by Dilpreet BhullarOct 02, 2022
Looking at deterioration as a powerful and disruptive element as a result of cohabiting with it, Daniel Lie views rottenness to be nonbinary, which demonstrates that life and death have no beginning or finish. “When organic matter rots, it is not dead, as people commonly believe, but rather filled with the presence of many living beings and decomposers—with fungi, bacteria, and insects. It is full of life. Abjectification is a key process of renewal. So why do we think that rotting matter is dead when the reality is actually quite the opposite?,” asserted the visual artist Daniel Lie in an interview with Madeline Murphy Turner for MoMA.
The concept of growth and decay is a fundamental principle of life. It's also the main source of inspiration for Daniel Lie, an Indonesian-Brazilian installation artist who created the site-specific installation Unnamed Entities. The New Museum in New York is hosting Lie's first solo exhibition in the United States of America, which includes a durational work. Lie has often claimed that they are fascinated by the intellectual, scientific, and spiritual aspects of death. The Sao Paulo-born artist has been working with organic materials to create large-scale works that both grow and perish for over a decade. Lie considers their works as living things endowed with knowledge and agency, exploring the idea of rotting as a way to disrupt conventional binary oppositions between life and death.
Unnamed Entities (2022) is a site-specific art, also a durational installation by Lie that will degrade, mould, sprout, and grow in unanticipated ways over time. Lie's work examines how abjection may be an instrument of subversion and extension, drawing on the legacies of migration and queer studies.
Lie's practice strives to decentre human agency and subjectivity by collaborating with "other-than human beings," such as germs, fungi, plants, animals, minerals, and spirits.
Lie is fascinated by the relationship between micro- and macrostructures, as well as the transition between tiny and huge scales. In his interview to MoMA, Lie spoke about how a close-up shot of rotting fruit, for example, can resemble a vast aerial view of a forest. Cohabiting with microbes can reveal a great deal about how other ecosystems work. In terms of human society as an ecosystem, Lie found that there are numerous constraints and limitations—for example, in the culturally political and ideological ways in which we consider and form kinships.
Lie's artworks can be encountered through multimodal channels and were created to promote nonverbal communication. Their ecosystems emphasise the close yet vast coexistence of varied beings, recognising our common and ongoing participation in the processes of life, dying, and decomposition. Unnamed Entities gives space for meditation on time and exalts experiences of existing, surviving, and mourning by celebrating natural cycles of transformation.
Unnamed Entities is a multi-sensory experience that includes both sight and scent. It purposefully mobilises the viewer's body to initiate a personal as well as undiscovered voyage of discovery. It appears that meaning is scattered, networked, and unscripted. Symbolism as we know it is shattered. Lie encourages us to make sense of the installation, its aesthetic, and its tangible presence outside of any concepts of genre that may enable simple art-historical pigeonholing. We are faced with the impossibility of expressing exactly what we are feeling when matter is permitted to take command of its own autonomous, entropic activity. The large scale installation by Lie isn't meant to be a gigantic memento mori. It brutally grounds us in the present because, outside of our cultural constructions, this is all we truly have.
Time is the essential pillar of contemplation in the Indonesian artist's technique. From the earliest and most emotional memory - bringing family and personal memories - to the time of the world's things; the span of a lifetime, and the duration of the states of the elements. The work develops bridges with performance art themes such as art based on time, ephemerality, and presence through installations, objects, and hybridisation of art languages - using things as they are. To emphasise these three occurrences, things that contain time, such as decaying matter, plant growth, fungi, and the body, are installed in the area as installations.
Unnamed Entities, Lie's first solo show, is on view at New York's New Museum until June 6, 2022.