haunted Socialism, 2010.
2. E. Ellis, The New Aesthetic, 2011. http://www.warrenellis.com/?p=12811
3. Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Judgment, first published in 1790, translated by J.H. Bernard, Digireads.com Publishing, edition 2010.
4. Ibid.