Top: Loren Kronemyer, Bow Trap. Bottom: Loren Kronemyer, Feather Spear Trap

Without Rule of Law:
Penultimate Cyphers for the End of Days 

WROL  is a collaborative exhibition by Dan McCabe, Loren Kronemyer, and Guy Louden that took place at Bus Projects, in March 2018.

This exhibition, extending across two gallery spaces, created a discursive installation that sustained an inquiry into the subculture of 'preppers', defined by the artists as  "a subculture of people that prepare for the collapse of society. They collect specialised survival products, skills, and knowledge. Prepping has its own aesthetics, vocabulary, and consumer objects, and its own apocalyptic values and fantasies. Preppers imagine a postapocalyptic future without society or state, or in prepper jargon, a world Without Rule of Law (WROL)”.

In response to the exhibition, the following conversation took place at Bus Projects between *dumb brun (ette) contributors Henry Charles Law and Katie Paine.  

Guy Louden, Capriccio 1, giclee print from digital render.

Katie Paine: I think these [Guy Louden’s] prints are really interesting as their method of construction is so evasive.

Henry Law: They look like screen grabs from a video game.

KP: It is a digital rendering, but when I first saw it I couldn’t tell whether it was made digitally or whether it was an elaborate cardboard construction somewhat along the lines of a Thomas Demand… 

HL: For sure, it has an elusive quality where you just can’t tell. The process is kind of obfuscated by the monochromatic rendering.

KP: The exploded interiors that we’re looking at resemble sleek office spaces or those sterile interiors of ready-made homes.

HL: It’s definitely got particular aesthetic qualities of a showcase room; you might see this manner of display in places like IKEA for example.

KP: This arrow fired into the gallery wall is uncanny. I presumed [Loren] Kronemyer had fabricated or modified these weapons because they’re so highly aestheticised; so sleek and so luxe. After reading about the artist’s intentions, there seems to be a criticism of the fetishisation of ‘prepping’ by people of a certain socio-economic standing. That notion of not just being prepared, but prepared in style. I love that the bow has been positioned on the ceiling, suggesting that the arrow embedded in the gallery wall was shot from above. Again, the bow shares more in appearance with a fancy racing bikeI can’t believe people invest so much in the appearance of these weapons!

HL: Oh, they do. It’s very trendy at the moment to see camouflage design transgress across clothing and weapons, as you can see in Dan McCabe’s ‘paintings’.

KP: Would weaponry like this be relatively expensive?

HL: An object like that, at a very general guess, I would say might cost something like $500.

KP: [Laughs] So something that, if the apocalypse is impending, only an individual with a certain kind of income would be able to afford. Like us artists can’t run out and nab one of these– more like a string and wood scenario…

HL: There’s so much contention about old versus new in this sphere–which is superior, which is harder to master, etc. The kind that we’re looking at here is a compound bow, the most contemporary style. The use of bows like this is actually quite particular to Australian preppers as well, because if you were in the US for instance, you would be more likely to access guns for defence or hunting purposes.

Left: Guy Louden, Capriccio 1-3, giclee print from digital render. Centre: Loren Kronemyer, Feather Spear Trap, tubing, saw blades, cord,rope, tape, diamond ring, nails, brackets. Right: Dan McCabe, AUS NYDN SOA, automotive carbon fiber vinyl, black acrylic, gun-blued steel, stainless steel. 

KP:  One thing that I have been thinking about with this exhibition, is how densely coded it is. I think that what I'm curious about is that if you want to establish the artists' critical position, it's tricky for an audience member who is less informed on prepping: certain details or crucial loaded references might be missed… I wonder if you would get the most out of the show if you have a prior knowledge base.

HL: I don’t know about that, the show’s synopsis and catalogue do provide some background knowledge for broader cultural references to prepping. The term ‘prepper’ has a very strong link to the National Geographic program Doomsday Preppers; this series popularised the phenomenon to a broader audience. I think going back to your question of how accessible is this subject matter for the layperson –someone who doesn't take an interest in themes of the apocalypse– I think media like this has integrated a knowledge of this subculture into our broader cultural consciousness.

KP: Coming to Dan’s vinyl and perspex works, I kind of see these acting as a key to the broader concerns of the  exhibition; without them, perhaps I wouldn’t be able to locate the artists' critical position as a whole. There is a certain futility to these works, in comparison to the practical function of the weapons, or ‘educational’ value of the video game. I feel in Dan's work we can read a certain criticism of this class of person who is at the financial liberty to prepare themselves for the apocalypse in a luxurious manner. In a way Dan’s work exemplifies this: it has such a high production valueowning a work like this has no ‘function’ in the context of the apocalypse, but it is going to allow you to publicly display your high disposable income and also enjoy the aesthetic or lifestyle [prepping] that you fetishize .

HL: Sure, they don’t have the same utilitarian function as Loren’s works .

KP: I haven’t seen many shows that use multiple spaces at Bus and I think this show has been executed in a very sophisticated manner; the way that the installation encourages the spaces to relate so cohesively to one another. In this exhibition, each room is no longer a discrete entity.

HL: I think the spatial management of the work is considered: the works are such dense objects, and so the way that they’re arranged spatially is balanced.

KP: Bus is an interesting space to see this work sit, as there are so many site-specific intricacies: the exhibition encourages me to recalibrate my understanding of the space. 

Also, can I just say, it’s quite terrifying that we’re standing in the direct firing line of the bow, right in front of where the arrow has landed! I’d like to think that this is possibly the only time that I’ll have a bow facing me in my life. [laughs] It’s such a sophisticated curatorial mechanism, it’s so considered and dense, there are just so many beautiful elements that could get lost to a crowd. It’s a psychological show: I kind of imagine right now that we’re in the lair of a Bond villain.

HL: That’s a really good observation. There’s a connection with the hardware of the show, and the fetishisation of technology, that really reminds me of Bond films.

Loren Kronemyer, Bow Trap, Taipan compound bow, chain, 3 carabiner, arrows, cord, ceiling mount. 

KP: I have to say, I’ve done some thinking about the apocalypse, but it’s been on a very low-fi suburban scale, ie: what would we grow in our gardens if we had no readily accessible food? Considering this, I think it’s interesting to compare this show to say Field Theory’s work in Greater Together at ACCA last year. That show was quite specifically about preparing for the apocalypse: it was a colossal store room, mostly bulk foodstuffs and other necessities exhibited, a kind of ‘domestic’ prepping that vastly differs from this show.

HL: I feel like Field Theory’s work sounds a lot more hands on and pragmatic or accessible.

KP: I feel like the character of this fictional prepper who inhabits the universe of WROL, who owns these exhibited accoutrements is immaculately prepared but there’s this element that seems to me to be pure fantasy.

HL: I think this pure fantasy idea comes back to the perception that some of these objects would be more at home on the set of a Bond film. However, some aspects are very much in line with what I would expect from some people’s attitudes towards prepping.

KP: Can we move back to this USB* work? I’m quite drawn to this work: here I’m reading my own interpretation of the work, but to me there’s something quite institutional about the set of USBs: the idea of information being withheld or preserved. In comparison to the other works that seem highly geared to the individual, this work indicates the broader sociopolitical ramifications of the apocalypse on a community. 

HL: With the USBs there’s a sense of hidden knowledge. In this little pocket of the gallery I’m interested in the relationship between the Pelican case and Dan’s works: there’s some really interesting developments with patterns of digital information forming –more than just aesthetics –but the way camouflage in military contexts contrasts to domestic use. There’s a particular kind of camouflage in the military which, instead of being made up of organic and fluid shapes has a very digitized aesthetic.

Similarly Dan’s ‘paintings’ also very much speak to the digital.

KP: Absolutely. From what I know, this is the 3rd or 4th iteration of this collaboration between the artists: some of it’s new work, some older. I feel like the artists have a  really sophisticated understanding that an exhibition is a series of cyphers and that every new juxtaposition informs the viewer's perception of the exhibition. I do think that each respective artist's work is strong in their own right, but one thing that really hit me is how the show reads as a whole. Every tiny detail is so loaded.

*Since visiting the exhibition, we learnt that Ark, a collaborative work between the three artists contained: flash drives (32gb Wikipedia, 32gb Marvel blue ray rips, 32gb heterosexual pornography).

Guy Louden, Loren Kronemyer, Dan McCabe, Ark, (edition 1/5 + AP), flash disks (32gb Wikepedia in 4 languages, 32gb Marvel and Fast& the Furious blueray rips, 32gb heterosexual pornography), pelican case

HL: Moving to the next Pelican case, I’m really struck by the way it rests on a book: Survival for Young People.

KP: I imagine from the spine, it’s dated from the 70s or 80s. What is it that we are actually looking at in the case?

HL: We’re looking at a pen with an inscription that reads 1. 5 to stay alive, a scalpel blade, what looks to be the end of a candle with some copper wire, a plastic tube filled with half matches, match heads still intact, and one sewing needle.

KP: They’re fascinating objects: I definitely think this exhibition asks the viewer to take on the role of the detective. As an artist, this is probably the closest I’ll feel to being part of a police duo inspecting a crime scene!

HL: Again, this detective element is so recurring, once you mentioned Bond I can’t get that comparison out of my head. This case speaks to a villain or spy’s poisoned dart.

KP: The exploding pen. There’s a certain density or obscurity to each work, I’ve never felt more, as a viewer, like I am being asked to unpack the exhibition as a series of clues.

HL: With this work I’m so intrigued, as there is an orange string that seems to be attached to the case and stretches up the gallery wall. Looking at the broader part of the installation, which leads to the next gallery, I can tell you that this is a trap.

KP: Yes, I got that from the trio of knives in the next gallery!

HL: This is a style of trap that you set up in the bush, usually it has a trigger, but I assume that this has not been installed here because of OH&S.

KP: The cord is connected to a tube of hosing that would fall with the blades if the trigger was discharged. And there’s a dirty drag mark falling from where the series of blades areinferring a movement of this object, falling and fulfilling its intended purpose, which I think is again a masterful inclusion. 

Right: Loren Kronemyer, Feather Spear Trap, tubing, saw blades, cord,rope, tape, diamond ring, nails, brackets. Left: Dan McCabe, AUS NYDN SOA, automotive carbon fiber vinyl, black acrylic, gun-blued steel, stainless steel 

HL: But then the other detail that I want to point out that the trigger for the trap  is a wedding ring…  I think that the term 'engaged' seems very fitting.

KP: This work is engaged, poised to kill.

KP: Such a beautiful detail the exhibitions I end up being most excited by are shows in which you have that moment where you notice something and you think ‘if I was in a rush I could have walked out and never taken that in…’ It’s exciting and intimate to register a detail like that. The humour within a work like this is so complex.

Right: Loren Kronemyer, Trumpian Survival Pen, [See above details]

HL: Specifically with relation to the trap as well; these things need something within them that’s alluring. Because if you have a trap like in a survival situation, you need that object of desire to draw an unwary animal into it. You have the food scrap–whatever it is that the animal wants. 

KP: And I think that’s again, something that I find really interesting is this work seems very much… obviously traps for humans. No animal except maybe a magpie or a smart monkey is gonna go after the ring [laughter] To me, this prepper, if I’m building an image of them, is defending themselves far more from other people then say the elements or animals.

***

In this work of Dan’s the camouflage is much more geometric.

HL: There are so many different kinds of vision that different animals have, humans included, our eyes recognise different patterns and skip over different patterns or pick up on different patterns and forms within nature, and how some of these more geometric,  digital like forms can throw off perception of the forms being concealed by the camouflage.

KP:      Yeah absolutely, again these camouflage works completely and utterly to me reiterate that to me this whole narrative seems to be built around this idea of conflict between humans and the manmade complications of the apocalypse- this all seems geared towards some kind of human conflict. 

Guy Louden, WROL, custom video game, Xbox controller, tv stand, strapping

Henry and Katie begin playing Louden’s video game WROL… Henry with considerable more success than Katie.

KP: We’ve moved onto Guy Louden’s video game now. Do you think that these weapons we’re given in the game are approximates of the objects we’ve got in the exhibition? And what does ‘bugging out mean’?

HL: Ah, the bow definitely - this is the same sort of bow. I think ‘bugging out’ means you’re hiding out in your bunker post apocalypse. 

KP: This game, it definitely appeals to a certain kind of fantasy, ‘recreational prepping' if you will. I don’t know; this game definitely seems to be asking for constant vigilance.

HL: I feel like this is much more comical then the rest of the work. See I feel like a lot of the other work… My initial encounter with it is really quite serious.

KP: I wonder how much of the aesthetic is related to just the limits of this interface. Like I wonder what is affected by the budget, what it requires to make this game, I wonder if it’s strictly practical limitations…

It’s somewhat rudimentary. Maybe that’s all you need to prep, to get into the prepping  headspace.  

HL: It’s somewhere between Minecraft and Call of Duty.

KP:  What I do find interesting is that there are very few personal details relating to preppers – apart from the wedding ring and the bookthe actual exhibition itself is somewhat cold and impersonal. It’s a very violent, combat oriented idea of prepping.

I wonder about the role of this game in this exhibition: how much it acts as a signifier regardless of if you've played it. Its very inclusion tells me a lot about fantasy, it tells me a lot about ideas surrounding a fetishisation of prepping but also a recreational interest in prepping as a game. 

HL:  I’ve heard about research which demonstrates how people can have faster reaction times due to video games or when training for military scenarios. Like Baudrillard’s notion of simulation where you can train to fly an aeroplane though a computer simulation for instance. Apparently for military preparation and reaction time and different things- which might aid you in certain scenarios… you can actually benefit from playing these games. But that sort of thing seems to be lacking in this particular game and for me that does relegate this artwork back to…

KP:      Being like a sign, one that draws you back to this idea of fantasy and fetishisation. Perhaps the merit of this works lies in its conceptual function as opposed to a more practical use.

HL:      Very much so but I think that’s unavoidable: video games and fantasy are synonymous. 

Loren Kronemyer, Feather Spear Trap, tubing, saw blades, cord,rope, tape, diamond ring, nails, brackets

KP: Do you have final remarks about the show? I got a lot out of coming back again, some shows aren’t always worth the visit back, this one was very much worth the second visit.

HL: I agree it’s quite nuanced. 

KP: For me that’s quite exciting. I think it’s such a slick show when I first saw it almost turned me off. Do you know what I mean?  You see a show that’s almost too immaculate... but then I think what drew me in were these really tiny, really beautiful details that are sometimes perplexing, sometimes funny, sometimes confusing or cryptic.

HL: Particularly in relation to the subject matter, in terms of the slickness and the aesthetic qualities… I can see why there could be a disjunction there.

And  there are so many understandings of the apocalypse or apocalyptic scenarios. The way that the artists investigate notions of the apocalypse, which I think is the natural inclination that most people would have, is that we’re addressing all of this from a very secular vantage point. Whereas in a lot of other scenarios, when you and I have conversations about apocalyptic themes, they have been in relation to theology. Whereas we haven’t touched on theology at all for this show.

KP: Absolutely. I think that’s a really interesting point, theology does not seem to be a factor in this exhibition at all. What I find most disorienting, is that for me whenever anyone says ‘apocalypse’, I generally am most fascinated by ‘well what happened?’, and ‘why?’, whereas this show has put that context at a complete remove.

Apart from the memory sticks, which to me are the only nod to the fact that something might have led to this scenario…

HL: It is defiantly secular but within that: is it an environmental disaster, is it nuclear war?

KP: I guess the other thing is, this show is about preppers as opposed to the apocalypse: maybe what we’re looking at is accoutrements of the apocalypse which has not yet happened.

HL: You’re absolutely right, but I guess we don’t know that. This exhibition does broaden up the framework with which we can address some of these different constituents within.


Dan McCabe, SGP AKA CW, automotive carbon fiber vinyl, black acrylic, gun-blued steel, stainless steel

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