Ben Cain’s artistic practice deals with issues of work, labour, cultural production, art and the contexts shaping them. The material and immaterial work, industrial production, commodification and their relationships with the social environment and artistic production as well as the conditions in which they function, are some of his points of interest. Relationships and interactions between bodies, objects and space, subjects and contexts are premises we find in the exhibition Small Subject Factory by Ben Cain. Small Subject Factory, is a place and model of organized work, an apparatus of mechanized material production, while the context is directed to the questions of labour, material production and production of meaning, productivity, commodification and precarity. Contemporary types and patterns of work stretch the body to strange new lengths, claims Cain. Our attempts to keep up with the machines, stretching the limits and possibilities of our bodies points out the futility of that race. In the words of Hannah Arendt in The Human Condition, the rhythm of machines would magnify and intensify the natural rhythm of life enormously, but it would not change, only make more deadly, life’s chief character with respect to the world, which is to wear down durability. The exhibition Small Subject Factory symbolizes the result of such wearing down in two ways. One is a tired arm, stretched, laid down, pale, and the other are hanging sleeves, empty, bodyless. The exhibited artwork are installations indicating the interactions and interrelationships between various ambiguities, structures and the body, machine and man, living and dead, rigid and elastic, as well as (positive and negative) potentialities and perspectives inscribed in the protocols defining these relationships. It all results in a sense of insecurity and ambiguity. The dyed cotton sleeves are fragments of clothes functioning as the result of factory production, indicating an equal possibility of the presence of absence of man in the process. They remind us of an unfinished or suspended process of material production, labour or leftovers of the production process. In the context of representation they seem to equally represent both the subject and the object. An object that is present but abandoned and a body that is absent. The atmosphere thus created is impressive. Besides, as a “theater of objects”, the work invites us to think about the possible uses of the exhibited objects, apparatuses of an unfamiliar system, metal structures that, though they are an integral part of the installation, we can imagine in different roles – as machines, props, support structures, abstract constructions, obstacles, abandoned objects, household items, driers, hangers, part of the furniture…
A clear and precise formal vocabulary, reduced minimalist interventions and abstract conceptual procedures are part of Ben Cain’s artistic practice. Spatial interventions, and the performativity of objects, i.e. their “theatralization” in the exhibition space create staged moments by animating inanimate objects while the role of the public is transformed from that of the observer into a curious participant of the event and the exhibition is considered a space of possibilities and transformation.
Small Subject Factory by Ben Cain at Apoteka is organized in the framework of the ongoing exhibition series Temporary Encounters. The exhibitions, artistic and curatorial research of Temporary Encounters focus on redefinition and unfolding a series of connections – questioning social and spatial relationships, interactions between objects and subjects, conditions of work and institutional framework.
Ben Cain lives and works between London and Zagreb. His artistic practice includes installations, sculpture, photography, video, performance, text and sound. He teaches at the London Metropolitan University and Central Saint Martins in London. Holds MA from the Jan van Eyck Akademie in Maastricht. He has exhibited internationally at institutions such as Manifesta 9, Genk; Weils, Brussels, Turner Contemporary, Margate, Supplement gallery, London, Forum Gallery, Greta Gallery, Zagreb; ICA, London; Busan Biennale, Korea. With Tina Gverović he exhibited at the Croatian pavilion, 57th Biennale di Venezia, and KM – Kunstlerhaus, Graz.