by Sue Hubbard
Saatchi Gallery, London. Until 16 October, 2011
What, I wonder, would a visitor from the future make of the sculpture show The Shape of Things to Come at the Saatchi Gallery if they were to visit it, say, in a couple of hundred years time? What would it tell them of the state of the society that had made this artwork? Seen from such a distance those coming back from the future might be forgiven for thinking that this was an era of extreme distress, one that lacked confidence, dreams, vision and hope. Smashed cars wrapped around pillars, sexual orgies of faceless participants, horses in a state of destitution and collapse, and fragments everywhere speak of a community that has lost faith in itself and the future. Compared to the thrusting optimism of Modernism with its utopian faith in the benefits of technology and scientific progress, the world presented here is one of post-technological ruin, distortion and despair.
Previous shows put on by Saatchi have been packed full of irony, a cheeky in-your- face insouciance that when it first arrived in the brazen 80s and 90s was iconoclastic, witty and fun. But over the passing decades it has all too often become the default position of many young artists eager to make their mark. Form has dominated over content, while meaning and metaphor have often been subsumed to novelty for its own sake.
In contrast this show, rather ominously, opens with a gallery full of megalithic boulders. Kris Martin’s found stone slabs look like pre-historic monoliths from some lost pagan religion. Each is topped with a fragile, almost invisible paper cross. In its monumentality the piece is reminiscent of Joseph Beuys’s The End of the Twentieth Century. Its meaning is fluid. Man’s success in conquering the limits of awesome nature, the ruins of war and the collapse of civilisations are all implied. The tiny crosses equally suggest the shrinkage of faith in a late capitalist age or, depending on your point of view, act as tiny beacons of hope. “Dreams are what keep people going.” Martin says.