Josh Kline

Nine to Five, 2015

3D-printed sculptures in plaster, ink-jet ink and cyanoacrylate; janitor cart, LED lights

Dimensions Variable


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photo credit: def image, Berlin

Artwork
Description

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Kline’s assemblage takes the form of a janitor cart with a series of objects methodically laid out on it and illuminated by LED lights. The objects arranged on the blue trays of the janitor cart are a peculiar assortment of cleaning products and body parts. Kline has literally deconstructed the janitor- a severed head gazes expressionlessly forward, a detached foot wearing a sock and a plimsoll is positioned upright like a real foot and a severed hand still grips the handle of a disinfectant spray. Sponges are laid out in neat rows like tiles and brushes and bottles are carefully organised. The LED lights give the objects a, clinical, anaemically pale glow reminiscent of hospital corridors and sterile spaces.

The severed body parts, which are created in plaster using 3D printing technology, offer a disquieting commentary on capitalism and class in contemporary America. The janitor’s cart supports the elements of the janitor’s body as it propped up the janitor’s livelihood. The severed head is duplicated, with one version of it printed over with the label from a cleaning product. The janitor and his work are thus amalgamated, with the distinctions between the human and his labour disappearing. Kline shows there to be a loss of identity in capitalist society, where the worker becomes their work. This is epitomised by the hand that still clutches the bottle of disinfectant: his body has become physically grafted to the paraphernalia of capitalism. The artist thus guides the viewer too to the issue of class: by fusing the man’s body with the cleaning products he uses, Kline critiques society’s throwaway attitude to not only the products, but also to the working classes employed in cleaning.

Created in 2014 the artwork coincided with the uproar surrounding the inadequate training of airport janitors to deal with the Ebola crisis, an event which drew attention to the socioeconomic instability of the working-class American janitor.

About
the artist

Josh Kline (b. 1979) was born in Philadelphia; he now lives and works in New York, as a curator, collaborator and artist.

Josh Kline aligns his art with the philosophy of post-humanism. Spanning a wide variety of media with specific focus upon the technologically innovative, his art has an ergonomic sensibility. It is centred upon the ability of humanity to function efficiently within its working environment, with corporeality being marginalised in favour of digital expressions of selfhood.

The beating heart of his work is found in the human obsession with an abstract future and the obsessive desire to project onto this imagined existence. It is quintessentially sci-fi that exists as an expression of the contemporaneous obsession with progression; it is a statement of art’s ability to exist at the frontiers of scientific advancement and simultaneously a warning against the potential to strip one’s humanity away to better function within a technocratic society. Kline opposes the often-held belief that technological progress is necessarily positive. There appears to be a commodification of the individual, forced to operate as a near superhuman machine, enhanced by caffeinated drinks, drugs and accessories. In his work human productivity is improved at the cost of ones humanity: technological progress comes to serve societal means over the personal and creates a society, which enables the production of commodities that do not truly benefit the masses.

There is an interesting duality in Kline’s work, as the strongly theoretical foundation marries itself to the concrete world it inhabits. There is a tendency to circumnavigate artistic intellectualism and to ignore its inherent historicity. As a result his oeuvre opens a discussion which transcends the art industry, contextualising the works in terms of the present, and this is reflected in his curatorial practice. Integral to understanding his work as an expression of post-humanist theory, is an attempt to escape from the past. His work exists within the expanding intersection between the sterile syntheticism of technological progression and the primordial corporeality of base human existence; it is an expression of the modern obsession with mass media replication and the importance of digitisation.

This idea is best noted in the contrast between his works, such as Living Wages  that features bacterial cultures continually reproducing, and his sculptures, such as  Ready to Wear, that are so easily reproduced by 3D printing techniques. These two contrasting elements represent a real human fear, embodied within the principle of bacterial fission. These living sculptures can only reproduce to the point that there are available growth factors; once these diminish the bacteria also dissipates. This is a warning against the industrial reproduction of technology that consumes great amounts of human and inorganic resources; if it is not carefully monitored and managed, it can potentially approach an apocalyptic teleology. In this way Kline’s work questions the technological juggernaut as an entity that endangers existentialist humanism.


There is an interesting duality in Kline’s work, as the strongly theoretical foundation marries itself to the concrete world it inhabits. There is a tendency to circumnavigate artistic intellectualism and to ignore its inherent historicity. As a result his oeuvre opens a discussion which transcends the art industry, contextualising the works in terms of the present, and this is reflected in his curatorial practice.

This idea is best noted in the contrast between his works, such as Living Wages  that features bacterial cultures continually reproducing, and his sculptures, such as  Ready to Wear, that are so easily reproduced by 3D printing techniques. These two contrasting elements represent a real human fear, embodied within the principle of bacterial fission. These living sculptures can only reproduce to the point that there are available growth factors; once these diminish the bacteria also dissipates.


Josh Kline
on Artuner

Part of the
exhibition