Christine UNGER JANE
Apprehension: Maskull Lasserre’s “Recital”
by Christine Unger

July 21, 2008

Maskull Lasserre

A Chair, 2007
Chair, piano components
55.9 x 61 x 86.4 cm


At a distance, the sculptures of Maskull Lasserre’s installation “Recital” appear as an orderly series of objects tidily presented in Concordia University’s Faculty of Fine Arts (FOFA) Gallery “Vitrines”. Isolated by space, lighting, and imposing pillars, and walled safely behind glass, they give the impression of disused artifacts—even relics. On entering the narrow Concordia corridor and recognizing the details of each sculpture, there is a shift, a feeling of mystery. Everyday items are surprisingly conjoined, each with their own peculiar evocative attributes, a sense of expressive—generally auditory—potential inherent in their tactile articulations. In joining together antiquated mundane objects and elements of musical instruments Lasserre’s sculptures induce memories and play with expectations, creating artifacts whose equivocal purposes pose questions of functionality. They invite experimentation; yet also provoke a sense of frustration. These apparently sonic art objects spur an animal curiosity to circle, to examine different angles and finally, to approach and play. All this potential is walled away, frustratingly and deliberately, forbidden, potential muted by situation and circumstance.

The works are ingeniously crafted, melding together everyday objects of a pre-digital Western world existence. Disparate elements from pianos and violins to a chair, a typewriter and coat hangers, are seamlessly and variously reshaped through both additions and subtractions to acquire new potential meaning. The graceful re-crafting of the antique elements of a now defunct, but still comfortingly familiar class, evoke an immediate sense of nostalgia and loss. They support the sense that one is visiting a museum of artifacts reconstructed by a well-meaning archeologist with little or no reference to their original utility. The result is a series of instruments with a completely unknown musical lineage.

Lasserre’s instrumental chimeras display a hyper-conscious awareness of expressive potential. Placed in relatively sterile isolation, the works suggest artifacts, but it is not at all difficult to imagine them configured as an ensemble for a classical recital. Like a professional musician practicing an instrument, the sound is inherent in the motion—seeing a pianist play, it is easy to imagine the sound if you can’t hear the music. With Lasserre’s sculpture, the sound or “music” is implied by their potential for motion and our anticipation of the parts of the sculptures that are formed by familiar musical instruments. Despite the lack of any actually audible element in Lasserre’s installation, the sense of hearing is stimulated. In the words of the artist, the works carry “music as a metaphor”. The Inversion of player and played, as in the work “Duet” where some of the keys of a piano have been carved to look like human fingers, re-supposes the curious dilemma of art itself. At what point does the player shift from instrument to artist, when is an object art, and when merely craft? Each sculpture functions uniquely as its own philosophical contemplation, questioning the relationship between sound, instrument, and deliberate musical articulation, using the metaphor of music to pose broader questions of human utility and reasoning—the nature of change, loss, discovery and rediscover, aggression and digression.

The museum-like presentation of the work, the careful crafting of each sculpture, and the inherent beauty of the individual pre-digital components carry a nostalgic sense of loss for an age and a culture in which craft, its physical expression, the products of time and concentration, solitude and of course, music, were more highly valued. Sitting atop a piano bench, the video Verisimilitude in C silently loops the construction and deconstruction of a piano. Outside of the context of the installation’s other components it might appear to carry a rather negative message about the muting and futile qualities resulting from the digitization of art and particularly music, but within the framework of Lasserre’s other sculptures it provides a more hopeful, adaptational, view of change in which not only artifacts, but meaning itself is salvageable, mutable, and rich with undiscovered promise if we can only place it within a new setting, a new conjunction, and new circumstance, no matter how improbable. Lasserre’s work elicits “apprehension” (his own word): a sudden understanding that, rather than producing inaction, it is able, through the inference of movement and sound, to create both anticipation and the desire to act. Each one of the sculptures in Maskull Lasserre’s “Recital” poses a philosophical conundrum with an open-ended answer that allows the audience to depart with a sense of expectation and a new way to consider the everyday objects of our nearly departed past.