As the second installment of his Arts Council England funded project, Jon Lockhart’s Crippling the Blacksmith examines institutional display, artifacts and our relationship with them through unspoken insight. In its broadest sense, the exhibition embraces the suppressed nostalgia within us all, bringing each and every viewer into an immediate and eternal relationship with every object displayed.
Its charm begins with the sheer visual wealth in the exhibition’s most prominent work, The Boundless Museum, made from stainless steel scaffolding which accommodates an abundance of found items – adopted and hoarded by Lockhart as a generous pool of reusable creative objects. Through carefully and systematically displaying the countless amounts of things in a static motion, the items appear as though they are frozen amidst a monumental storm of decades past and present. The vast installation has the ability to swallow up the viewer, yet instead it poses as a delicate shelter during a process of looking and discovery. There are chairs elevated on protruding tubes of scaffolding, piles of vinyl records on the floor, coloured cord snaked around poles and the most insignificant clutter ordered with precision. As the core of the exhibition, this installation engulfs the baffling and normalizes it, providing a continuous narrative from object to object; resulting in a tangible collage.
This obscure fictional journey continues throughout both Fanton Walk and Beat, where both works almost become entirely overlooked. In most exhibitions, this would be a bad quality, however in Lockhart’s case, it draws strong attention to the exhibitions use of accidental placement. Fanton Walk, made from a discarded road sign arranged with abandoned pieces of wood and cardboard, seems to be so strategically placed (near the exhibition entrance) that many viewers overlooked it entirely; unlike camouflage, this work is so obvious that it simply acts as a milestone to continue the visual journey. This exploration lingers also within Beat, where its obvious subtlety – a purposeful oxymoron, in fact reveals an uncanny quality to Lockhart’s practice that is neither purely childish nor purely humorous. Beat intensifies everyday objects such as a calculator, screwdriver and an aerial by arranging them as bizarre objects that are no longer simply novelty retro household items, but formed into a sculpture transforming them from invaluable, non functioning items into milestones of technological history. Even though it is clear that these objects don’t work – there are no visible plugs and are not serviceable in their displayed position; they become a believable contraption that echoes make-and-do decades from the past.
Breaking up the inquisitive murmurs from visitors is This Love of Mine, installed in an enclosed space; the super 8 projector sequentially turns on, along with Frank Sinatra’s renowned song. It is important to note here that the projector did not in fact project anything except the light without a slide. This work – outside of its romantic associations, became a duet between two elements from the cultural past. As the most cryptic work in the show for me personally, the use of Sinatra’s song combined with the projector (not projecting), only hints towards Lockhart’s love for old technology. I think it is fair so say that the absolute wealth of discarded objects is really encompassed within this work, and also in his other work, Flag; a work drawing attention to the passing of time through amplifying the ticking of a clock through several speakers.
Together, the composition and spacial installments within Crippling the Blacksmith: Part Two, guide the viewer through not just the gallery (where the works exist), but through time. Time is not only key to the experience of the works and the duration of becoming immersed within Lockhart’s loosely orchestrated narrative, but it makes us aware of the history behind the objects themselves, craftsmanship and the immediate elevation of the objects into artifacts.