David Mach

For the installation Re:order, David Mach constructed a hybrid sculpture that reflects the preoccupations of our era. Constructed entirely out of what some might consider refuse, Mach’s mesmerizing environments expand our definition of art toward a realization of the nineteenth-century philosophy of “Gesamtkunstwerk,” or the total work of art. His art lies in a provocative combination of social and political critique, challenging the viewer to interpret binary layers of meaning and demonstrating that social consciousness can be addressed creatively. His works are monuments to a material culture that is consuming itself, yet remains hungry and insatiate; they criticize our culture by incorporating the very objects commented upon. 

The installations/sculptures are constructed on location from materials of special interest to Mach, such as tires, magazines, furniture, and bottles. Large quantities of these surplus materials are made available to the artist from a variety of sources. Interested in relating his experiences to the population-at-large, he chooses everyday objects, mass-produced by industry, transforming them into other recognizable images through simple methods of stacking and layering.

By the glorious physicality of simple placement and overlapping of dull, uninspiring, and conventional materials, Mach transforms cheap items and base materials into images of vitality and substance. He weaves, stacks, and lattices his materials into large works, creating specific shapes that mimic a variety of iconic forms, such as columns, waves of smoke, staircases, or the head of Klaus Kinski. He has recently started orchestrating his constructions more abstractly by adding ornamental objects such as inflatable seals and life-size replicas of Dalmatians, which draw attention to both the individual components and the overall image.

The work produced at Gallery 400 is predominantly formed of magazines and newspapers loaned by a local circulating company and daily newspaper. The process of creating the piece involved not only the employees at the company and the gallery but also negotiations with seven magazine distributors and the volunteer participation of the general public and student body to help assemble the actual work. Upon completion of the project, the sixteen tons of magazines and newspaper were returned, re-accounted for, and recycled by one of the three companies in the country that performs the difficult, costly, and timely job of recycling magazines by stripping both the clay coating and the color from each page.

Mach insists upon the viewer seeing and knowing that discarded and banal objects, such as magazines, can be re-objectified, redefined, and revalued. In his installations the overwhelming accumulation of objects is both beautiful and repellent, gaining effectiveness through the friction of these opposing terms. He teaches us to see that beauty and heroicism exist beside the destructive and the dastardly. The magazines he appropriates are hallmarks of our contemporary reality. They are manmade, disposable, replaceable, mass-produced and in many aspects made generic by their sheer volume. His work is aggressively concerned with re-joining and re-generating units of pre-existing things in order to overpower the audience into understanding the role that these objects play in our life and our future. He asks that the viewer be reminded of the production, the labor, the value, and the history of the object, as the context of the object is inextricably part of the power of the piece.

Mach’s work exists in a special place between static and performance art. He wishes to challenge the hermetic nature of art: to reveal what is generally considered a private act and place it within a broad public format. Through his collaborative process he is able to encourage a dialogue about such matters as intent, content, technique, and process, divesting himself of the singular privilege of working alone in a studio.

In their re-integration into a new system, the magazines Mach uses for Re:order undergo an evolution and revolution of purpose. Even before Mach made use of the magazines, they were already inscribed with cultural values. For Mach they provide a physical means of reflecting language and function as a metaphor of self and society as they act as cultural memories. He addresses the privileging of an art object through a rear-guard reaction to the art object as commodity. The installation represents a transition from material to visual culture, taking on a richness of new meanings with a multitude of interpretations. It is a feast for the eyes and the mind, memorable as an artistic, analytical, and organizational achievement.