If this is paradise I wish I had a lawnmower – Talking Heads, 1988
The title for this exhibition is taken from the Greek term, Ou-topos; Ou (not) and Topos (a place). The term Utopos holds two other meanings: the first being “the good place” and the second “the place that cannot be.” In the Talking Heads song “Nothing but Flowers,” David Byrne’s lyrics follow a similar path by embodying this shared meaning of Utopos, where yes, the grass really is greener on the other side of the fence, but, upon reflection, neither greens—nor grass for that matter—are all they were cracked up to be. Be careful what you wish for. You might get it and regret it.
Charles Baudelaire, the 19th Century poet and art critic, saw the ‘ragpicker’ as an allegorical figure able to convey the essence of consumer capitalism:
Here we have a man whose job it is to gather the day’s refuse in the capital. Everything that the big city has thrown away, everything it has lost, everything it has scorned, everything it has crushed underfoot he catalogues and collects. He collates the annals of intemperance, the capharnaum of waste. He sorts things out and selects judiciously; he collects, like a miser guarding a treasure, refuse which will assume the shape of useful or gratifying objects between the jaws of the goddess of Industry.
Adorned with the steadily accumulating debris of contemporary life—plastics, Styrofoam, bottle caps, and pennies—the sculptures in Alex Tedlie-Stursberg’s Everything Flows exude, despite their manufactured origins, an aura of the organic. Often they evoke ancient things: fossilised forests, archaeological artefacts, coral reefs, alien planets. Poised between the artificial and the artisanal, the ready-made and the hand-made, they display a trippy, absurd quality that belie Tedlie-Stursberg’s thoughtful engagement with humanity’s discarded materials and the value systems that help create them.
Alex Tedlie-Stursberg explores the constantly flowing streams of interactions and transactions that make up our society in a practice that combines sculpture, assemblage and collage. Interested in the “bottom end of the market”, Tedlie-Stursberg’s works tend to incorporate what might be bluntly referred to as garbage – not just waste and discarded objects, but actual earth and soil. The finished works exude an eccentric, fantastical energy, seeming to come neither from the future nor the past, but perhaps an alternate timeline or dimension. This humour and irreverence characterizes Tedlie-Stursberg’s practice; in the past, he has created video art from a Ron Perlman movie and a mock campfire from found objects.