THE OILY ACTOR


“The Oily Actor,” a body of work by Olivia Erlanger presented at What Pipeline, manages to compress an ecosystem of information and association into a few extremely complex objects, referred to as “rafts.” In addition to a sound piece and floor installation, the show includes three of these wall-hanging fabricated steel frames that provide housing for different fields of materials. Aesthetically, they demonstrate an evolution of Erlanger’s approach to presenting objects and materials in highly compartmentalized scaffoldings. Erlanger’s work contains many references, from the experimental sci-fi of Mark von Schlegell to Timothy Morton’s writings on “hyperobjects” — things so large and viscous that we can only consider them as an abstract concept. The two major hyperobjects that inform the artist’s work here are the ecological crisis and the global financial crisis; at twenty-six, Erlanger came of age in the current state of systemic exigency. The inextricable influence of the housing crisis is represented by a sound piece, I am No Viper, Yet I Feed (2016). This work utilizes live data points from the realestate valuation website Zillow to augment a twelve-song playlist, creating a distorted soundscape that builds throughout the exhibit. “The idea of these [hyper]objects seeping over everything, an invisible kind of viscosity that is actually a system through which we have to navigate — that was very important,” says Erlanger. Her rafts are the ideal psychological vehicles for negotiation of this system, resembling floating foundations or wireframe mechanicals. These structures are packed with trade materials and strains of pollen, which speaks to trading and economy as a wider function of nature, rather than a human invention. I lay down — an impulse facilitated by Erlanger’s decision to pad the floor with a layer of cardboard panels. I imagine myself floating on a sea of crisis, oily tongues of seawater lapping at my vessel, the familiar strains of cultural excess becoming an alien shanty.