The seductive, seemingly abstract photographs of Zander Blom's Drain of Progress project are the result of playful, do-it-yourself interventions in his working space. In the corners of his studio, using the architecture as his canvas, he creates patterns with cardboard, paint, tape and other available materials. He photographs his creations, after which they are either altered or destroyed. Mimicking the unique nature of painting and sculptures, he prints the photographs in editions of one.
Blom's project and its accompanying book present themselves with pomp. The cover of the catalogue announces its imagined, and imaginary status as a catalogue raisonné. The production values of the book signal respectability, and its faded cloth and lettering create the impression that the book has beeen around for a long time (the artist, on the other hand, has not - Blom is 27 years old). Moreover, a number of pages in the book contain self-conscious, bombastic pronouncements about Blom's engagement with Modernism's greats, from critics such as Clement Greenberg to painters like Jackson Pollock.
The narrative presented by the catalogue and related press releases frays on closer inspection. A first hint lies in the errata sheets included in the publication. Perhaps they reflect an obsession with detail and intolerance of error, adding to the project's self-importance. But their contents suggest an altogether different interpretation. Ranging from the serious to the silly (like Errata Sheet 11, which inserts, without context or apparent purpose, an inane doodle of a demonic creature), they make a farce of the convention. In Blom's introduction he writes that The Drain of Progress is a 'corrupted, unachieved, undeserved and incomplete Catalogue Raisonné.*
Blom admits that his pretence regarding Modernism is an alibi to engage in what he likes doing most - fiddling with form in everyday life.^ He disguises his actual project, which fits uncomfortably with dominant themes in contemporary South African art. In fact Blom has more affinity with someone like Thomas Demand, who also creates transient scenes devoid of human presence for the sole purpose of photographing them before they are destroyed, than with any of the Modernist artists Blom overtly quotes.
* Zander Blom, The Drain of Progress: A Catalogue Raisonné 2004-2007 (Johannesburg: Rooke Gallery, 2007) 7
© 2010 Michael Stevenson. All rights reserved.