Somewhere between a single, total installation and a cacophonous exhibition of discrete works of art, Patrick Harkin’s thesis show amalgamates photography, sculpture, sound, video, painting and architecture. On the surface, the objects and motifs presented by Harkin in his installation Prime, Perform, Recover seem to be about post-humanism and a critique of consumerism. They are, but upon a closer inspection you realize that the materials he is working with are directly sourced from storm prepping and disaster cleanup.
His misuse of materials into a number of unreadymades carries a poetics of double meaning which is reflected in their titles. Immediately confronting are the largest pieces, titled Sails/ Big Band-Aid, three garage door sized pieces of what appear to be raw canvas, are in fact military grade hurricane shutters made from resin-coated ballistic nylon.
The space of the installation, a sum of its parts, seeks to operate as an analysis and critique of the separation inherent in media presentation and rhetoric surrounding natural disasters. Harkin’s visual language utilizes the aesthetics of disaster capitalism and incorporates the rhetoric of prepping culture, thus posing direct questions about ecological and social change within the aesthetics of descent. Can communications technology serve as a vehicle for social change? Is radical systemic change possible within the disaster that is our current political and ecological paradigm? Who stands to gain the most from remaining inertly complacent to the urgency of responsible action?
It’s easy to imagine a number of disaster scenarios applicable to this one installation, but the Hurricane in particular is used here as a harrowing blueprint for the complex disaster that is our current political and ecological climate. Harkin presents us with a metaphorical and psychological space that suggests new ontological perspectives that oppose human exceptionalism.
Cohesive and immersive, Harkin’s work acutely communicates a sense of artistic transparency while simultaneously evoking a feeling of impending doom and careful optimism. Each piece alludes to its own potential future functionality (or lack thereof), a do-it-yourself aesthetic, and the potential for harmony to arise out of dissonance.